"Baby Boomers Hate Games" and other training myths

"I love the idea of game-based training, but I don’t think my older employees will use it."

Ever heard that before?

It’s a pretty common sentiment and a legitimate concern for a lot of training managers. After all, most workplaces have 3 different generations of staff members — and you want your training to appeal to all of ’em, not just the young’ns.

But is this worry based in fact? Do Baby Boomers actually hate games?

Survey says… not so much.

Believe it or not, they're one of the fastest growing gamer populations. [1] No guff.

The Rise of Baby "Goomers"

There's a common misconception that gamers are geeky teenage boys munching on cool ranch doritos and yelling at people online in their parent’s basement.

But that's actually not the case.

Just take a look at this chart from the Entertainment Software Association.


Image Credit: Entertainment Software Association

According to this report, there’s about an equal number of Millennial and Boomer gamers.

Even more interesting? A study by Celia Pearce of the Georgia Institute of Technology found that women over 40 spend the greatest number of hours per week gaming. [2]

They beat out both adult males and teens!

So not only do your older employees not “hate games,” it's likely they play them regularly at home.

Baby Boomers Don’t Hate Games. They Hate Your Crappy Games.

Most training managers worry that older employees will be intimidated by game-based learning — especially mobile eLearning — and just won’t participate.

That’s a valid concern. But the root of the problem is bad design — not game-based training itself.

To make game-based learning approachable for those staff members, you need to make it easy to understand how to play. The instructions should be so simple a kid could play the game — even if you’re teaching complicated concepts like information security.

Baby Boomers are More Likely to Become Power Players

KPMG released a case study a few years ago about their experience implementing gamified training.

What they found was while their Millennial employees were more likely to log on, their older employees were more likely to become “power users” — employees who reached above level 5 in the 7 level game. [3]

Why were Millennial employees so quick to quit?

“The key feedback from the [Millennial] experimenters* was the comparison of this tool to commercially available gaming alternatives.”

In other words, if the game experience wasn’t up to par with what they used at home, Millennials were much more likely to drop out.

On the other hand, Baby Boomers seemed more willing to forgive the game design because the training was relevant to their jobs.

“The central feedback theme from these senior users was interest in the content, with an awareness that understanding the firm’s service offerings would assist with career progression.”

What that means is if you can get Boomers to try your program (by making the experience simple and promoting your program internally) they’re more likely to engage frequently than your younger users. You just need to highlight the relevance of training to their jobs.

The Bottom Line

Game-based training won’t automatically alienate Boomers any more than it will instantly win over Millennials. You have to design for both engagement and relevance to capture your staff’s attention and interest.

Make the user interface easy to navigate. Include game elements that motivate both Boomers and Millennials. Showcase the relevance of your program to their day-to-day activities.

At the end of the day, it’s the design that will make or break your training program -- not how old your employees are.

* “experimenters” were defined by KPMG as players that achieved level 2 or below in the 7 level game.