Digital Natives; are organisations ready?.

Digital Natives are a generation born immediately into digital technology. While individuals from elder generations recall organizing, planning and interacting with one another without mobile devices, computers or the Internet, Digital Natives have been using these technologies since their birth. Leaving them zero affiliations for the old days. They are the same, but different to previous generations. Where they differ puts them at a massive advantage of their elders, as they naturally masters the mindset to leverage humane elements through digital.

Digital Natives have an inherent understanding of digital technologies. They are part of a tech-savvy generation at the forefront of technological progress and want to be connected when they wish, from anywhere. Over the past five years they have graduated from secondary education, the first generation of Digital Natives is entering the working world – and transforming it at a fast pace. But is the workplace ready to embrace this change? How does an organisation integrate the cultures of digital natives and digital immigrants?

This digital skills of a digital native somewhat resemble that of a child born and raised in a foreign (non-mother tongue) environment. They have developed an innate understanding of digital and computer technologies, which have evolved into essential parts of their daily lives. Imagine you attempted to learning a new language like Spanish today, your understanding and appreciation of that language will always be through translation. But if you had a child while on an expat assignment in Madrid, that child would develop Spanish language skills as if it were native to Spain.

Digital natives in the workplace

Digital natives in the workplace

The Internet is the backbone, firmly connecting news and information, social networking, and education. Smartphones and mobile devices with Internet access support the Digital Natives’ need to always be connected with immediate access to information and social networks, anywhere at any time. This gives them instant access to both their social and professional lives, as well as the opportunity to seamlessly switch between the two. Due to their supreme mastery of technology, they are able to evolve deeper humane behaviours and cultures on technology than their elders. It is natural for them to develop their ‘hierarchy of needs’ such as security, belongingness and morality purely through digital. Older generations don’t understand how this is possible, so they question even the possibility that technology can be humane.

Digital natives in the workplace

1. Digital natives have the need to collaborate. Collaboration” has become a byword in recent years, and that’s perfectly understandable, considering the increase of digital natives in the workplace. They have become more dependent on apps and programs to allow them to work together with a team despite the absence of an office, location, and time zone. Whether these collaborative tools are able to improve their efficiency and productivity is another story. The bottom line is, with these technologies present, they believe they can become more effective managers, team leaders, or employees. The scary part for most managers is they are witnessing digital natives push productivity levels to new levels through innovative collaboration in the workplace.

2. Digital natives possess a different Social Concept. Social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook have basically redefined our meaning of social connectedness. Although in theory, we are all separated six degrees apart, these platforms do more than that: it allows us to connect us to basically anyone and in many different ways. Employers may find these digital natives to be more outspoken, open, and knowledgeable of the world. They may also even be excellent influencers, which can be good or a bad thing, depending on his level of authority, credibility, and motivation. To digital natives, reaching out to a new contact through platforms is normal, and it works.

Employers may also find them somewhat much easier “to talk to” using these media than personally as many tend to develop a completely different personality online and offline.

3. Digital natives will ask for New Demands. Digital natives will be in search of the “Google culture” in the workplace. This means they want a flexible environment where they can have more avenues to be creative, to lead, and to share their knowledge without prejudice. They no longer believe in bureaucracy but instead prefer a much flatter hierarchy, which may also explain the continuous creation of lean start-ups. Of course, they would require their workplace to be fully supportive of their “culture”—that is, they invest in technologies that enhance their efficiency and productivity.

The Rise of BYOD

BYOD

BYOD

The digital natives shall also cause the increase of BYOD or bring your own device. As its name suggests, it’s a workplace culture where employees bring their own device at work and use it to help them effectively manage time and be more efficient. They access data, share information, collaborate, and communicate using these devices. In a Moka5 survey in 2013, more than 40% of the companies already had BYOD. The importance of BYOD can not be overlooked. In a world where consumer technology has overtaken and excelled well beyond that of the enterprise, employees struggle to grasp why corporate technology, policies and controls prevent them from unleashing the potential of technology in the very place they are paid to be productive, the workplace.

Is the Workplace Ready for Digital Natives?

We absolutely have no doubt that the digital natives are going to rule the workplace and that businesses should be fully ready to accommodate them. So the big question is, are they? Perhaps those that are also IT inclined are, but other industries may not be. After all, how many are currently using collaborative tools or even familiar with Google Hangouts for cheap conferencing strategy? How many businesses already have a reliable and measurable BYOD policy? More than 60% of employees will be using and bringing their device to work EVEN if the company doesn’t have any BYOD policy in place. That is extremely dangerous since over 70% of these users don’t have any form of education of the risks involved such as data theft and malware attack.

Its time for organisations to wake up, the digital natives generation is coming, and their needs will push the boundaries of your organsiation.

© Scott Bales 2014. All Rights Reserved.