Digital Natives- The Future Dominant in the Workplace

This latest blog focusses upon what I termed in my last blog post “the latest disruptor….. also the source of much future opportunity”

To take an academic view for one moment, the prevalent definition of a “Digital Native” is as follows:

“a person born or brought up during the age of digital technology and so familiar with computers and the Internet from an early age”

By virtue of the definition, this puts an age/demographic based slant on the term Digital Native.

We are on the cusp of a major transition in the workforce, where this “latest disruptor”, which today accounts for approximately 23% of the active work force, will, in only 5 years rise to 47% of the active work force.  While 5 years may seem a long time away in some ways, it is clear that the focus on building modern workspaces for Digital Natives is rapidly becoming a pressing business priority.

demographics

Often we focus on the technology aspects of the Digital Native, and suggest that the conventional business tools and systems such as email are passé to these people, who prefer to communicate through Social Communities, “Whatsapp” messengers or “Facetime” conferencing.

However, looking beyond the tools chosen are more subtle themes and priorities.

The key traits of what the Digital Native is looking for within their Workspace are

  • The need For great user experience,
  • To be “always connected”
  • To favour convenience rather than security in their consumption and access to services
  • The ability to adapt and embrace new technologies
  • The willingness to sacrifice loyalty to previous tools when they no longer offer the most effective solution

The technology doesn’t matter, because invariably it will change; and change at an ever increasing pace.

The Digital Natives therefore pose a challenge to enterprise IT.  How does IT “keep up” and fulfil against the needs and expectations of this, soon to be dominant, portion of the work force.  At the same time, how does the business manage the risk posed by the previous dominant demographic, the “Baby Boomers” coming towards the end of their working tenure, leaving not only with their pension but a vast amount of intellectual property, knowledge and experience of their business locked in their heads?

The solution? We must not think of Digital Natives as distinct from any of the other prevalent workforce demographic (Generation X or the Baby Boomers).  What we must do, which we’ve always done, is leverage the opportunities the Digital Natives offer, the innovation of new tools, the new experiences and expectations to challenge how things are done today and make them better in the future.  Ultimately, success is in harnessing the collective experience of both the “Digital Natives”, who know only of a digital world powered by technology, mobility and collaboration, and the “Digital Novices” who whilst maybe adapting to the digital world at a technology level, retain a vast amount of business and industry knowledge.

Both sets of users need a common solution, a dynamic and agile workspace which enables the user wherever they may be working – we call this the Contemporary Workplace, an environment which adapts and flexes to provide natural habitats for not just digital natives but for every employee.

About Paul Bray

Paul is Computacenter’s Chief Technologist for Digital Workplace @PSBray

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