Who they are
This group present differences in learning that are due to the connection with digital channels and the ability to process large sets of information, but another important characteristic from this group, that can be a real asset at work, is that they have the ability to process large amounts of information and also use technology to manipulate information in a way to make processes and methodologies more efficient (Colbert et al, 2016).
Digital natives are more interested in collective intelligence (Unesco Policy Brief, 2011) rather than individual knowledge and will often choose to work in collaborative environments, even when they are focusing on individual goals. They will use a group environment where each individual contributes with their knowledge to achieve individual goals, while digital immigrants when working in groups tend to focus in one group goal at a time (Pinzaru & Mitan, 2016).
In terms of learning, digital natives have the ability to multitask and leap around concepts and ideas in a non-linear way, also known as hypertext learning (Cabanero-Johnson & Berge, 2009) which is fundamentally different than digital immigrants that prefer to focus on individual tasks and when in management positions at work, tend to look at the ability of younger generations to work while accessing social networks or texting during meetings as lack of concentration when in reality, millennials and Gen Z employees are capable of absorbing a lot more information at a faster pace. Because digital natives process information faster, they also prefer quicker visual communications methods than heavy, scientific language or long lectures (Ochola Kwenda, 2017) and at work they demonstrate preference to companies that provide their employees continues learning opportunities, access to online classes and virtual learning environments.
Perception of younger generation behavior at work in Romania
Interested in the digital knowledge gab between digital natives and digital immigrants, authors Pinzaru and Mitan conducted a research in Romania attempting to understand how managers dealt of digital natives at work.
The main drive for this research was the issue Romania faces with hiring young people for positions that are available, because often their skill sets do not match the profiles of the jobs currently available, which leads to gaps in employment.
A few of the issues taken into consideration before the research, based on general knowledge in the European Union were that digital natives had a hard time respecting authorities that were less versed in technologies than themselves and digital natives want to have the freedom to curate their own job positions.
After interviewing several managers, ranging from digital natives and digital immigrants, holding different levels of management positions in companies in Romania, Pinzaru and Mitan concluded leaders are more willing to understand what drives digital natives to become successful at work, despite the prejudice facing their unique working preferences, and provide better working conditions to meet those needs.
A few thoughts that seemed to be recurring for different managers were: digital natives prefer speed of information instead of depth, they look for freedom and flexibility at work, and finally digital natives are not as good with in-person communications as digital immigrants.
The struggle with establishing personal connections could be due to the amount spent using technologies, but digital natives use digital channels to stay socially engaged and therefore don’t always see the issue with the same perspective as digital immigrants.
Another point raised by the managers interviewed was that digital natives can get impatient if their ideas are not well received by management and they show frustration when managers do not give them the freedom in decision making processes that are related to their area of expertise.
One manager added that showing support and leading by example is the best way to keep digital natives engaged, as they show appreciation for mentorship. In environments where their ideas are welcomed, and they are embraced by superiors, digital natives show more creativity and tend to give more to their work without being asked to.
In conclusion, the study shows there are more pros of working with digital natives than cons, if management is willing to adapt their style to meet their needs. In general, they are more dedicated to work, when offered an environment where they can continuously learn and feel supported to implementing their ideas.