Portrait of Millennials at Work and the Case for Gamification

With up to 71% not engaged or actively disengaged, research shows millennial employees are constantly on the lookout for better career opportunities. The enormous cost of employee turnover resulting from the high millennial job-hopping rate is a problem employers simply cannot afford to ignore.  Can gamification offer solutions for both sides of the equation?


The first part of our Millennias series presented key sociological findings by Gallup, Deloitte, The Hartford, Motivaction International, and other authoritative sources, regarding millennial engagement at work (or rather, lack thereof), the perception of jobs as opportunities to learn and develop, and the critical role of personal values and interests.

We also noted the distinctive demand for leadership skills training and millennials’ dissatisfaction with the way companies are [not] using their leadership potential.

As could only be expected from a generation with high confidence in their ability to lead and make an impact, and impatient for career advancement, millennials prove quite competitive.



The Disruptive Mindset of Millennials Around the Globe“, a report by Dutch research firm Motivaction International, notes that millennials are career driven and ambitious, and to almost half, their happiness depends on their career.

“Millennials also take a competitive view of life. The statement ‘’competing with each other leads to better results than working together’’ finds support from 32% of millennials (postwar generation: 23%, generation X: 26%).”

Autonomy and Flexibility

Millennials are motivated by autonomy, and want to be in control of their careers AND daily working lives. They place great value on flexible work arrangements not only as a more effective time-management approach that allows them to have the desired work/life balance; being free to work remotely or with flexible hours is also perceived as a token of trust and respect. Globally, employers as yet fail to meet these expectations, as found by the Deloitte 2016 Millennial Survey:

The current level of flexibility is not consistent with Millennials’ desires. Fully 88 percent wish they could, within certain limits, have greater opportunity to start and finish work at the times they choose.

..the greatest gap between current supply and demand surrounds the issue of remote working—fully 75 percent would like to start to, or more frequently, work from home or other locations where they feel more productive. This is nearly double the proportion that currently do so (43 percent).”


Source: Deloitte 2016 Millennial Survey

The Manager as Leader by Example

It is hardly surprising that the “generation of leaders” demonstrate heightened expectations and attach great importance to “quality of manager” as a factor in deciding to apply for, or quit a job.

Source: HBR, What Millennials Want from a New Job


The manager is expected to:

  • Act as mentor and coach rather than boss
  • Provide constant feedback
  • Understand and value their opinions and ideas
  • Trust them to work remotely on a flexible work schedule
  • Prepare millennials for leadership roles and support their ambitions

Open communication, ongoing conversations, mentorship and feedback

Every single survey of millennials reports an unprecedented level of connectedness and active social media presence:

“When we zoom in on social relations, millennials are also more diverse in their social life, than a focus on just family and friends. ‘A broad social network is important to me’, say 47% of millennials (compared to 39% of the post-war generation and 43% of Generation X).

In addition 41% of millennials claim to have a large social network of people with very different backgrounds.” (Millennials Flash Report. Motivaction)

The majority of millennial respondents (61%) in the 2016 Millennial Impact survey had posted on social media about the issues they care about in the past week.

As digital natives living in a state of permanent connectedness, millennials expect to find at work the democratic communication models, channels of self-expression, and ongoing feedback they’re accustomed to. Where these are absent, millennial employees will likely not perform at their best nor stay for long.

Deloitte’s Millennial Survey report notes the correlation between mentorship at work and loyalty:

Those intending to stay with their organization for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68 percent) than not (32 percent).

One of the causes for high dissatisfaction among millennials stressed by Gallup  is the insufficient feedback they receive at work:

Only 19% of millennials say they receive routine feedback. An even smaller percentage of millennials (17%) say the feedback they do receive is meaningful.


The Sense of Purpose

They have been accused of being selfish and of donating less to charity than previous generations. In fact, the statistics show mIllennials are the main drivers of the rise and amazing growth of crowdfunding (at an annual rate of 40-50%) in recent years. According to the 2015 Millennial Impact Report,

84% of millennial employees made a charitable donation in 2014.

