Digital Natives or Digital Immigrants? 3 Tactics to Manage Multigenerational Digital Transformation

By Burke Turner

kaboompics / Pixabay

Back in the day, consultant and writer Marc Prensky coined the terms ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ to describe generational differences in the workplace. Actually, it was 2001… And whether or not you think that’s `back in the day’ depends on which generational camp you belong to.

Digital natives, born between the early ‘80s and the mid ‘90s, have grown up immersed in digital technology. It’s as natural to them as breathing. Digital immigrants are technology adopters, a mixed-ability jumble of baby boomers and Generation X, born from the mid ‘40s to early ‘80s. They remember life before digital technology – when the ultimate in cool gadgets was a Sony Walkman, and gaming meant an Atari 2600 and a friendly round of Pong.

As Prensky’s paper Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants points out, the immigrants have adjusted pretty well to their new surroundings, but have never entirely lost their past ‘accent’. The strength of the accent varies, of course – from the mild (making a phone call to check “did you get my email?”) to the virtually unintelligible (getting your secretary to print the email out for you).

Different generations working side by side is nothing new, so why do these distinctions and accents matter? Because over the next 3 years digital natives will form just over 50% of the workforce. By 2025 the digital natives will outnumber the digital immigrants. How organisations manage and engage this multigenerational workforce right now will be a key determinate of winners and losers in the future business space.

Atmosphere has helped many organisations navigate their way through multigenerational digital transformation. Here are 3 tactics to bring everyone along on the journey, regardless of age or digital accent.

  1. Reverse mentoring

If your organisation’s leaders are entirely digital immigrants, they will struggle to inform or enthuse a population of digital natives who speak a different language. The students must therefore become the teachers.

In their recent article Reverse mentoring: How millennials are becoming the new mentors Microsoft make the case for turning traditional peer mentoring on its head. Senior managers at Microsoft Norway regularly turn to their younger colleagues for insight and guidance on what drives younger talent, what they expect in the workplace, and how to engage a new generation of customers. General Manager Michael Jacobs, a seasoned leader with decades of management experience, meets every two months with 28-year-old Sales Executive, Magnus Svorstøl Lie.

Magnus is mentoring me on what the workplace should look like going forward, what his generation is interested in, what they are looking for, how we can make ourselves attractive for young talent, and last but not least, how we make sure we stay relevant to them both as a potential employer and as an important customer segment.”

Reverse mentoring is a two-way street, giving tomorrow’s leaders a view from the top. While this makes good business sense, it’s absolutely crucial when it comes to the mathematics. As a recent Hay Group study Managing a multigenerational workforce noted, the youngest baby boomers Go to the full article.

Source:: Business 2 Community

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