There is no doubt that technology is moving at an ever increasing pace. Even from the time I joined the professional workforce the capability of the technology at your fingertips (literally! – who’d have thought it!) has exploded beyond all recognition.
For many years we’ve looked at the technology as the driver of change. The functions and benefits it provides to users and business processes. We must also look at it from the other end of the telescope via our Digital Natives campaign.
I’ve spoken of Digital Natives in previous blog posts, and the challenge and opportunity of enabling this new breed of users with solutions that are more akin to their experiences as they’ve grown up – call this the ‘Facebook experience’ if you wish, but ultimately it’s the online, mobile, information driven world that we’re all already immersed in within our personal lives.
What has become clear as we’ve researched this more and spoken with our customers, is that the major business imperative is not directly empowering the “Natives” via these new approaches with which they are most familiar. Consideration of that is important and an inherent part of the Contemporary Workplace transformation. The bigger business challenge is the integration of a more diverse workforce – from Baby Boomers to Generation Z, into a more coherent and collaborative user community. Technology is just one part of it – a means to an end, but not the end itself!
It would be easy to get transfixed on the notion of Digital Natives (Gen Y and Z) versus the “others” – however consider the ongoing changes in the labour market we see (Retirement ages etc) and its clear that a hybrid world is going to be prevalent for a long while yet.
Furthermore, the notion that Digital Natives “get” technology and everyone else doesn’t also paints a binary perspective skewed from reality. Not all Natives are on board and adept with social networks, instant messaging and smartphones, and not all novices are laggards. For evidence of this you just have to look around at the consumer penetration of these prevalent technologies, where it works and enables users – chances are it’ll be adopted by all kinds of users.
What resonates more is the combined value of an increasingly diverse workforce. The potential, energy and motivation of Digital Natives matched with the business and industry insight, expertise and experience of the incumbent labour force creates a powerful combination. The role of technology is not to drive a wedge between users, but to be the enabler of communication and collaboration outcomes to enable people to work in new ways, spanning broader locations to promote productivity and new opportunity.
Businesses need to be cognisant of the subtle (or not so subtle) different ways that users operate – but to do so by demographic alone is very limiting and risky. An effective business is one that enables all its users. The differences between us as individuals or demographic groups in our attitude and adoption of technology makes for interesting observations, but technology itself is not the barrier –which hopefully reassures everybody whether you’re “Digitally Native” or a Digital Novice.