The Video Game Generation in the Workforce: Why Trophies Motivate

This guest post is courtesy of Dennis Phoenix

The Millennial Generation, also known as Generation Y, receives a considerable amount of criticism from potential employers, and of course, the generations that came before. Millennials are anyone born between the years 1980 and 2000, though many sources define the span of years with varied inconsistency. Of course, much of the focus on millennials isn’t so much about when they were born, but their attitudes, particularly surrounding their sense of entitlement and what they believe they deserve, especially as they enter the workforce. Various studies suggest that a majority apply and accept positions with delusions of grandeur, the sources of that said criticism.

Much of this “delusion” can be traced back to how these millennials were raised. No one wanted to harm their self-esteem. In many instances, they were over-rewarded for their behavior and activities, coddled and made to feel that they were unique, special, and somehow superior to others. Not only did this extend from their real world activities, it encroached into their entertainment, their video games.

Today, it seems that nearly everyone plays video games, surpassing the film and television industries as that go-to form of entertainment. When they play the games, they are continuously rewarded with achievements and trophies, all digital and intangible. They accumulate them and they can show them off, creating an additional level of competition among friends, but more importantly, it becomes a driving force, a reason to play a game. It’s this desire to collect achievements and trophies that employers can learn from.

There are people who will play a terrible game just to accumulate more achievements. Most of the time, however, it motivates players to explore a game in greater depth and essentially get more for their money. It’s become an incredible motivational factor.

How can employers use this to their advantage? Well, if a common complain that millennials demand too much, have a well-maintained sense of entitlement, perhaps employers can use that to their advantage. Look at video game achievements and trophies. They’re basically pixels on a screen, code in the game, they don’t really exist, yet players are more than willing to collect them, to put in work to earn them. Employers could potentially develop incentive programs that use video game achievements as a basis.

Some actually have and it’s being called gamification. In the real world, awarding employees with physical awards, such as plaque awards, or more even something more elaborate like a crystal awards, have proven to make for surprising motivators. As the workplace fills with more and more millennials, these reward and incentive programs can be modified to more resemble the achievement systems many younger people are accustomed to through gaming. Through simple awards that can be collected, millennials can see their job as something that rewards them they have something additional to work toward, and they develop a sense of loyalty. Work can become, essentially, a type of game. It shouldn’t be for menial things, such as simply showing up, but for being a genuine contributor to the workplace environment.

Dennis Phoenix is a human resource specialist and writer. He writes on topics including business relationships, productivity, employee satisfaction, and corporate awards. He spends his weekends mountain biking and photographing nature.


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