If you’ve ever tracked your frequent flyer miles, credit card points, hotel rewards or fantasy football scores, you’ve been engaged through gamification. Gamification is the use of game design techniques and mechanics in a non-game context to solve problems and engage users.
When humans achieve new levels in games, the brain releases dopamine, which prompts excitement, encourages exploration and helps combat the stagnation caused by failure. The reward-motivated behavior induced by dopamine is the key to enhancing the training experience for millennials.
Before turning 21, the average American has spent 2,000 to 3,000 hours reading books and more than three times that number playing video games. That makes the average millennial very close to being a gaming expert, according to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule.
Organizations that learn to hack the millennial brain by triggering innate reward systems with game mechanics can enhance the effectiveness of their workplace training and increase millennial engagement and retention. Here are seven tips.
1. Offer options.
Games offer options of whom to play with, when to play and what to play. They offer customized user profiles or avatars with unique abilities, traits and appearances. Gamers also thrive on the freedom to choose a specific mission or storyline.
Similarly, millennials are interested in customizing their training content and learning tracks. Millennials approach their career not like a ladder but like a cargo climbing net, which allows them to climb up (step into leadership roles), climb down (create more work/life balance), or move from side to side (collaborating across departments or trying new roles). They want flexible training that can equip them at every turn of their career.
2. Provide hints.
Games serve hints when players are stuck to ensure they stay engaged. The hints are calculated based on the direction of the player or the length of time he or she takes to overcome an obstacle. Provide hints on what training millennials might be best suited for based on their individual passions, strengths, skills gaps or career goals.
3. Give control.
With a controller in hand, gamers control their avatar’s movements and decisions and the ultimate outcome of the game.
In much the same way, millennials want the control to access the training anywhere (mobile, desktop, virtual reality, etc.), anytime (24/7 access), and any way (instructor-led, e-learning, etc.).
4. Encourage practice.
Gamers have the option to enter tutorials where they can hone their skills or practice a level. They learn and cultivate skills through practice and failing; then, they apply their learning to the main mission or storyline. According to Jane McGonigal’s book “Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World,” on average, gamers fail 80 percent of the time, and yet they still find the gaming experience enjoyable.
Learning and development is forged in the real-life arenas where learners can fail. Provide environments where millennials can learn, practice and then apply their learning in real-life situations.
5. Promote collaboration.
Gamers build trust quickly with the people with whom they play games. They trust they will play within the rules and that they will stick with the game. Growing up playing massive online multi-player games, millennials came to understand that nothing significant can be achieved alone. The bigger the team, the more epic the win.
Millennials seek collaboration because they often learn better and more quickly in teams. Provide opportunities for millennial learners to collaborate during their training.
6. Communicate consequences.
Gamers willingly struggle from level to level and puzzle to puzzle for the ultimate goal of saving the world. Gaming is engaging because the result is often bigger than individual players, and they can surprise themselves with their abilities.
Millennials desire an epic win. Their definition of success is meaningful work. In reality and in games, they want to change the world. Communicate what they will achieve through training. If Millennials know “the why,” they are more likely to engage.
7. Highlight progress.
Games offer progress bars and leaderboards that inform players where they started, how far they’ve come, how they stack up and how far they have left to go. Clear visibility into the progress they’ve made and the progress they still need to make is an engaging and informative training tool for millennials.
Sensors, technology, big data, hyper-connectivity and the surge of a generation of gamers into the workplace makes it easier than ever before for training organizations to benefit from gamification. Leverage the engaging and transformative traits of games to enhance the training experience for millennials, and the likelihood of having disengaged, millennial learners is…