How Digital Natives Have an Edge Over the Competition
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It’s no secret that we live in an increasingly digital world in which technology is all-encompassing. Traditional jobs are being revolutionized or replaced completely, and new jobs are popping up every day that require a new level of expertise. If the last ten years were about computer literacy, the next ten will be about computer fluency.
That’s where digital natives come in. When we talk about digital natives, we’re talking about people that were raised with digital technologies at their fingertips. It arguably starts with the later generation of millennials and Gen Z, but roughly speaking we’re talking anyone born from the mid-90s onwards. If you remember dial-up internet, you’re not a digital native.
Digital natives have their flaws, but they also have their advantages. As with most things, the key to a healthy workplace is to foster diversity, so if you build a team consisting solely of digital natives then you’re going to excel in some areas but be woefully underserved in others.
That’s why it falls to you, as a manager or a business owner, to familiarise yourself with the strengths and weaknesses of different types of employee and to deploy them accordingly. And so with that in mind, here’s what you need to know about digital natives.
How Digital Natives Have An Edge Over the Competition
1. They’re community-oriented
Digital natives are more optimistic and open-minded and less jaded by life than their older colleagues. This has downsides as well as upsides, but their commitment to the community around them more than makes up for it. This ensures that they’ll take care of their customers and their colleagues, as well as the environment in which they work. If you’re trying to make your company more compassionate then you could do a lot worse than hiring more digital natives.
2. They’re used to personal branding
Gone are the days when employees just showed up at a 9-5 and kept their heads down, with the company taking all of the glory. These days, everyone is a company spokesperson, from the CEO right down to the intern. It’s like when John F. Kennedy visited NASA and asked a janitor what his job was. The janitor replied, “I’m putting a man on the moon.”
The great thing about digital natives is that they’re used to creating, curating, sharing and consuming content, and if you empower them with the right tools then they’ll be more than happy to harness that for the good of the company.
3. Greater proficiency with tools
This point also helps to build on the next one. The difference between computer literacy and computer fluency really starts to show when it comes to the way that digital natives use the new tools that are available to them. While the rest of your workforce uses the tools you provide them with because they’re a necessary part of getting the job done, your digital natives use these tools because they see them as inseparable from the job itself.
4. Ability to experiment
We’re not saying that older generations aren’t able to experiment and to try new things, but younger generations just seem to have a knack for it, especially if it’s technological. That’s why grandparents always get their grandchildren to set up their new TVs for them, and why kids are always able to get them working without even a glance at the instruction manual.
Digital natives have a knack for new technologies (and on common internet usage conventions in particular) that comes from growing up alongside them. They’ll be as comfortable with a CMMS system like Limble as they will be with educational games, CRMs, collaboration tools and mainstream apps like Dropbox and Google Docs.
5. Pop culture knowledge
When you’re trying to establish relationships with people or to reach new audiences with your marketing efforts, it can help to have at least a working knowledge of the latest popular culture. Digital natives have their finger on the pulse of popular culture and so they’re particularly suited to customer-facing roles and marketing, sales and customer service in particular.
Being able to dip in and out of pop culture – and knowing when and why to do so – can be a great way to break the ice and to start establishing trust with someone you’ve never spoken to before.
Now that you know how digital natives have an edge over the competition, the next step is for you to take another look at your own organisation and to have a think about whether you’re playing digital natives to their strengths or to their weaknesses. You might want to reconsider your hiring and recruitment process while you’re at it, too.
At the same time, make sure that you’re not focussing so heavily on your digital natives that you’re forgetting the rest of your workforce. Everyone has an important role to play in the workplaces of the future, and digital natives are only the beginning. It’s your job as a manager or a business owner to empower each of your employees to be the best they can possibly be, regardless of their age, gender, religion or politics. You owe it to them. Good luck.
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