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Employee Engagement

How to motivate & retain your millennial workforce

By 2025, millennials will make up three quarters of the global workforce. Yes, 75%!

Defined as anyone born between 1980-2000, and therefore coming of age in the millennium, how many ‘millennials’ do you have working for you? And how confident are you in their loyalty to your company and brand?

As the first generation of true digital natives, technology plays a key role in training, motivating and engaging millennials at work. In the second instalment of our gamification series, we explore how gamified technology can boost your employees’ motivation so that you can captivate and retain the future lifeblood of your brand.

Attracting and Building Talent with Reward-Based Motivation

Why do your employees work for you in the first place? In this competitive marketplace, company culture, salary packages, benefits and team incentives play a big part. Especially with fresh-faced millennials who are still carving out their career paths.

As explored in our last article, how to future-proof your brand, this is what is known as extrinsic motivation and is a key part of any gamification strategy.

Extrinsic motivation is perfect for driving short term change and inspiring new recruits. As such, it is an integral part of most business tools and technology, such as Slack’s communication tool, Hubspot’s sales hub and MobieTrain’s mobile learning and development platform.

This is normally integrated through fun, engaging and competitive elements such as badges and leaderboards, defined by leading theorist Scott Nicholson as ‘BLAP’ gamification:


‘Most of the current applications of gamification are based on providing external rewards for some activity; for example […] levels and leaderboards to encourage progress and competition, badges […] and achievements for reaching goals. Gamification systems that focus on Badges, Levels and Leaderboards, Achievements, and Points will be referred as BLAP gamification.’


So integrating an element of competitiveness into your company culture and tools is great practice for initial motivation, engagement and short term business goals. However, it has been proven that rewards alone are not enough for longer term goals, and that is where intrinsic and meaningful motivation techniques come into play.

Encouraging Long Term Results with Meaningful Gamification

Any successful business strategy needs to plan towards longer term business goals. This is also the case for gamification in the workplace, especially in regards to your training and L&D programmes. As Nicholson states:


‘Learning is the process of making meaning out of life.’


Therefore, learning in the workplace is the process of finding meaning within your career. And rewards alone do not achieve this intrinsic motivation.

You want your employees to be happy and fulfilled in the longer term outside of straightforward monetary rewards and benefits. That is the key to retaining your millennial workforce as they progress through their careers.

So how do we achieve this?

Put Your Employees First with Human-Focused Design

Gamification expert Yu-kai Chou defines the process of meaningful gamification as ‘human-focused design:’

‘He explains how “function-focused” systems are designed to finish projects quickly which leads to employees working because they are required to, not because they enjoy the tasks or want to perform them. By focusing on human elements and not only on getting the job done, space is created for human feelings, ambitions and preferences.’

Put simply, you need to put your employees at the heart of any technology or process that you introduce. In technology terms, they are your end user- not your board of directors or managers.

Personal learning paths, meaningful narrative and user profiling is key to this. Your employees need to be intrinsically motivated to see how they are progressing towards their own career goals, and not just in contrast to their peers with leaderboards and badges.

When combining personalisation with reward-based techniques, you are guaranteed to retain a happy and motivated workforce in the build up to 2025 and beyond.

Vector flat illustration of gamification in business
Employee Engagement, L&D Approach

How to future-proof your business with Gamification

What do you count as success? High profit and turnover? A happy and motivated workforce? A well-known and respected brand?

Of course, any businessman worth their salt knows the importance of offsetting short term wins against longer-term strategy. We don’t want to just be successful this year. We want to build a brand, company and team that will weather the disruptive business climate for the foreseeable future and beyond.

So how does gamification achieve this? Should it be an important part of your internal Learning & Development program? Or is it just hype?

In the first article of our gamification series, we explore the science behind knowledge retention and how your business can build on this to achieve both short and long term goals.

Gamification in the modern workplace

Gamification expert Yu-kai Chou defines gamification as “the craft of deriving fun and engaging elements found typically in games and thoughtfully applying them to real-world or productive activities.”  So how does this apply to your workplace?

Believe it or not, our whole education system is built around gamification, with our grades working as ‘rewards.’ But the real high achievers were not simply driven by external recognition and a parrot-like memory for facts, but a real intrinsic passion to learn.

Move into the modern day workplace, and a lot of similar reward-based mechanisms are used- from salary packages to competitive incentives such as employee of the month schemes, bonuses and team trips. But, as with academia, if all that is motivating you is your salary packet, then there is no brand loyalty and your top employees may jump ship the second a better offer comes along.

