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Digital Natives in the Workplace: HR Best Practices

7 min read   |  
Last Updated on
digital-natives

The future of the modern workplace is all about technology. But above all, it will be about how people adapt to technology. Advancements in mobility, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, and artificial intelligence (AI) hold a tremendous amount of promise.

The Digital Natives grew up using new innovations expects their workplace to follow the latest and greatest technological advancements. They bring a unique set of skills to the workplace, which is essential for an organization to excel.

Digital natives are used to receiving information really fast. They like to parallel process and multi-task. They prefer their graphics before their text rather than the opposite. They prefer random access (like hypertext)
– Marc Prensky

Understanding their characteristics and preferences is crucial for effectively recruiting, retaining, and managing them. Companies that do not encourage workplace modernization will eventually fall behind.

Who are Digital Natives?

The digital natives, also known as millennials or Gen Y, are individuals who were born after 1980 and have grown up with digital tools and technologies and seen the changes around them.

They have a high level of digital literacy and use technology seamlessly to communicate, learn, and socialize.

What are the characteristics of digital natives?

Digital natives have distinct characteristics that set them apart from previous generations. Here are a few examples:

  • Tech-savvy: Digital natives are comfortable with the use of technology. They're used to having instant access to information and expect technology to be part of their daily lives.

  • Value flexibility: They value flexibility in their work arrangements. Working remotely or having flexible schedules allows them to work when they're most productive.

  • Seek real-time feedback: They crave for instant feedback on their work is immense as they're used to receiving feedback through social media and other digital channels, and expect the same in the workplace.

The Impact of Digital Natives in the workplace

It's not only cultural cohesion that is crucial for millennials – it's also important to believe that the values of their company match with their own beliefs. Research from LinkedIn found that 86% of millennials will take a pay cut to work in a company that holds the same values as their own, compared to only 9% of younger generations. Yet aligning the values of the corporate as well as the employee is just one challenge that the HR faces. The other is promoting certain values and ensuring that employees know what they are and that the company has them in the first place in certain situations.

Digital natives want to get frequent positive feedback and recognition from their colleagues and management even more, so that of Gen Zers. If they feel their efforts are not appreciated, this generation is also moving from the job and pursue new jobs, of which 76 % will be on the lookout for a new job according to research from Office Team.

digital-native_using-laptop-and-mobile

1. Tech-savvy

Think about who you think is the best person to help make ChatGPT or copyAI work for them. Without a doubt, it's the GenZ. They grew up with technology, which means they have an innate understanding of how it works. They are comfortable with using technology to solve problems and can easily adapt to new technologies. This tech-savviness makes them valuable assets in any workplace that relies on technology to run its operations.

2. Adaptable

GenZers are accustomed to change and can quickly adapt to new situations, technologies, and work environments. This makes them an ideal fit for organizations that are looking to embrace new digital frontiers and keep up with rapidly changing technological advancements. Having GenZ on your team means never having to fear a new digital frontier.

3. Entrepreneurial

Many GenZers have an 'learn on-the-go' mindset and are keen to start their own businesses. They are not afraid to take risks and are always looking for new and innovative ways to solve problems. This mindset can bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the workplace and foster a culture of innovation.

4. Multitasking

They are often accused of being distracted by their devices, but the truth is that they are excellent multitaskers. They can handle multiple tasks simultaneously, such as working on a project while responding to emails or messages. This skill can be especially valuable in fast-paced work environments where time is of the essence with proper guidance.

5. Creative

They have grown up in a world where they can easily access information and collaborate with others online, which has helped them develop unique problem-solving skills. Their creativity can lead to new and innovative ideas, which can help organizations stay ahead of the curve and find solutions to complex problems.

Difference between 'Digital Natives' and 'Digital Immigrants'

Marc Prensky coined the terms 'digital natives' and 'digital immigrants' in 2001 to describe the generational gap in the adoption and use of digital technologies.

Below are some key differences between digital natives and digital immigrants, based on the level of comfort and familiarity with digital technology.

