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Managing Digital Natives – Opportunity or Challenge? Tell me when you were born and I’ll tell you who you are.

July 9, 2011 • Emerging Ideas, INNOVATION, STRATEGY & MANAGEMENT, Talent Management, Team Managment

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By Karsten Jonsen, Rafael Martin and Stephanie Weg

Who are these Digital Natives and what makes them different? How can business use shifts in behavior and mindset to operate successfully?

Digital Natives, termed by some as Generation Me,1 are now entering or preparing to enter the labor market. This generation’s personal habits and behaviors, shaped by growing up in a digital world, will have implications for the future of business and the interactions between employers and employees.

“Today’s young people think only of themselves.” This statement has been used to describe many generations, but this time around, it may be true. Research in the United States has measured narcissism – a grandiose view of one’s own self, lack of empathy and a need for admiration and self-enhancing experiences – which has led to the worrisome conclusion that youngsters are increasingly focused on the maximization of moi.2 This can cause issues on many levels for organizations. For example, people with entitlement beliefs have been found to activate fault-lines and create disharmony in their workgroups.3

Research in the US has measured narcissism, and found that youngsters are increasingly focused on the maximization of moi. This can cause issues on many levels for organizations.

So what exactly are we facing today when we deal with younger generations? An opportunity, a threat or both? And how can business use these shifts in behavior and mindset to operate successfully? In this article, we will discuss the most prominent characteristics and behaviors of Generation Me and outline some recommendations on how to manage them effectively.

 

Characteristics and behaviors of digital natives

Who are these Digital Natives and what makes them different? In the following paragraphs, we have highlighted some of their key characteristics and behaviors and the challenges and opportunities each present:

 

Playful: Generation Me has grown up in fat times. The availability of resources and the security they experienced during childhood and adolescence have created a mindset that is focused less on fulfilling duties and more on having fun. This is one reason why Generation Me employees view the workplace as a place to have fun with their workmates, whom they consider friends. They like to set their own rules, enjoy freedom and tend to avoid unpleasant tasks as much as possible. This focus on “having fun” can make younger people hard to manage because they get distracted easily and are not as process-oriented as their managers might wish.



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