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Digital natives will show us the way

Digital cracks are showing during the COVID-19 crisis, with Baby Boomers and Generation X

struggling to step-up their video conferencing, online learning and social media game. But the digital natives are well within their comfort zone and poised to lead the way into our digital future.

Photographs: iStock

Text: Anita Ehrhardt

The future will be digital – for all companies, no matter what the sector. And lessons learned from the COVID-19 lockdown will make way for new virtual work structures and online strategies. However, effectively implementing new and relevant digital strategies will require innovative thinking and a deeper understanding of what the digital space can accomplish. And so, to go beyond immediate fixes, real digital transformation will need to tap into the digital natives known as Generation Y and Generation Z.

Who are the digital natives? Generation Y or Millennials have been in the workforce for 15 years. And Generation Z, also known as “GenTech” is now planning their entry. And as companies face altered work paradigms and increased technological demands, they have an opportunity to reflect on what digital natives like the Millennials have taught us about navigating the age of tech. Millennials did after all remind us that purpose and experiences are far more satisfying and enduring pursuits than money or prestige. Over the last decade, Millennials have also challenged traditional working norms with their embrace of the “gig” economy and remote working.

Similarly, Generation Z is also set to impact the world as the most technologically proficient generation ever in human history. They are acknowledged as being extremely innovative, creative and even entrepreneurial. Furthermore, Gen Z is fiercely independent, resourceful and efficient. And because they are used to adeptly navigating massive amounts of information, they can problem solve quickly. Finally, Generation Z is the generation most comfortable with online collaborative learning and social media as a means to communicate, build relationships and gather knowledge.

Born to dominate digital

There is no doubt that if companies are going to truly embrace digital transformation, they need to harness the talents of digital natives like Gen Y and Gen Z. After all, their expertise comes from literally a lifetime of physical and social digital impact. Studies by Harvard Medical School indicate that in fact, the brains of digital natives are structurally different in the way they interact with the environment, and are better wired to respond to complex visual imagery. Due to their digital skill, Gen Y and Gen Z are also equipped to more effectively manage multiple ongoing online tasks and are more insightful when it comes to strategically connecting with virtual communities. For all these reasons, the digital natives are poised to already start dominating a digital world they have yet to fully inherit.

"We need to remember across generations, that there is as much to learn as there is to teach." - Gloria Steinem

This is your moment 

If you are a digital native, now is your opportunity to shine. As technology adoption accelerates to support post-COVID business strategies, so too will intergenerational clashes related to its implementation and usage. Companies need to hear your voice when it comes to plotting their digital road maps and managing the global explosion of digital activity. As the physical world becomes a digital world, it’s vital to maintain healthy human relations and community connection, and as a digital native – you already got this!

Digital maturity attracts talent Digital natives, particularly Gen Z, are attracted to technologically mature companies. In a study by MIT’s Sloan Management Review, 83 percent of participants aged 21 years and younger, said that it’s “very important or extremely important to work for an organization that is digitally enabled or is a digital leader” - further emphasizing the fact that this is the age of the digital natives, and to successfully transform to digital, companies must increase their engagement of cross-generational working teams. In this way, young professional Millennials and their up and coming sibling rivals from “GenTech”, are the opportunity that companies should be looking for to drive their future growth and lead them through the fourth industrial revolution.

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