Digital Natives in the Workplace

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By Mary K Cavanaugh
February 04, 2020
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Millennials and Gen Z workers have never experienced a life without screens; technology is simply a fact of life. They are accustomed to constant “updates” and “upgrades,” always eager to embrace the next hot program or app that will expedite their workday using communication tools like Slack and project management software such as Monday. They are multi-screen users and the lines between work life and personal life often blurs as their online life often promotes their place of employment as well as their family vacations.

These digital natives expect to join a strong tech environment that incorporates the latest trends and focuses on continuous improvement. They welcome healthy competition and embrace the tech-based tools like 15Five that provide objective measures of productivity and foster employee engagement. They are comfortable using chatbots for information gathering and automated scheduling tools. They are extremely efficient and use technology as a tool, so they are quick to pivot away from something if it is not working, or deemed inefficient. They are productive communicating on the go, in the office, or in a co-working space via Skype, Zoom, or LogMeIn – until the next new platform captures their attention.

They are completely comfortable with everything digital and tend to be independent with a preference to work individually even when working toward a team goal. This is not to say that the workplace relationships aren’t important to them. In fact, they are eager for strong and supportive mentors. Because they grew up in a world of instant reactions, regular feedback from a mentor or manager is important in order for them to measure their learning and success. They absorb the feedback driven by a desire to improve and grow. Tech-based learning platforms are familiar and expected for professional development. Incorporating gamification into training programs that require employees to earn a reward in order to progress to the next level is a plus for the digital natives.

Employer brand matters. Mission driven cultures and diversity are a strong part of their value system and they will not shy away from speaking out if they believe an issue is unfair. The “why” of their work is critical as they want to understand the work so they can truly add value. Additionally, they are committed to helping others and inclined to group action. They embrace a workplace that allows them to get behind initiatives and make a difference in their communities. Since they are avid reviewers of everything, be mindful of your organization’s presence on sites like Glassdoor and The Muse. Authenticity matters, therefore it is critical that the organization “walk the walk.”

Innovation and technology are changing the workplace at an increasingly rapid rate. As organizations fully embrace artificial intelligence to streamline repeated tasks, and explore how to incorporate augmented reality for learning platforms and enhanced communications, it’s important to remember the people side of the business. Investing in both technology and employees drives engagement, productivity, and competitive advantage.

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