Recently my seventeen year old nephew and a friend, who was attending high school in Nova Scotia as part of an exchange program from Sweden, came to visit for a few days. While our visitors were in town I noticed their reliance on technology to gather and share information. I was fascinated by how the two young men interacted both with each other and with others from older generations. It was like watching animals in a zoo -the ‘digital native’ trying to interact with their surroundings but held captive at the same time.
Both young men were very social, bright and eager to have conversations with our other guests – and I must say I was shocked at how much knowledge they has on issues ranging from Afghanistan to the BP oil spill to who the latest pop stars were dating. Conversely, when they interacted with one another they tended to speak only about technology – the newest song they downloaded, the text they just received, new uploads to Facebook, and every so often they would disappear to be found on the computer inside on a beautiful day checking email and looking up viral videos on YouTube.
Watching my two guests interact with each other and with their technology really got me thinking – how prepared are we in the current workforce for these ‘digital natives’? In a world where we still hold face-to-face meetings, call people on the phone, and write personal thank you notes- where does this new generation of worker fit in?
The answer is this – While we may not be fully prepared today, we are preparing for this new generation, and quickly or at least should be. Technology is moving so rapidly around us and with a skilled labour shortage looming, we really have no choice but to get prepared. So whether this means buying new technology, adjusting work hours, or letting go of traditional roles, the bottom line is we all need to begin preparing and adapting ourselves and our businesses for this new generation of worker and the new way of working that their presence will promote.
But there is a flip side – these ‘digital natives’ will also have to make some adjustments. The onus will also fall to this new generation of worker to prove they can be as productive, or even more productive as our existing multigenerational workforce. My two young guests proved they were social and vibrant and able and willing to interact not just through technology, but in person. If this mixed media usage is any indication of what we can expect from the wired generation I am happy to report – they seem prepared for us too.