Thoughts on Generational Gamification

Gamification: the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems.*

Something interesting happened the other day. I volunteer with a non-profit and in one of the meetings the topic of volunteer appreciation was started. Specifically, should the organization start a reward program for volunteers that meet certain criteria, like Volunteer of the Month. I liked the idea and suggested that we could set an objective benchmark – e.g. most hours volunteered – and then reward the person with something simple like a coffee gift card. In gamification terms, this would be considered a badge.

To add some perspective, I’m easily one of the youngest volunteers in this organization. Most members are 50 years or older. This dynamic leads to some interesting conversations, as well as exercises in generational differences.

After I made my suggestion, one of the older volunteers, a retired military comptroller, suggested that all a volunteer needs is a “atta boy/girl” from the president of the organization. In his opinion, if the “atta boy/girl” badge isn’t overused, it will be graciously accepted as a reward because of the mutual respect between the president and volunteer.

Now, being a fan of gamification and its uses in the corporate world, this hit me like a ton of bricks: gamification is generational. It has to be. What works for a member of the Greatest Generation, won’t necessarily work for a Millennial. At all.

I know I’m not winning any awards for this thought, as I’m sure most gamification experts already know this. In the same sense, I’m aware that my take on this is amateurish at best. But the generation gap here is wide. The comptroller would consider a pat on the back an excellent reward for a job well done. A Millennial typically needs much more coddling than that.

Your takeaway as an employer, manager, HR manager, etc. is to be aware of your team and the different generations they represent. Although labelling someone a Gen Xer comes with certain generalities and stereotypes, at least acknowledging that there might be differences will help you lead your team more efficiently.

* Wikipedia


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