So we’re already much more accustomed to gamification then we may realise. Which explains the astronomic rise of business tools and apps that integrate elements of fun and gamification into everyday business tasks.

But are these platforms really using the best scientifically-proven gamification techniques? Or are they just shooting for quick wins and short term goals?

The science of knowledge retention

We all know that the key to business success is motivated and knowledgeable employees and colleagues. They are the essence of your brand and customer experience.

So take a second to think about your current L&D process. Do you still employ traditional training practices such as offsite training days? Do you have an online system that encourages training via your intranet? Or have you gone digital and embraced the mobile-learning platforms available?

Whichever system you adopt, take a step back to think about how successfully your employees are retaining their training and onboarding knowledge. Are they motivated themselves to continual learning and improvement, or are they simply competing for more rewards, recognition and incentives?

According to gamification experts Scott Nicholson and Yu-kai Chou, reward-based training and gamification only works when focusing on short term goals. When focusing on long term goals, however, they recommend not just focusing on rewards to avoid the risk that the reward itself becomes the main goal, instead of wanting to learn and improve.

Intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation

This is what is known as intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic motivation. In order to successfully retain knowledge in the longer term, while also meeting short term goals, you need to carefully combine elements of the two.

External motivators such as rewards, incentives and leaderboards get employees off the starting block and inspire them to start training at a faster pace than they perhaps otherwise would. However, this needs to be combined with intrinsic motivation techniques that inspire them to continue learning and developing towards their own goals and not just for external recognition.

THIS is the key to successful gamification in the workplace, and a happy and motivated team that is dedicated to continual learning and meeting both short and longer term targets.

So how do you put this into force in your workplace? Where do you start, and how does gamification successfully come into this?

This is what we delve into in our next article, an essential read for any business looking to improve their short and longer term strategy.

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Employee Engagement

How to sell to the millennial who knows everything

Millennials. That sought-after breed of shopper that holds the spending power of the future. As retailers, we know them, we love them; we want them to love us too.

The great news is that 82% of millennials still prefer shopping in brick and mortar stores, according to Trendsource’s recent report. So we must be doing something right.

But to really capture and engage that market, we cannot ignore the colossal impact that eCommerce has on their in-store purchasing decisions. We cannot simply look at these new stats and stand back and rub our hands in glee.

Instead, we need to ask: How does online shopping affect a millennial’s in-store shopping experience? And how can we adapt to enhance this?

Don’t let your shoppers know more than you

This is the single biggest learning to get our heads around. In an age of knowledge-on-demand, the overwhelming odds are that your customer has already done their research before stepping foot in your store.

Millennials have looked on your website and social channels. They’ve read reviews, and researched pricing and competitors. They know what’s trending, and what they’re intending on spending their hard-earned cash on.

After looking online, millennials are then choosing to visit your store for the experience and immediate gratification. And that experience is directly affected by the knowledge and training that your store associates have.

Put simply- you can’t risk your shoppers having more product knowledge than your store associates. This is particularly pertinent in sectors such as electronics and home improvements. Which brings us on to our next point:

Customer service: Creating the best shopping experience

Did you know that only 34% of shoppers desire advice or assistance from associates in fashion? As opposed to 62% in household goods and 70% in electronics.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to customer interaction in retail. Equipped with a wealth of research and information, the millennial shopper now only requires advice from your store associates in certain departments and situations. Your associates need to be trained on this, and learn when to approach your shoppers and when to hold back,  as too much or too little interaction will negatively affect the shopping experience.

Indeed, when shoppers do require your assistance in-store, it is more than likely to do with their drive for immediacy.

Where am I? How immediacy drives sales

The single biggest driver of Millennials to in-store shopping is immediate gratification. That is, the ability to find, try and buy what they are looking for as seamlessly as possible, without having to wait for poorly informed staff or online delivery times.

This drives a whopping 88% of shoppers in household goods, 85% in electronics and 83% in fashion to go in-store.

Your associates need to know your store inside out and backwards. They need to be able to track down products and availability quickly to give your shoppers the best experience possible. Alongside product and department knowledge, this needs to be an essential part of your onboarding and training.

Building a brand experience

Ultimately, 82% of shoppers prefer to shop in-store because of your overall brand experience. This will always be the brick and mortar store’s secret weapon against eCommerce. And the importance of this brand experience is increasingly being recognised as eCommerce giants such as Amazon start to launch physical stores. (A very exciting development which I’ll discuss in a future article)

Knowledge is central to this brand experience. Millennials are more clued up about your brand and product offering than ever before. Your store associates need to be too.

