'Digital natives’ is the buzz phrase used to describe people, usually under 35, who have grown up in the digital age. This kind of person is often very difficult for traditional management to handle: they are opinionated, early-adopting, multi-tasking rule-breakers with short attention spans. David Dumeresque of Tyzack has these tops tips for taming the digital beasties.
Learn from the whizzkids
Digital natives treat information in a completely different way to the digital immigrants (those who weren’t born clutching an iPad). They work best when connected and are more able to multi-task. This demands a completely new style of management. Tap into your digital natives from day one. Offer them a platform from which they can share their knowledge – something like an internal digital newsboard works well. It will be worth taking the time to step into their world - you should rapidly start seeing new opportunities.
Don’t be afraid to change
Don’t be an ostrich. If you stick your head in the sand, you’ll get left behind. Social media means that communities are being built in a whole new way. Formal structure is out. Open dialogue is in. Finding new ways to communicate should be an on-going exercise in any business wishing to keep ahead.
Ditch the middlemen
Digital natives share information horizontally and find it difficult to see the value in the imposition of hierarchy. Those middle management positions whose historic role has been as a conduit of information, both upwards and downwards, will have to be re-evaluated.
Viva la revolution
People of all levels within an organisation can now share information in ways that are completely uncontrollable by managers. There’s a new kind of hierarchy in town, one not based on salary or job title but information. It will occur naturally and will not be prescribed. And it goes both ways. A chief executives can communicate with everybody in an organisation immediately, directly and without any editorialisation. While this might initially frighten more traditional organisations, it is a healthy, more transparent way of working in the long run.
Information ‘hoarders’ have no place here
The past: managers control the lion-share of information. Hence the rise of this galling phrase: "you may think you are right but of course you don't know the full picture". The future: information is now moving to a commodity status. Make the most of this. Ensure the free flow of information is positive, motivating and carries clear, actionable cues.
Say goodbye to the 9-5
Digital natives don’t just do their job, they are part of their job. There is a blurring of boundaries between work life and home life. They seem to mix and match this more easily - driven by their use of social media. They don’t feel the need to draw a definite line between ‘work time’ and ‘leisure time’ and neither should you. This balance actually means greater productivity, greater creativity and, once again, better engagement.
Re-define ‘acceptable’ working practices
Digital natives are welded to technology. Whether it’s a Blackberry, an iPhone, iPad, or all three - next year it will be something even better. This is no passing fad. This talent pool works best when well connected. Trial having less formal meetings where people can drop in and out and can check phones when necessary, then monitor productivity and outcome closely. The digital native has developed a capacity to take in information in a way that the digital immigrant still finds unusual. Use it, challenge them, watch them thrive.
Give your business a great digital face
We're in a downturn so most people would be grateful for a job, right? Not so. If you are looking for valuable talent, you have to make much more of an effort these days. In social media fora, people are not imposed as leaders but emerge as leaders through being interesting and valuable. Make sure that you position your business as a forward-thinking, fast-paced environment full of challenges for the nimble-minded.
One of the big positive shifts of the digital age is that senior managers are freed from their historic responsibilities. They now can spend more time focusing on strategy rather than processing information.
Things never go backwards, only forwards
Change is challenging. Don't look the other way and hope things will return to ‘normal’. It’s time for leaders to understand what it takes to manage in a more transparent, knowledgeable and highly connected world.