The impact of digital natives in the workplace

Stefan Van Niekerk, Huawei Product Manager for Server, Storage and Cloud, Pinnacle ICT and Charlene Oosthuizen, Cloud Solutions Manager, Pinnacle ICT

SPONSORED: Growing up integrated with technology creates a different mindset, new skills, and a different set of expectations in the workplace.

With chronic skills shortages across the board in the technology sector, organisations need to attract, and keep, the young talent that will power them forward to growth and success. Charlene Oosthuizen, Cloud Solutions Manager at Pinnacle ICT, and Stefan van Niekerk, Huawei Product Manager for Server, Storage and Cloud at Pinnacle ICT, discuss the impact of digital natives in the workplace.

“I call digital natives the ‘phone before spoon’ generation,” Oosthuizen says. “Their first language is technology. Their first impressions are probably of technology. Babies are able to scroll through a phone before being able to use a spoon.”

While previous generations such as boomers and Generation X have had to adapt to their workplace, digital natives expect the workplace to adapt to them and will seek out companies whose values align with their own. Technology excites and empowers them. They expect the latest technology to be available, and will be highly frustrated by old or slow technology. More than any other generation, digital natives prioritise an eco-friendly and green approach, and will actively look for ways to adopt this in their own life and work.

Oosthuizen believes digital natives have simple needs. “They want their workplace to be available where they are, and they want to be able to do as much as possible with as little equipment as possible. This generation does not want a massive briefcase. They want a phone and tablet, or a phone and small laptop. Using platforms and software, they prefer to choose where, when and how they work, rather than coming into the office.”

Digital natives question the status quo and are enthused by change, whereas previous generations are more comfortable doing things the same way they have always been done. “Digital natives will seek to make the routine aspects of their jobs easier and faster, leaving more time for creativity and problem-solving. Their ease of transition to technology sets them apart. They can adopt new systems effortlessly,” Oosthuizen says.

Tech-savvy approach

Given their digital capabilities and differing workplace needs, Van Niekerk advises that organisations find the middle ground where digital natives can work in harmony with the older generations for the benefit of all. “Understand what you require in this common ground, and seek out the most relevant technology and training to help your organisation evolve. There must be a meeting of minds between the older and younger generations, and correct change management in place,” he says.

With digital natives being the leaders of the future, Van Niekerk advises that employers use a common-sense approach in training, while giving them the freedom to learn. “Don’t force them to do things the way you think is best. Think out of the box, rather than dictating every step. Make sure they have a good foundation, and if they need guidance, give it when and where it is required.”

The fresh ideas, energy and tech-savvy approach of digital natives can speed up an organisation’s progress and impact positively on the culture. Says Oosthuizen: “Within my own workplace, I have seen the changes Pinnacle ICT has made, introducing exciting new technology, and moving from a traditional environment to one very accommodating towards digital natives. It’s amazing to see the results. Communication has improved, the way we do business has changed, and everyone feels a valued part of the organisation. Mentorship and learning has become a two-way street. We have never had a situation where the older generations learn from the younger in the workplace, but now we do.”