But product knowledge isn’t enough. Your associates need to be trained on the intricacies of how to behave and interact with your shoppers. They need to know your floor space and stock availability. And they need to know your brand values and everything that you represent.

Your employees are the walking, breathing representations of your brand. They are the last barrier between your customers and their increasing spending power. And ultimately, their knowledge and training are what will keep millennials coming back for more.

social learning corporate culture
Employee Engagement

Building corporate culture with social learning

Recently I was asked for a keynote speech on social learning and a debate on the topic afterwards. Two questions were prominent and remained unanswered for me that evening. I will try to elaborate on those questions in this blog.

When can we use social learning? Is our company’s culture ready for social learning?

Rethinking and discussing those with my partners, we found that both were closely related and actually can be answered by linking it to the ‘5 Moments of Need’ from Dr. Conrad Gottfredson.

What we learn from this approach is that in an organisational context, learners need to acquire knowledge in different stages of their career or to accomplish a task.

Acquisition of knowledge

The first and second Moments of Need are aligned with the more traditional approaches of learning and training, and therefore are mostly answered with more traditional ways of formal learning.

1. When learning for the first time
2. When wanting to learn more

New social learning tools can make the learning journey more efficient and effective as they enable agile and versatile learning through Social Apps such as Yammer, Twitter or ESN’s.

What I have seen with some organisations are Social Learning tools to offer a blended and interactive learning approach alongside the formal training event, offering pre-work, extra tasks, quizzes, backchannels, forums, wiki’s and more.

By using this interactive approach where the learner actually takes the driving seat, we notice that Jennings’ 70-20-10 model aso applies and that serendipity or accidental learning was achieved to stimulate the total learning process.

Application of knowledge

The remaining three Moments of Need are directly aligned with performance support. In these instances, social learning tools are powerful building blocks that can transform the way we enable learning and the application of knowledge in organisations:

1. When trying to apply and/or remember
2. When something goes wrong
3. When something changes

Most of what we need to know at work in the above Moments of Need can be acquired by participating in new ways of social learning. When learners engage in networks where people co-create, collaborate and share knowledge freely, without spatial, temporal or hierarchical boundaries, learning happens with and through other people. It is a matter of participating in the community, not just by acquiring knowledge.

“Training often gives people solutions to problems already solved. Collaboration addresses challenges no one has overcome before.” Marcia Conner

I’m not saying here that social learning will replace formal learning for the application of knowledge. Social apps and networks make learning and development Lean by focusing only on the direct benefit for the learner, taking into account time, methodology and transfer of learning.

Impact on corporate culture

Social learning builds a culture that makes learning fun, productive and commonplace. However, the shift in culture will not happen by merely launching an Enterprise Social Network.

Recently, I interviewed Peter Crombecq, the CEO of Digipolis and CIO of the City of Antwerp, and he explained how they implemented Yammer as their core communication, sharing and learning tool. Only 6 months after introducing the new ESN the adoption was a success and learning and sharing became a part of their everyday routine.

I believe that one of the main reasons for this success is C-level engagement. As the CEO is actively sharing information, posting blogs and answering questions from all co-workers, he is setting an example and motivating others to follow.

At Digipolis, the management team is aware of the ‘Nielsen 90-9-1 rule.’ Through internal communication, people are offering their services to help editing text before publishing due to fear for mistakes. Subject matter experts are found in all levels of the organisation. A positive performance management system is implemented to encourage both introverts and extroverts to join the conversation in ways they feel comfortable. Silo’s disappeared and the informal hierarchy became almost flat!

To conclude, I believe that the culture of sharing and learning is inspired by leaders, enabled by technology and carried by all.


We would like to thank Peter Crombecq for his visionary view years ago, his sharing of knowledge and inspiring conversations!

Katja Schipperheijn


1. Gottfredson, Conrad and Mosher, Bob. “Vodcast: Learning Burst Series – The Five Moments of Learning Need.” Ontuitive. Accessed August 6, 2014.

2. Jennings. “Slideshare “The 70:20:10 Framework for Building Workforce Capability” Accessed august 6,

3. Bingham, Tony and Conner, Marcia, The New Social Learning (San Francisco: Berret-Koehler Publishers, 2010)

4. Schipperheijn, Katja and Verhasselt, Christine. “Why Social Learning Amplifies Lean Learning.” Habit of Improvement. Accessed August 6, 2014.

5. Nielsen, Jacob. “ Accessed August 6th