Gaming: The New Workforce Hurdle
I’m a sucker for articles that discuss job trends. As the editor of a publication with an audience that regards personnel issues as a top priority, my eyes jump when I see a workforce story that appears significant. My eyes bulged when I read this headline in The Wall Street Journal: "Videogames Might Be Keeping Young Men Out of the Workforce."
It seems that more youths are abstaining from the effort of looking for work. A growing number are more inclined to stay home and play video games, according to a new study by three major universities. And what’s potentially more dismaying to employers — but not altogether surprising — is that they appear happier than their working counterparts. If that’s true, we’re in trouble.
“There’s ample evidence that since 2000, men who would otherwise be working are instead being drawn into immersive virtual worlds, giving up paychecks in the process,” according to The Wall Street Journal. “These men’s absence from the labor force is likely to negatively affect their employment and earnings prospects for the rest of their lives.
“The rise of gaming accounts for 23 to 46 percent of the decline in market work for younger men during the 2000s. For men ages 21 to 30, hours worked fell by 12 percent between 2000 and 2015, compared with a decline of 8 percent in hours worked for men 31 to 55.” The article notes that even the Federal Reserve is paying attention to this phenomena, implying that the numbers are large enough to affect statistical data and have other influences.
That should concern our industry because how do you woo young, happy men who enjoy what they do — even if their activity appears to be submitting to self-indulgence — to an occupation that takes up eight hours of your day and demands concentration, effort and social engagement.
This begs the obvious: How do these young men support themselves? They don’t. It appears that most of these young men can “live the life” because they’re at home with their parents. (I suppose you could argue it’s not a bad gig if you can get it and find the right parents.)
Some have described the study as controversial. (Japan has committed gamers without the same problem, for example.) But anecdotally many echo this view of disconnect.
Regardless of which small-business person I speak with, the mantra remains the same: “I can’t find good help." And when employers do find someone, they’re surprised by the lack of basic understanding of workplace norms. It is also occurring in the classroom. A high school Spanish teacher has told me for years that many of her male students just don’t engage. Some are clearly gamers and are not interested in the value of learning Spanish.
Turning to a rougher classroom, Professor Kenneth Brach, a Voorhees, New Jersey, a jiu-jitsu expert and former Marine sniper, told me: “What we do [jiu-jitsu] is hard. The young people who would normally visit us in the past are at home playing video games. They’re not interested in a martial art that requires discipline, attention and physical effort. It seems as though most young men couldn’t be bothered.”
Is there a fix for this? I don’t have an answer for the U.S., but I do have a thought that makes sense to our industry. Motivation, both positive and negative, precedes most action. I’m not talking about the rah-rah emotion of the moment that dissipates after the game or an “inspirational” speech. I’m referring to the enthusiasm that provides a steady undercurrent keeping you on track. (The same motivation that gets you to speaking Spanish and earning a jiu-jitsu black belt.)
One way to foster that undercurrent is to attend HARDI’s Marketing and Sales Focus Conference in Philadelphia, Sept. 17 to 19, if this is your bailiwick in the business (http://bit.ly/2tUFmaU). And regardless of your specialty, register now for HARDI’s annual conference, Dec. 2 to 5, 2017, in Las Vegas. (http://bit.ly/2vpbQIi) Registration is now open.
I understand that if you’re the owner or a high-level executive, I’m preaching to the choir. What I’m suggesting is that you look at the budget carefully and see if you can squeeze in one more employee that you otherwise might not have considered and send him or her. Not just the obvious star, but someone who could become a bright light in the company. If you have several candidates, put their names in a cap and draw the winner’s name. Let them feel like they won something special. (They did.) It’s a small financial risk but one that can pay deep dividends down the road.
What does all this do? Two things. For existing employees, it keeps them on track and immersed in the rewarding culture of your workplace. And for newbies, who might be recovering gamers, it’ll provide a different kind of intensity, which hopefully they will grow to enjoy. DC