The Next Generation of Workers — What Digital Natives Expect and How You Can Prepare

by Natalie Engels

posted on 09-07-2016

If you’re still adapting to millennials in the workplace, it’s time to move on because the next generation of workers is here. We call them “digital natives” and their lives have always been integrated with technology. According to Marc Prensky, the author responsible for coining the term, digital natives are by definition a generation of children born into a completely digital world. As businesses prepare to welcome this new generation, we’ll discuss what these businesses should know and how they can leverage the digital wisdom and tech-ready mindsets the digital natives will bring to the workforce.

Accepting the Next Generation and Their Ideas

With every new generation, the workplace experiences monumental change. We moved paper-filing systems to computers, replaced phone messages with emails, and happily conduct business on mobile devices every day. But, despite positive outcomes, change is never easy, particularly for those who are set in their ways. Changing — and more importantly, embracing new ways of thinking and doing things — is challenging. Ultimately, change due to emerging technologies is a reality in the 21st century — and energetic digital natives will lead the way.

Smart businesses will look to this new generation to share their ideas, thoughts, and ways of thinking. By accepting them enthusiastically, businesses have everything to gain and little to lose. The dissemination of new technology necessitates replacing outdated processes. Having access and insight into the ideas of those raised in digital, media-rich environments is invaluable. They’ve built relationships with technology and have plenty to share with those who are willing to listen.

Mastering a New Language

As generations Y and Z enter the workforce, what can you expect to see from them, and how can you best meet their needs? Children whose lives have always been fused with technology are more than comfortable with it. In many ways, they accept computers and mobile devices as extensions of their bodies and minds, looking beyond the here and now to the possibilities of both real and virtual spaces.

Mastering the language of digital natives means creating work environments that both support their unique needs and allow process and culture to adapt easily to new and emerging technologies. As augmented and virtual realities become mainstream, having the ability to integrate seamlessly is critical. Many digital natives are already interacting in an alternate reality in their personal lives. Through entertainment such as video games and group activities like laser tag or roller coaster rides that , explore both augmented and virtual environments with friends. It should come as no surprise that they are both willing and able to accept altered realities as elements of their work environments.

Leveraging Digital Wisdom in the Workplace

Smart businesses need to be thinking about how to leverage the unique and sophisticated skills the next generation brings to the job. Can their comfort collaborating in virtual worlds translate into the business environment? Look ahead to the possibility of sharing files and documents in virtual office spaces or collaborating with colleagues in new ways. The skillset necessary to perform many of these tasks already exists in the next generation of workers.

Future generations are being prepared to command their own environments at work, and businesses willing to listen will be better equipped for what the future brings. Let the next generation lead us into the future, into work environments where real and virtual worlds blend seamlessly. Let them show us how customized workspaces can foster creativity while promoting physical, social, and mental wellness.

Overall as technology continues to improve, companies wanting to leverage the knowledge and expertise of digital natives need to start planning now. From budgetary considerations to training and implementation, we need to build our own relationship with technology and the new age it brings. The shift will not be easy, but it will be manageable for those willing to work together and listen carefully. There’s much to learn — and luckily, there are many who are ready to teach.

Hungry for more? Check out the full session from Adobe’s Future of Work Think Tank.

Topics: Adobe Culture, Future of Work, Leadership