Digital Natives Digital Immigrants
Age Range Born after 1980's Born before 1980's
Exposure to Digital Technology Grew up with digital technology Had to adapt to digital technology later
Digital Literacy Comfortable using digital tools Not so comfortable using digital tools
Communication Preferences Prefer digital communication methods Prefer traditional communication methods
Multitasking Abilities Better at multitasking Struggle with multitasking
Learning Preferences Prefer learning through digital media Prefer more traditional forms of learning
Attitude Towards Change More accepting of change More resistant to change
Perception of Privacy More relaxed attitude towards privacy Cautious and prefer to keep their information private

Challenges of managing digital natives in the workplace

Digital natives bring unique challenges to the workplace and HR should keep a keen eye on it. Here are a few of them that HR professionals may face when managing them-

  • Seek constant stimulation: HR professionals may need to find ways to keep digital natives engaged and motivated in their work because they like to keep up with technology and lose focus very quickly.

  • Short attention spans: They have shorter attention spans due to the fast-paced nature of technology. This can make it difficult for them to focus on long-term projects or tasks that require sustained attention. HR professionals may need to provide regular breaks or find ways to break up long-term projects into smaller, more manageable tasks.

  • Desire for instant gratification: Digital natives are used to getting information and feedback instantly. This can lead to a desire for instant gratification in the workplace, which may not always be possible. HR professionals may need to find ways to balance the need for quick feedback and recognition with the realities of workplace processes.

Strategies for managing digital natives in the workplace

To effectively manage digital natives in the workplace, HR professionals may want to consider the following strategies:

  • Provide opportunities for growth and development: Digital natives are often highly ambitious and eager to learn. HR professionals can tap into this by providing opportunities for growth and development, such as training programs, mentorship opportunities, and stretch assignments.

  • Emphasize collaboration: Digital natives are used to working in teams and collaborating with others through technology. HR professionals can leverage this by emphasizing collaboration and team-based projects in the workplace.

  • Offer flexible work arrangements: Digital natives value work-life balance and may appreciate the option to work remotely or have flexible work hours. HR professionals can consider offering flexible work arrangements to attract and retain digital native employees.

How can You Design the Workplace?

Organizations should no longer think about technology in isolation while designing the workplaces. Technology for digital natives is involved in just about every aspect of life. Their tech preferences affect how they handle themselves while communicating and working with others, and how they work most effectively.

These people are used to work in large groups, splitting into smaller teams for different tasks, and retreat to their headphones for leisure time. This generation balances work and life during the day and through a number of locations. Technology and the physical work environment need to be seen together more than ever before. In terms of the tools they use results in digital natives expecting:

  • The future workforce so that they can be connected from anywhere, at all times.
  • Productivity applications will become popular that help them to manage their days.
  • Talking about upgrading or rolling out new technologies, the smooth implementation of technology needs to be at the forefront of decision-makers’ minds.

The sheer pace of change is one of the biggest challenges in modern society and business. We would use technology more often than not at home and on the move in our private life and is much more modern and advanced than what we have in the workplace.

It's easy to understand the frustration of the digital natives when their workplace has outdated technologies and workflow systems. This doesn't make sense to them, particularly when they know they can work in a smarter way and collaborate quickly with their colleagues in real-time!

Before Wi-Fi, mobile apps, the cloud, and mobile jobs, digital natives have no living memory. They want to be able to work where they want, when they want and how they want to. It is not a privilege but it is a new strategy for work. When you are unable to provide these environments and resources, then you will risk losing the opportunity to recruit some of the brightest minds similar to the organizations that do.

To Summarize!

Digital workplaces now and in the future will allow digital natives to find information and evaluate information to the right people, without compromising safety and security. Inoffensive communication with smart technologies to help in working processes can help teams develop quickly and work outside organizational networks. Organizations need to adopt this mindset and organize in the modern workplace for digital transformation, or risk being left behind.

Listen to our podcast on: Digital HR Transformation and Future Of Work

This article is written by Rashmi Rekha Deka. She works as a Content Marketer at Vantage Circle. She likes to keep herself informed about the HR happenings and write about topics surrounding organizational growth. For any related queries, contact [email protected].

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