Digital Natives – The Next Generation Of The Workforce


Digital Natives: The Next Generation of the Workforce, Take It Personel-ly

Who they are?

“Same, same but different”. That’s how Digital Natives describe themselves. They do not differ in what they do, but how they do it in comparison to previous generations. They grew up with digital technologies and integrated them into their lives from a very early age. They refer to the internet as THE supporting technology for their lives, and spend an extensive amount of time online. Johnson Controls Global Workplace Innovation’s Digital Natives survey* found that the majority of Digital Natives in each country spend between two to four hours per day online in each country (41 per cent of respondents in Germany – 30 per cent in China). Groups of heavier users with eight to ten hours online per day were also found. (10 per cent – 13 per cent of respondents.)

How do they differ?

“We are Apple and we do Facebook” – that’s how Digital Natives define their lifestyle. They communicate differently to previous generations. Thanks to technological advancements created by these two brands, Digital Natives are globally connected, flexible and collaborative and therefore think and process information differently.

This constant query and response environment has produced collaborators who live and breathe the concept of a sharing society that exchanges information, experiences and data. Digital Natives have grown to deal with information sent and received in real time in social media platforms from their very early days.  Previous generations, on the other hand, whose brains were programmed before the advancements of digital and social technologies, have had to learn and adapt to this new way of communication.

What they bring to the workplace?

Digital Natives bring a new working culture that companies can benefit from. New communication styles and the demand to be connected ‘whenever and wherever’ make them an ideal collaborator and networker. They offer the skill to be able to collaborate with all generations, as processes are increasingly supported by technologies.

Digital Natives advanced technological skills, which they have developed from early childhood, support them in dealing with big volumes of information. With the need for flexibility and their mobile working mentality, Digital Natives do not want to be tied to an office, but expect to work from a variety of locations to enable them to work efficiently (*see Smart Workplace 2040 report).

What does it mean for Employers?

Companies need to act now to come up with ways to recruit and retain Digital Natives through effective workplace planning.  There are new considerations to make as Digital Natives begin to enter the workforce. Digital Natives are more adept at incorporating technology into their personal and professional lives than previous generations; this knowledge can be leveraged to improve efficiency throughout the workplace.  While the majority of Digital Natives are satisfied, several areas of improvement in the workplace include:

  • Greater access to technology in the workplace
  • Cloud computing for easier updating and distribution of information
  • Internal knowledge management to support collaboration
  • A more comfortable working environment, as the lines between work and private life blur
  • Sustainable working environment.

Whilst companies today should be planning for ways to attract Digital Natives, this should not result in excluding talent from all generations into the workforce. Attracting and retaining previous generations is equally important and employers should find ways for them to collaborate with Digital Natives across the organization to drive productivity.  The key is in finding the right generation balance in the workplace.

* Reference: Johnson Controls Global Workplace Innovations: Digital Natives Born 2 B connected survey

Reference: Johnson Controls Smart Workplace 2040 Report

About The Author:

Hannah Hahn

(B.A. of Arts in Sociology and Spanish, MBA)

Hannah is Global WorkPlace Innovation Manager working for Johnson Controls Global WorkPlace Solutions. As part of the R&D team, Hannah is responsible for trend research and roadmapping. The Global WorkPlace Innovation roadmapping project exists to highlight trends from the wider world, such as society, key vertical markets, technologies and the workplace, so that trends can be plotted chronologically in order to help plan for near and long-term threats and opportunities.  Hannah has several years of experience in trend research and innovation.


Photo Credit: Pixabay

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