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Gamified solutions appeal to a multi-generational workforce. Baby Boomers and Gen X-Y-Z all stay engaged with work through applied game theory and mechanics.

This obsession with Millennials distracts companies and its leaders from the real work – creating profitable ecosystems where all generational employees can’t wait to show up for work on Monday, and where all customers want their business.” –  Marcel Schwantes, Founder and Chief Human Officer, Leadership From the Core.

Does gamification work on the ‘other’ generations?

Short answer: of course! It turns out that, after all the hype, Millennials actually ‘dream the same dreams’ and ‘want the same things’ as the generations that both preceded and followed them. Now let’s find out why…

What’s in a name?

At the turn of the millennium, sociologists must have had their own version of the ‘Y2K bug’ when they realised that to start generational profiling with the letter X may have been a bit presumptuous. I’m referring of course, to Generation X, the generation that followed the Baby Boomers and to which I myself belong. With only Y and Z left in the alphabet, what were they, the sociologists, going to call the next generation? And the next? Luckily, the turn of the millennium was right around the corner and humans, who have this propensity for attaching significance to numbers said yahoo, let’s call them ‘Millennials’!

Giving the generations names like ‘Baby Boomers’ and ‘Millennials’ makes way more sense for purposes of demographic segmentation, however that sanity seems to have been short lived. The terms ‘Millennial’ and ‘Gen Y’ are now used interchangeably and ‘Millennials’ has almost become dismissive. In creating the name ‘Millennials’, sociologists inadvertently created an expectation that this generation, born just before the turn of the millennium, would be somehow radically different. But they ain’t.

Saying it don’t make it so

Speak to an evolutionary biologist and they’ll tell you that one species does not spontaneously change into another. Mature offspring always resemble their parents. The last Gen Y baby was born only seconds before the first Gen Z baby. The clock ticked, a moment passed, and suddenly all the new babies are Gen Z? It’s not unrealistic to imagine that out there somewhere is a twin born seconds before midnight on the cusp of the millennium; one twin is a Gen Y – a Millennial – and the other, born just seconds past midnight, is a Gen Z! To expect these children to turn out fundamentally different just because they were born past a certain time and date is ludicrous.

Reinforcing false generalisations about a whole generation

Millennials are not a market segment; they are a demographic segment – only one of the four types that divide the market into smaller categories. You’re still missing behavioural segmentation, psychographic segmentation and geographic segmentation. The statement ‘you need to talk to Millennials’ lacks any meaningful specificity and surely no one would assert that all Millennials are the same, regardless of their behavioural, psychographic and geographic profiles. (Alas they do.)

But are they unique?

“As Millennials are likely to constitute nearly 75 per cent of the workforce by 2025, a greater understanding of Millennials and Millennial behaviours is an area of interest.”

OK, so in order to get ‘a greater understanding’, I typed “unique characteristics of Millennials” into a search engine and found the usual articles. All of them explained how Millennials are “nurtured and pampered by parents who didn’t want to make the mistakes of the previous generation, [etc.]”. But the articles did not list any unique characteristics. All the ‘Millennial characteristics’ listed are actually common to all generations, just in varying degrees.

According to the articles, Millennials are:

  • Tech savvy
  • Family-centric
  • Achievement-oriented
  • Team-oriented
  • Prone to job-hopping

It also said that Millennials crave attention and possess “many characteristics that are unique in comparison to past generations”.

Oh really?

That’s a bold statement coming from an article that fails to provide any characteristics that are unique to Millennials. Was Generation X any less tech savvy in its day? Were Baby Boomers any less family-centric? Has there ever been a generation that wasn’t achievement-oriented?

Sorry snowflake, you’re not special

“Young people today tend to see themselves and their work environments in a similar way, as did young people from previous generations” writes Amanda Kreun, analyst at Work Effects.

No, Millennials are not unique in any appreciable way, save for the fact that they were the first generation born into an online, digital world. Different? For sure. But not unique. And neither is Generation Z, the generation that follows the Millennials (Gen Y). They all want the same things as previous generations, but with perhaps a slightly different focus or weighting. For example, when polled on their preference for receiving communications from brands, 43% of Gen Y preferred emails where only 33% of Gen Z preferred email. This 10% decrease will affect the overall communications strategy but you certainly wouldn’t abandon emails altogether simply because the ‘trend’ suggests a decline in consumption. Gen Y prefers their info in a particular format, Gen Z wants theirs in another; but the point is that they both want to stay informed, regardless of the format.

A multigenerational workspace

Look, if you are only dealing with a specific generation, then by all means, sweat the small stuff and really tailor your approach in line with these figures. But in a multigenerational workforce, that 10% doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Even if one generation in your organisation prefers email 0% of the time, you will still use email to communicate ‘in broad strokes’.

We want the same things

Gamification works on the ‘other’ generations because Millennials and Gen Z are all young people (for the moment) but all Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers were once young people too! Although the uptake of gamified solutions is generally driven by the younger generations, it is still very relevant to the older generations because the gamified experience is relatable. It’s not correct to say that Millennials and Gen Zs enjoy playing games any more than the preceding generations.

We all start out as young people and we all enjoy playing games. This is the truth: “You don’t stop playing when you get old. You get old when you stop playing.”