Should the digital generation be able to pick and choose their technology in the workplace?

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The digital generation, now entering the workforce, were born starting in 1992 which brings these folks to about the age of 20. This generation grew up with the internet, smartphones and tablets, not to mention Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo gaming consoles. These people are beginning to trickle into the workforce and have beliefs around the technology they should be able to use in the workplace.

As an employer should you be concerned about the demands this younger generation brings to the table? Perhaps these people shouldn’t be making any demands since they’re green and mostly inexperienced. In other words who’s in charge here? As a professional business person running a going concern shouldn’t you be calling the shots about how and why technology is used in your organization? Apparently Microsoft has a different view of things and in their latest publication called Introducing Windows 8: An Overview for IT Professionals by Jerry Honeycutt state that the digital generation “have significantly different beliefs about the tools they should be able to use at work.”

“The digital generation entering the work place raises these expectations to a whole new level. This is a generation that has grown up completely fluent with digital technology (e.g., texting, instant messaging, and social media). They are digital natives and have significantly different beliefs about the tools they should be able to use at work.”

“Digital natives are also increasingly mobile and operate at a very fast pace. Their quick pace, combined with ubiquitous connectivity, blurs the lines between people’s work and personal lives. As those lines blur, their personalities and individual work styles impact how they get their work done and what technology they prefer to use. As a result, they want a say in the technologies they use to get their jobs done.”

(Page 11 – Introducing Windows 8: An Overview for IT Professionals by Jerry Honeycutt – 2012: Microsoft Press)

This begs the question that if you don’t bother to accommodate these folks are you losing out on quality talent? Further, are you going to have to settle for second or third-rate talent if you fall behind the bleeding edge of technology? Perhaps, you may as the cream of the crop gravitate towards companies that are the most progressive and adopt technology at a pace more congruent with the consumer electronics sector.

John Palfrey and Urs Gasser published a book in 2008 called “Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives.” In that book they state that digital natives were born after 1980, however I could argue that the real digital natives are entering the workforce now. It was between 1992 – 1994 that the internet and digital connectivity really exploded and opened up entirely new sectors of work. From what I can remember 1980 to 1990 saw the beginning of cd-rom technology and word processing applications but little more. The authors speak about Usenet and electronic bulletin board systems but from my perspective there was not very widespread adoption of those technologies at the time. These were niche technologies.

What do you think? Has the pace of technology adoption in your company helped or hindered the talent pool in your organization? Do you think companies should be putting an emphasis on riding the bleeding edge of technology adoption?



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