When their company does not provide an outlet for the powerful drive “to do good”, they seek out opportunities themselves and most typically find them in crowdfunding projects that satisfy the following most important conditions:

  • Tangible, personal  impact
  • Transparency and accountability
  • Digital platforms and mobile channels of giving

Millennials believe they can, and want to, make a difference and they expect no less from the companies they work for. Just like they demand accountability in charity and want to see the impact of their donations, millennial employees want to see the impact their company is making. They would further like their employers to identify and emphasize a purpose beyond profit and financial success and to focus more on:

“Being The Best Possible Place to Work”

Employers can get some valuable insights from the charitable donation data with regard to company values, organizational structure and communication, which should be:

  • People-centered
  • Transparent
  • Digitalized

The Deloitte report further stresses:

“There are five key areas where Millennials believe businesses’ sense of purpose should be far greater than is currently the case. These areas include: improving the skills, income, and “satisfaction levels” of employees; creating jobs; and impacting positively on users of their goods and services. Diametrically opposed is the emphasis on profit and business expansion.”

The Hartford 2015 Millennial Leadership Survey found the same expectation for companies to prioritize employee remuneration, wellbeing and professional development:

Source: The Hartford 2015 Millennial Leadership Survey


In sum, millennials’ ideal company:

  • Takes great care of its employees with excellent compensation packages, flexible work schedules, mentorship programs and leadership skills training linked to career advancement opportunities.
  • Delivers exceptional customer service and makes a positive difference in people’s lives with its reliable, high-quality products and services


The case for gamification

Gamification is a toolbox containing various, mostly digital, instruments  inspired by the engaging power of games and modelled after proven and tested game mechanics. Its fundamental goal is to help change behaviors while reproducing in a non-game, real-life context the level of engagement and motivation that players experience in games.

In the context of millennials’ employment, the big issue is the absence of loyalty and the big goal is to build it. Inadequate engagement is a sign of millennials’ dissatisfaction with employers. On the other hand, it results in high employee turnover costs and hurts the performance of companies.

While it is by no means a panacea, gamification can positively impact both sides by

1) providing millennials with what they seem to miss most – ongoing feedback and recognition, a sense of purpose and personal growth, and

2) building loyalty and retention as a result of improved employee engagement and well-being.


Six critical factors make the case for millennial-targeted gamification in the workplace:

  • The imperative to improve engagement of the “unattached generation”, which increasingly dominates the workforce and whose absence of loyalty is taking a financial toll on employers.
  • Having grown up with digital technology and games, millennials are ‘native speakers’ of the language of gamification and would be responsive to gamification experiences.
  • The priority assigned by millennials to learning and development – a natural environment of gamification, which excels at encouraging and rewarding  progression and mastery.
  • Millennials’ self-reported (largely unsatisfied) need for ongoing feedback, which is at the core of any gamified system and which many have argued is what gamification is all about.
  • The increased expectation for flexible work arrangements fits perfectly with the capabilities of a performance gamification system designed to boost productivity and motivation all while keeping track of task progress and performance.
  • The fact that a large portion of their social lives take place online means they are constantly curating their social media personas and need the shareable content a well-designed gamified system can provide by way of achievement and experience points, badges and leaderboards..

In the forthcoming third part of our Millennials series, we will sum up the gamification takeaways from sociological research and attempt to profile this generation’s mindset using the Octalysis Tool developed by Yu-Kai Chou within his framework of 8 core drives motivating people to take action.

Read on: The Millennial Mindset from a Gamification Perspective

List of resources:

Deloitte,Global Human Capital Trends 2016

The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey

Gallup, How Millennials Want to Work and Live

Motivaction, The Disruptive Mindset of Millennials Around the Globe

The Hartford, 2015 Millennial Leadership Survey

The Millennial Impact 2015 and 2016 Reports


Featured image sources: Deloitte and Gallup

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