The arrival of the digital native

Businesses must adapt to make the most of their rising stars

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The arrival of the digital native A generation that has always had internet connectivity is now entering the workplace and HR must adapt accordingly.
By  Michael Toft Published  August 22, 2011

Over the past decade the world has been through a revolution in technology and communications.

Mobile phone saturation in the developed world is almost universally at 100%. Smart phone ownership is soaring, broadband Internet access in the home is a given for most households and public Wi-Fi access is ubiquitous in many towns and cities across Europe and parts of Asia and the Middle East.

Running in parallel to this period of transformation, a whole generation has been through the most important formative years of their education. They have started secondary school, made choices about the directions their education will take them, sat exams, been to university and this year as young adults they are entering the workforce.

These are individuals who have developed in a digital world with a pace of change that has seen technologies and services iterate and evolve dramatically.

This is a generation with starkly different expectations and attitudes towards the use of technology.

These are the digital natives.

The brightest and the best of their generation will be coming into the workplace with ideas that will shape and inform the way businesses work for generations to come. And as organisations, employers, mentors, it is in our best interests to foster and harness all they have to offer.

Many economies across the world have seen turbulent times through this period of change, but that is no excuse for individual companies standing still. If anything it is the reason why businesses must attract the very best talent and ensure each and every hire brings with them the potential to improve the business. That means starting with an intake of outstanding graduates.

This autumn Oracle is looking to hire hundreds of graduates to help fuel continued growth across the business and we are aware of the need to adapt both our approach to hiring these digital natives and the ways in which we will enable them to work.

In order to attract the very best staff, businesses must foster a culture of innovation and openness - openness to new ideas and influences within the workplace - where technology is an enabler, helping people to do their jobs more smartly and more effectively.

The graduates coming onto the job market this summer, through increased ownership of personal technology, are used to being able to work whenever and wherever they have their best ideas, not just during business hours.

At university they won't have needed to wait for the library to open, or the computer lab to open so they could work, they will have made use of almost limitless information, available at the push of a button. Of course that has been true of other recent generations of graduates who have grown into the technology available to them, but importantly this current group have never known any different.

There is an expectation that communication will be digital first, that networking will be social and that data will be mobile.

As such Oracle is focusing its recruitment for these graduates online, via Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, using mobile apps and going to campus forums. Any business wanting to attract the best young talent needs to go where they are and that means social media. Similarly channels for application need to be adapted. Submitting a CV via social channels will soon become the norm as the digital natives progress through the business. but it is starting now.

Especially in the technology industry, or any sector where innovation is key, it would seem counterintuitive to look for talent only through the traditional channels that have been exploited for many years. The increased use of social media will also be important as these groups are highly networked. A company known for a smart approach to young talent will soon find that renown grows and subsequent hiring becomes easier.

Similarly, social media will play an increasing part in how workforces communicate and network with partners, suppliers and customers. Business social networking and consumer social networks will seamlessly meet and integrate with contact management systems of old. If businesses don't embrace this and encourage it - putting in place guidelines and structures to mitigate any resultant risks - then employees will do it anyway.

Other areas where change must come is in the way we all work. The wisdom of a fixed desk, in a fixed location, with a fixed-line phone and fixed office hours has been challenged for some years now but the arrival of the digital native in the workplace will accelerate the move away from that model that encourages 'presenteeism' and clock watching. Instead staff will be mobilised through the use of technology and given the means to be efficient and effective, not simply 'in the office'.

A decade from now, the world will have changed again but the trends will remain the same. Progressive businesses who want to find themselves in the best possible position then, must effect change now in the way they approach, inspire and retain digital natives.

Michael Toft is HR Director for Oracle, Saudi Arabia & Gulf States.

2679 days ago
Hemanshu Joshi

Very correctly said Michael. Enterprises, specially technologically driven organizations, will have to undergo a paradigm shift. Traditional way of management is no longer applicable. Good article. Please keep enlightening us.

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