Millennials at play

Read time 4min 40sec

Millennials the world over are proving difficult to contend with as employees. This tech-savvy generation is generally flightier than others before, but not out of disloyalty. They're just easily bored, and expect their work to have meaning and to be fun. They like to share their activities and see what others are up to, as their prolific posting on social media demonstrates.

Having to show up to work every day to sit at a cubicle and work through a list of tasks, crossing each one off as they go, but not having a sense of the bigger picture, is probably a millennial's idea of hell.

But, this is how many businesses are set up, necessarily so. Employees are assigned individual tasks to complete within work streams. Interdependencies exist between tasks and no one person performs all the tasks in the work stream. The set-up allows employees to become specialists at their assigned tasks and to work more efficiently.

At least, it used to, until the millennial generation began to enter the workplace.

In low spirits

In SA and many other countries that have a disproportionately larger young population, people born between the early 1980s and the start of the new millennium now make up a majority of the workforce. Companies that have not recognised or responded to what this demographic shift means are finding themselves dealing with higher staff turnover, falling productivity and demotivated employees.

Those that have recognised the need to respond have probably considered gamification. And those that have instituted it correctly are testifying to the benefits, such as greater productivity and higher staff retention rates.

The term gamification is easy to understand. It is the application of game-design principles in non-gaming contexts, such as the workplace. This entails more than just overlaying the tasks employees perform with slick interfaces, animated buttons and characters to control. That all matters.

This generation's expectation of work that is fun and meaningful is pushing companies in a direction that works for all employees.

However, at its core, gamification of the business environment requires placing the employee in the position of a player in a video game. The tasks the employees need to perform are then structured in the game in such a way that the overall objectives are clear and employees feel a sense of progress towards the objectives as they complete the tasks. The tasks and objectives can even be held together by a narrative storyline, and employees can save and return the next day to where they left off. Like in a game.

Healthy competition

The set-up makes it possible to award scores and points for tasks completed, have employees and teams compete with each other and earn rewards - all motivators that millennials have grown up accustomed to that lead to workplace efficiency and productivity.

Because it intrinsically captures performance metrics, gamification allows for KPIs to be incorporated in the gamified universe. It also improves the quality of supervision and feedback employees receive as drilling down into the analytics will identify where exactly the underperformance is.

In a contact centre environment, for instance, metrics such as time to answer calls, number of calls answered, time spent on calls and customer ratings can be incorporated into a scoring system that encourages teams to compete and focus on service excellence. Tied to a robust rewards system, a gamified contact centre can massively improve the customer's experience of a business.

Gamification can also be a powerful training tool.

The most effective training completely immerses trainees in a universe where they acquire skills and knowledge and are made to apply it successfully in multiple different contexts, before being allowed to proceed to the next stage. This technique is sometimes called natural learning as it simulates how human beings instinctively acquire skills and knowledge. Game designers have been exploiting natural learning for decades, to keep players motivated and returning to learn new techniques or improve on ones they already know.

Because it is digital, gamified training allows companies to use analytics to spot the areas in which individual employees excel, and to assign them tasks at which they'll be most effective and efficient.

The first question most companies get to after deciding gamification is definitely for them is: does it make sense to change my workplace just to accommodate millennials? What about employees of other generations?

Well, the thing is, even as people complain about millennials, this generation's expectation of work that is fun and meaningful is pushing companies in a direction that works for all employees. They are pushing companies to allow employees to be more human, which is a good thing for everyone who works there.

A growing number of service providers are offering out-of-the-box gamified business solutions that are affordable and customisable to some degree. But, as with anything else, the quality of what service providers offer varies wildly.

The trick is to go with someone who truly understands what gamification is beyond the buzzword - particularly when it comes to applying it to your specific environment. Only then will you truly begin to drive performance improvements within the business and keep your workforce engaged and motivated.

Wynand Smit


With over 10 years of operational and strategic experience in the South African contact centre industry, Wynand Smit's understanding of technology and its application to business has benefited multiple organisations across a variety of industries. As CEO of contact centre solutions provider INOVO, he is passionate about using the contact centre as a platform to drive positive change in a business.

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