Workplace Gamification: Can Employers Afford Not to Engage Millennials?

What are some key takeaways for employers and gamifiers from recent sociological surveys by Gallup, Deloitte, Motivaction, and other reputed research agencies? And in what areas and ways is gamification likely to have the strongest positive impact on millennial employees?

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What are some key takeaways for employers and gamifiers from recent sociological surveys by Gallup, Deloitte, Motivaction, and other reputed research agencies? And  in what areas and ways is gamification likely to have the strongest positive impact on millennial employees? 

As they mature into the dominant living and working generation, millennials are transforming the modern workforce, workplace, and work culture. In recent years, they have understandably become the most researched, analyzed, and commented demographic group.

They’ve been called lazy, entitled, self-centered, narcissistic. And while it is easy to bypass these and many other casually assigned labels, when the most reputed global sociological agencies use terms such as ‘unattached’, ‘disengaged’, ‘disruptive’, and lacking in loyalty, employers must take heed.

“One foot out the door” even as they onboard

As employers and HR departments have known for years, low engagement rates are bad enough since they immediately affect productivity and job satisfaction. But when combined with high personal goals and expectations, with openness to change and mobility as yet largely unrestricted by family commitments, low engagement spurs job hopping.

High employee turnover directly hurts companies’ financial performance.

The Deloitte Millennial Survey found a “remarkable absence of loyalty” among millennials. Gallup confirms – 60% of millennials say they are open to a different job opportunity – and explains this tendency with prevailing indifference and disinterest (71% of American millennials are not engaged or actively disengaged at work).

Gallup further estimates that “millennial turnover due to lack of engagement costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion annually”.

plan-to-leave

Source: The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey

In terms of gamification and Yu-Kai Chou’s Octalysis Framework, this means that the ‘avoidance and loss’ core drive can safely be disregarded when designing work engagement programs specifically for millennials.

They are not afraid of the job market and in fact expect and hope to have varied career paths and multiple jobs and roles. The findings also suggest gamification efforts should concentrate on fostering the apparently absent sense of “ownership and possession” (core drive 4), which is directly related to loyalty.

It is important to stress that what underlies the high job-hopping rates is not necessarily the quest for better pay and financial incentives. While pay remains a decisive factor, all too often, millennials are on the lookout for.

Jobs as Development Opportunities

According to Gallup’s report, How Millennials Want to Work and Live, 59% of millennials say “opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important to them when applying for a job”.and

87% say development is important in a job.

Similarly, Deloitte’s Millennial Survey concludes that “where Millennials are most satisfied with their learning opportunities and professional development programs they are also likely to stay longer. It is, therefore, disappointing that less than a quarter (24%) of Millennials are “very satisfied” with this aspect of their working lives”.

In a sense, Millennials turn the tables on employers by approaching job searching as enlightened consumers who know what they need and want. Most notably – a clear-cut, merit-based progression path. What this entails for company management and HR teams is higher priority status and more resources allocated to training programs directly linked to career advancement and financial benefits.  

This opens up great prospects for gamification as it is arguably most effective precisely in education and training. In terms of Octalysis, the data about millennials’ eagerness to learn, and desire to grow, brings to the fore core drive 2, Development and Accomplishment.

Personal Values and Interests

This is another defining characteristic highlighted by most studies of millennials – they strive to stay true to their values and ethics:

Deloitte found that to 64%, personal values are “very influential” when making decisions at work.

To quote the Gallup report, “while millennials can come across as wanting more and more, the reality is that they just want a job that feels worthwhile ― and they will keep looking until they find it.”

values

Source: The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey

Millennials want jobs which pay well but which also engage and interest them. As a result of their reluctance to compromise on this point, entire industries, such as insurance, utilities, wholesaling, are shunned by this generation of job-seekers:

work-wish-list

Source: The Hartford’s 2015 Millennial Leadership Survey

Why this should matter to employers? Besides being highly selective based on their personal interests, millennials approach and judge brands and products, companies and charities by the same standards and critical questions, most notably: are they people-centered, ethical and reliable. They are less impressed – and hardly inspired – by financial performance, business expansion and profits.

Consequently, unless they want to risk alienating – and ultimately losing – their millennial employees, companies need to build their reputation on a people-first (employees AND customers) basis.

A Generation of Leaders

Millennials’ self-reported ambition to grow and develop professionally is matched by their thirst for knowledge and skills and their confidence in their own impact and leadership potential. Together, these point to the one area where training would be most welcome and is perceived as insufficient – leadership skills:

millennial-leadership-2015-2

Source: The Hartford 2015 Millennial Leadership Survey

According to Deloitte 2016 Millennial Survey, more than six in ten Millennials (63 %) say their “leadership skills are not being fully developed.” And the 2015 survey found that only 28 percent of Millennials feel that their current organizations are making ‘full use’ of the skills they currently have to offer.”

The research concluded that “supporting leadership ambitions builds loyalty” – millennials who feel their company is helping them develop their leadership skills and supports their ambitions are much more likely to stay with their employer beyond the average two-year tenure.

gx-millenial-survey-leadership

Source: The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey

In this context, a millennial-targeted gamified system must be integrated and communicated as part of a general employee-centric framework together with training. Gamification can enhance the sense of progression and hence, millennial employees’ well-being by:

  • serving as vehicle for training in the most desired areas of leadership skills and technology
  • providing a continual feedback mechanism
  • highlighting and recognizing achievements, and
  • facilitating career advancement to leadership roles

 

 

Check back soon for Part II: Portrait of Millennials at Work and the Case for Gamification, with more highlights from millennials research on the importance of: the sense of purpose, competitiveness, flexibilityfeedback, connectedness and  social media, and expectations from managers.  These findings will be viewed in terms of the opportunities for gamification specifically aimed at attracting and engaging millennial employees.

Featured image: Motivaction

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