Millennials have never lived in a world without video games. The oldest members of this generation were mere toddlers when the Nintendo game system launched in 1985, sparking a gaming trend that has not only infiltrated our homes, but now our workplace.

Personal achievement is a critical part of the core value proposition of millennials and developing engaging training options that leverage this sense of accomplishment is necessary to meet the needs of these young professionals.

“With this generation, everything is on the table,” said Gabe Zichermann, CEO of Gamification Co, in a recent TEDxBroadway Talk. “It doesn’t matter how engrained the behavior is, it doesn’t matter how culturally significant the behavior is, people will follow their bliss. They will go where the most positive reinforcement is and that threatens to upend everything and anything we know about people’s behavior.”

But millennials are not the only ones who are motivated by games.

“Everything that millennials want – to be center of the story, to consume more content, to feel like they’re making progress – that’s stuff that people of all ages want,” Zichermann added. “It just so happens that if you’re 24 and you’re used to playing games, you expect those things.”

Interestingly, the single biggest game playing demographic right now is women over the age of 40, not millennials. This adds some perspective into how appealing games are to people of all ages.

Gamification has the ability to drive business results through a bite-sized learning model that provides immediate feedback to learners, while engaging and enticing them to keep playing (learning).

Instead of fighting this trend, it’s time we use it to our advantage. But before organizations press play on gamification, it’s critical to ensure learning initiatives are aligned with business objectives to achieve optimal results. After all, implementing fun learning initiatives for fun’s sake is a recipe for disaster.

Gamification is effective when it is used to encourage learners to progress through content, motivate action, influence behavior and drive innovation, according to Karl M. Kapp, author and thought leader on gamification. Kapp suggests a few ideas on when to use gamification:

  • Encouraging learners through challenges, goals and making process
  • Motivating learners to move through instruction and to accomplish goals
  • Influencing behavior by properly placing game elements into a curriculum
  • Driving innovation by developing experiences that promote innovative thinking
  • Building necessary skills via earning points, badges and completing a story
  • Knowledge acquisition through repetition

It’s no secret. Games are engaging, challenging and just plain fun for all ages. But before organizations press play on gamification, learning and development teams need to be able to measure a tangible return on investment that will justify the need to gamify.