The number of older adults who play video games climbed to 50.6 million in 2019. According to an AARP survey, 44% of Americans aged 60 to 69 reported that they enjoy playing games, and 47% of adults aged 50 and over reported playing some sort of game once a day and up to five hours per week.
Gamification within employee training programs can boost engagement and productivity for all ages. While some may question whether boomers are interested in games or are afraid of learning new technology, many boomers play games to have fun, relieve stress or enjoy the competition. With the rising number of boomer gamers, employee training programs have an opportunity to better engage and drive business results.
Instructional designers who develop game-based training use principles that promote immersive and interactive learning. For boomers, game-based training may:
• Improve engagement and retention rates, ultimately boosting organization ROI.
• Create a positive work culture and sense of community with collaboration between all age groups.
• Offer the ability to play with both remote and in-office colleagues in a variety of different formats.
• Provide employers with key data on users’ knowledge improvement and behavior.
Using Games To Pull In Boomers
I’ve seen firsthand that creating healthy competition in training is impactful for employees of all ages. Gamified training plays into our natural intrinsic and extrinsic motivations to earn rewards, feel accomplished or avoid punishments. Whether boomer employees are motivated by personal gain or external factors, adding certain key elements into your daily operations can keep their attention and engagement on a variety of tasks.
• Points: Award points each time a learner completes a task.
• Levels: Give recognition to boomers when they achieve a new skill.
• Badges: Utilize certificates to help trainees track their progress and reach milestones.
• Leaderboards: Showcase your top performers with their scores and statistics.
• Rewards: Provide attainable awards, like gift cards or a lunch with the boss, to incentivize learners for big achievements.
When you gamify your training, it’s likely that boomers will enjoy corporate training more. But don’t just add games for gaming’s sake. Identify what skills you want to improve and choose an appropriate game to help accomplish that.
• For recall, use trivia games.
• For visual thinking, use a maze, matching or sorting mechanic.
• For people skills, try a simulation or branching dialogue.
Games can take training from solitary and dull to social and fun, engaging and motivating employees in person and virtually. They can be deployed with a blend of solo play, head-to-head competitions, and team play.
Best Practices For Employee Training Managers
The Boomer generation can be highly motivated by games. To be successful, you need to not only cater to your younger employees but ensure you develop inclusive training that fits everyone’s motivations and needs.
Boomers present a unique challenge when it comes to new training exercises. This generation tends to be extremely loyal to their workplace. A survey by the Associated Press–NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 41% of baby boomers have remained at the same job for at least 20 years or more. These longtime employees have likely not received new training in some time and some may feel it is unnecessary or a waste of time. For this reason, it might be helpful to present their training in a new and more enjoyable fashion than they are used to.
You might consider leveraging game mechanics that members of this generation are familiar with and enjoy on a regular basis. For example, boomers have been watching iconic game shows like JEOPARDY!®, The Price Is Right, and Wheel of Fortune for decades. They know how these games are played, and many of them have probably enjoyed playing along at home for years. Familiar game formats are a great way to elicit Boomer’s interest and readiness to learn in new ways. Participating allows boomers to become more comfortable with the technology and makes them more receptive to other gamified training applications later on.
It may also be beneficial to hold a pre-training introductory session for the games you choose, and because many boomers thrive in team environments, you might opt to use team play and encourage collaboration when first introducing game-based training. Every step of the way, make sure to provide feedback. Celebrate successes and creatively point out failures. Simply mimic your favorite game show host. Boomers love to be challenged and can be motivated by mastering difficult tasks.
The thrill of competition is not specific to any one generation. Points, achievements, and leaderboards act as incentives to perform well. It may be beneficial to limit the leaderboard to the top handful of performers, as you don’t want to publicly single out those who are not performing as well. Games can give a quantifiable measure of knowledge and allow information to be passed on in a way that’s fun for everyone — including baby boomers.
First Published for Forbes Human Resources Council by The Game Agency’s Head of Creative Strategy & Innovation Stephen Baer as a member of Forbes Human Resources Council Member