Sixty-six percent of Gen Z say gaming is their main hobby. And recently gaming outpaced cable, more 23-36-year-olds (53 percent) pay for gaming services than who pay for TV (51 percent). 

Why is gaming so engaging? It provides a sense of progress.

Gaming elements--like the progress bar/map or the story completion percentage--clearly inform players of where they started, how far they've come, and what's left to accomplish. The improvement of a game character's skills or gear enhancements also contribute to a gamer's sense of progress. You don't get a sense of progress from watching television.

Progress in meaningful work has the strongest impact on employee engagement according to Teresa Amabile, the co-author of The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work.

Conversely, the number one event that diminishes employee engagement is experiencing a feeling of moving backward in the work they are doing, having setbacks. The negative effect of setbacks at work can be 2-3 times greater than the positive effect of progress.

Amabile's research discovered that it's the everyday actions of managers (and co-workers) that can make the difference in catalyzing or inhibiting progress. Yet, when Amabile surveyed 600 managers about what has the strongest impact on employee engagement, they ranked "progress" last.

There is a massive chasm between what employees need/want and what managers are delivering.

What can managers do to engage Gen Z employees?

  • Search for progress. "Create a climate of attention, where everyone is looking for opportunities to support one another's progress and nourish the people who are making it," recommends Amabile.
  • Break up goals. "Managers should break big goals down into smaller, achievable ones, so they can maximize the sense of progress that workers can experience," says Amabile.
  • Acknowledge forward movement. Whether it's accomplishing a small win, overcoming an obstacle, learning a new skill, achieving a breakthrough, or completing a goal, managers should recognize and reflect back to the employee their progress.
  • Meet weekly. Employees are 3.5 times more likely to be engaged at work when given meaningful weekly feedback. Weekly meetings can provide managers with a better pulse on where and when an employee is progressing (or stalling).
  • Create very specific goals. Ambiguity stalls action and inhibits progress. Replace broad goals like, "Complete the project" with specific (and smaller) goals like, "Send a one-page project overview to Landon by this Friday at noon." If an employee's goals are clear and specific, it enables them to track and celebrate their own progress which creates a more independent, productive, and engaged worker.

Progress is a key ingredient but it isn't the full recipe for employee engagement and motivation. In order to sustain employee engagement, managers have to "nourish the human spirit by acknowledging their value and encouraging them when work gets difficult," says Amabile.

Support people and support their progress. 

This isn't an exotic concept, but it's too often underestimated and overlooked. 

That should end now.

Published on: Jul 16, 2019
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