Digital Natives Aren’t Just Changing Your Workplace – They’re Shaping It
Kristen Ames, PhD
LDS VP of Design Innovation
Advancements in mobility, IoT, Cloud, and AI hold promise for businesses across almost every industry vertical. But how these investments will pay off – and what they mean for your company’s culture – is yet to be completely understood. Any discussion of how technology is shaping the workplace of the future must consider how people are driving change, either in concert with that technology or in resistance to it.
Businesses are welcoming ever-increasing cohorts of digital natives: first came the Millenials, whose impact on the workplace has been a favorite topic of corporate culture discussions; now increasing numbers of Gen Zers are entering the workforce. These workers grew up with technology as a fundamental condition of their social, domestic, and educational lives. As the workplace becomes increasingly consumerized, these workers’ implicit comfort with and reliance upon technology as a way of working, learning, and collaborating will shape businesses of all kinds – from companies’ technology investments to their structures of work to their organizational design.
Timelines accelerate, placing a premium on attention
Digital natives move fast – whether it’s through their gig economy-based careers, their penchant for microlearning, or their capability to conduct multiple conversations across (at best) tangentially related online discussions and projects.
Investments in AI, IoT, and other technologies that take up the mantle of repetitive work, output useable business intelligence, or provide real-time decision support will benefit this cohort of workers. They are interested in offloading work to technology so they can focus their attention on the most strategic or judgment-oriented work, which only humans can do. As companies work to blur the line between workplace and marketplace, they should pursue technological “personal assistants” that can boost efficiency, focus attention, and support good judgment.
Good ideas come from everywhere
Digital natives are social media natives. For them, a company without instant messaging, social forums, and other ways of connecting online in real time are a red flag. But beyond relying on these platforms to connect and communicate, these workers are accustomed to establishing their online personas and influencing discourse through multiple platforms. Implicitly, social networks and multi-cloud experiences are diffuse and anti-hierarchical.
You’ll see the same expectations applied to the structure of people and work. Digital natives expect to weigh in and be heard, in real time and in meaningful contexts of discussion. To keep these individuals engaged, businesses that previously relied on rigid corporate hierarchies and in-person influence need to shift. Create open and accessible platforms for discussion, weave them into the fabric of day-to-day work, and set clear expectations for how this technology should and should not be used.
Results over optics
Younger generations of workers are comfortable with constant connectivity. They work from their mobile phones, often respond instantly to emails, and expect to text with their colleagues as soon as an idea or issue arises whether it is between 9 and 5 or not. These behaviors undermine conventional optics of productivity, like spending a set number of hours in the office each day. Conversely, digital natives expect the contributions of each individual to be transparently visible.
Companies should take these expectations seriously and invest in the technologies that will meet people where they are, assisting them in new ways of working and collaborating. Cloud platforms will be essential. Without a mobile experience, consider yourself without a usable digital experience. If your business can stay ahead of the mobile connectivity curve, your digital natives will act as strong advocates for adoption.
Logical Design Solutions (LDS) is a digital strategy and design consultancy to global enterprises. We create experiences that transform business and help people work successfully in the new digital organization. Clients come to LDS because of our reputation for intellectual rigor, our foundation in visionary experience strategy, and our commitment to enabling digital transformation inside the enterprise. Learn More about how LDS has dramatically improved the way that some of the largest corporations in the world do business.