Companies need to facilitate the “digital native”

“A good hockey player plays where the puck is, a great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”

— Wayne Gretsky, Ice hockey legend

The question is whether organisations know where the puck is going to be in a playing field full of digital natives.

It has been argued in many forums over the last decade-and-a-half that millennials, often called digital natives because they started learning after the beginning of the digital information boom, see the world in a different way. Across the globe, millennials today constitute a third of the workforce, and by 2020, this number is poised to cross the halfway mark. If reports are to be believed, by 2025 it is estimated that 75 per cent of the employee base will comprise of millennials, and they may have their greatest impact on the workplace.

This makes it imperative for the organisation to adapt their processes to cater to these digital natives. While individuals from older generations recall interacting with each other without mobile devices, computers or the web, digital natives have been using these technologies since their early years. While older employees head to the coffee machine, the digital native prefers to catch up with his/her Facebook and Twitter feed. They are the same, but different from the previous generations.

A typical 20-something entering the workforce today has, on average, spent over 5,000 hours playing video games, exchanged over a quarter million emails, IMs and texts, in addition to over thousands of hours spent online and on their cellphones. The ‘Digital by Default’ generation is able to comprehend tremendous volumes of information, due to having innovations like the Internet and social media integrated into their lives from childhood. This leads to a compulsive need to stay online.

Digital natives infuse changes in the way workplaces operate, so as to create an environment conducive to a generation adept at incorporating technology in their professional and personal lives. Inherently collaborative, flexible and connected, digital natives have unique communication styles and demand workplace platforms and policies that feed their digital diet. Understanding that digital natives have internalised a childhood of video gaming, organisations are leveraging platforms that gamify the employee experience. By providing instant gratification and responsive feedback, organisations are able to encourage adoption of conventionally tedious company tools and policies.

Millennials tend to view time as a valuable currency and don’t believe in the typical notion of 9-5 desk jobs. They would rather make the most of the technology-enabled workplace that allows for flexible, remote working, and new methods of collaboration via video conferencing and internal social networks. Fundamentally, they are keen to get their jobs done efficiently in order to maintain a healthy work/life balance.

Concurring with the adage that most employees have better technology at home over the workplace, enterprises have embraced BYOD/BYOT (Bring Your Own Devices/Technology) policies. Organisations, however, will require to go beyond BYOD and enable a complete digital workplace, with virtualised applications, auto-synchronised collaboration and file-sharing systems, intuitive search tools, personal dashboards with analytics to monitor their performance and progress. Internal collaboration and lightweight communication applications will make e-mails redundant.

Word-of-mouth plays a vital role in influencing millennials, and unlike their older counterparts, they research organisations before joining them. This will lead companies to adopt employee advocacy tools to help empower employees become evangelists for the organisation, building the brand, attracting talent, and presenting a personal face for the organisation.

The 21st century enterprise has to be prepared for this paradigm shift, with the new breed of digital natives gaining prominence in the workforce. Rather than resist, those organisations that embrace the new reality and learn to harness these technophiles and their inherent ability to collaborate, connect and create will thrive in this era of disruption in the business landscape. To do so would require organisational commitment by fostering digital natives with the right mix of platforms, policies and technology.

Credits The Hindu

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