Millennials. This single word has had organizations flummoxed for over a decade – Who are they? What do they want? How to manage them? How to train them? There is significant research available on the largest generational cohort in the current global workforce. Despite being part of the global workforce for over 15 years, and proactively voicing their needs, desires, demands and interests, organizations still struggle to interact, train and engage with them.
Some well-established facts about millennials are as follows:
- Millennials are the most educated generation ever – they have the exposure and know the “basics”; where they struggle is in implementing their learning
- Paradoxically, millennials form the largest part of the unemployed section – Despite being better educated than their predecessors, most millennials feel that their graduate degrees afford them no greater benefits than their high school diplomas
- Millennials are reporting the highest levels of clinical anxiety, stress, and depression than any other generation at the same age – Some of the top contributors to millennials’ anxiety include a tough job market, student debt, ambition addiction / career crises, as well as unprecedented challenges involving a constantly changing political and economic climate and demanding technology-based lifestyles.
Why is this important to organizations, specifically L&D teams?
It is because adapting learning strategy for the millennial workforce is a key L&D priority; and the aforementioned facts largely dictate all millennial behaviors, including that of learning and development. The reality of their situation can make millennials feel highly disillusioned and hopeless, leading to lower productivity and higher attrition. To overcome these challenges, it is important that L&D teams effectively cater to the millennials’ need for learning that is hyper-personalized, on-demand, engaging, quick, impactful and a part of their job.
While organizations have gathered some success when it comes to making learning on-demand through mobile-based and online learning, there is still a long way to go in truly catering to millennial demands for learning. Biology teaches us that making learning fun can help L&D teams manage these challenges and cater to these needs.
The dopamine invasion
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter; Released by brain cells, dopamine is involved in many pathways in the brain, playing an important role in a range of body systems as well as functions, including movement, sleep, learning, mood, memory and attention. It is reputed as being the “feel-good hormone”. Dopamine is associated with feelings of euphoria, bliss, motivation and concentration, all of which we feel when we are having fun.
When learners are having fun, they feel good, which results in them letting go of their inhibitions and becoming more receptive to the environment around themselves. As a result, the learning uptake is higher.
So, how do we ensure that learners are having fun?
Get your GAME on
According to Malcolm Gladwell, author of “Outliers”, individuals need 10,000 hours of practice before mastering anything. Millennials, and everyone else living in this time and age, do not have the luxury of time to master skills.
Gestalt Psychology teaches us that it is easier to learn, understand, retain and apply something new when we relate it to something we already know how to do. For millennials, this can be done through ‘gaming’. Why? Globally renowned game designer Jane McGonigal estimates that by the age of 21, the average millennial has already spent 10,000 hours gaming.
Combining what we have learnt from Gladwell and Gestalt Psychology, we can infer that millennials, in general, are receptive to game-based learning. There are many things that can be taught through games. For skills that cannot be taught in such a manner, we employ the style of gamification-based learning, which refers to using game-based elements such as leaderboards and point systems in non-game-based scenarios.
Gamification has become common place with the platform revolution. Any activity or service that is on a platform has become gamified in one form or the other. According to TechForge, a good gamification platform comprises three attributes:
- Data Insight: Analytics about user behavior patterns
- Clear Objective: Highlights a problem that the organization is facing, and allows the learner to solve this problem real-time
- Growth: Allows the user to recognize performance in the game
Most importantly, gamifying learning allows learners to:
- be immersed in the experience
- see real world application
- engage in collaborative and social learning, and
- make mistakes in a safe learning environment
Modern Workplace Learning = Designed for People, Technology and Fun
An important thing to remember when it comes to training and engaging millennials is to adopt technology. It is an important criterium for the adoption and implementation of gamification, because, in a large sense, gamification perpetuates the concept of “virtual” reality in its most basic forms. Either way, at every level of gamification, some form of technology is necessary. Why?
Gamification, as already established, uses game-like elements to make otherwise mundane and cumbersome non-game scenarios like education and exercise more interesting, engaging and fun. The common elements used in gamification are points, badges and rewards. As gamification has evolved, these elements have morphed to form different levels of gamification:
Level 1 – Content gamification
Have you ever played ‘Jeopardy’ or ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’ While these are considered “game” shows, the premise is to see how strong your “knowledge” is, which is a fundamental component of learning. Every right answer wins you points, and wrong answers may find you losing points. This is an example of basic gamification – Activities generate points and accumulation of points creates an automated leader board. Better the performance, higher the points.
Level 2 – Structural gamification
Diving a step deeper into gamification, and you will find apps like ‘Duolingo’, the language app. Structural gamification functions on the concept of badges. The content and activities given to learners are divided into modules or groups. As learners complete a module or group, their collective points help them gain a badge, a form of recognition for having achieved something others haven’t. This keeps the engagement going. Better the performance, more badges that the learner collects.
Level 3 – Performance gamification
Performance gamification is the best-case scenario. If you’ve looked at fitness apps like RunKeeper or Pear Fitness Coach, they embody gamification in its truest sense. How do they do it? By demonstrating impact. RunKeeper and Pear Fitness Coach, for example, employ Artificial intelligence to track individual performance and provide personalized coaching and feedback.
When it comes to learning, simple classroom activities and board-games can give learners points and scores. eLearning is known to incorporate the module-based learning to support badges. Udemy and Coursera are great examples of structural gamification in learning. The holy-grail, however, in performance gamification, is the use of artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Simulations are a good example of performance gamification, incorporating artificial intelligence for feedback and reporting, and virtual reality for safe learning and practice without fear.
How well are you able to train and engage your millennial workforce?