The digital native generation—people born since about 1985—grew up immersed in digital technologies. They are now starting to become dominant in the employee and consumer pool and as those in older generations seek to maximize their interactions with them, it is important understand their values.
Five observations about the mindset of digital natives will help employers harness their distinct worldview to achieve business objectives.
Observation 1: Digital natives live publicly online.
Businesses must address the expectations of a generation raised in the social networking world; one that routinely shares the details of activities and opinions online with potentially limitless groups of people.
How to work with it: Capitalize on the digital native's openness. Accept their inclination to live publicly and guide them to align those activities with business objectives. Embrace new business models that leverage openness in the structuring of employee activities and customer interactions.
Observation 2: They share knowledge.
Digital natives are accustomed to bouncing ideas off friends and creating their own near-instantaneous think tanks. But as many as 75% of companies limit or ban the use of social networks on the job, demonstrating a fear of exposure and lack of understanding about how to channel this inclination to share knowledge.
Work with it: Using social networks in the workplace can help companies capture knowledge. The old adage that "knowledge is power" has been transformed: For the digital native, shared knowledge is power, and it can empower your company, too.
Observation 3. Digital natives believe transparency yields trust.
Because digital natives live publicly and value knowledge sharing, organizations that reflect that same openness will better attract and retain them. If digital natives dislike your company, they will make it publicly known. But the reverse also is true. If organizations don't stay involved by listening, responding, owning up and maintaining genuine long-term relationships, today’s ultra-connected digital natives will be fickle friends.