Digital Transformation Requires Digital Natives

Larry Alton
Published 06/17/2021
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Businesses have been buzzing about digital transformation for years now, as they shift services from legacy platforms to modern, agile solutions, but ultimately many are struggling to make progress. That’s because with so many business technology trends, a combination of distraction, perfectionism, and stagnation are holding businesses back from making valuable adaptations. 

Digital Transformation Requires Digital NativesSo, how can organizations break through these challenges? The answer may lie with digital natives.

Digital Natives’ Agile Advantage

Millennials, the oldest of whom are now 40 and established in their careers, as well as members of Gen Z who are just getting started, all bring a unique perspective to the workplace because they’ve essentially never known a world without the internet. Older millennials grew up alongside technology, and recall using – and even building – ugly and nearly unusable websites, communicating via primitive chatrooms, and having to wrangle dial-up connections, but because they were so young, none of this felt foreign or challenging the way it might have for many Gen Xers. 

Given this background, businesses trying to navigate the digital transformation process need to listen to digital natives who are innately agile thinkers when it comes to technology. Digital natives grew up migrating from platform to platform and while the chorus of complaints every time Facebook changes its layout may seem to contradict this adaptability, when it comes down to it, digital natives are always curious about and open to new solutions that will make their lives easier. 


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A Savvy Approach

Of course, the value of digital natives to workplaces struggling with digital transformation isn’t just in their generational adaptability. It’s also about their technical savvy. For example, businesses don’t have to teach digital natives to beware phishing attacks the same way they might have to instruct older workers on this issue. Rather, security-conscious younger workers have spent years trying to explain to their families why they shouldn’t trust certain emails and pop-ups. 

In terms of digital transformation, this security awareness translates to intelligent technology selection without getting locked into single solutions – a particularly helpful ability with so many people working remotely right now. 

For example, digital natives can comfortably use the standard accounts payable tools during a typical workday, but if they don’t have easy access to it while working remotely, they’ll easily pivot to an invoice generator tool after quickly evaluating the appropriateness and security of the tool.

Acknowledging Digital Literacy

Digital transformations will only be successful if those expected to use the new tools have a minimum level of digital literacy and, once again, this is where digital natives come in. This population’s inherent digital competency not only allows them to transition quicky between tools, but makes them ideal mentors for older workers who are struggling with the shift. 

Businesses should consider developing bi-directional mentorship programs that encourage digital natives to support technical upskilling throughout the company, while being encouraged and trained for advancement. It’s a win-win solution and one that can speed up the digital transformation process.

Listen Up

Ultimately, workforce demographics are shifting and it’s important for C-suite professionals to listen to those lower down in the hierarchy who may actually have greater knowledge and skills when it comes to technology. 

These employees tend to push the transformation process forward because they know it’s vital for businesses that want to stay competitive. Though businesses can be reticent to break with the hierarchy, pay attention to what this group has to say – they can see where technology is going and, in many cases, where it’s already gone and how your company has to adjust to keep up.