Digital Natives have grown up in a world that has been called the VUCA world. This is an acronym that covers four areas outlined below.
V equals volatile
U equals uncertain
C equals complex
A equals ambiguous
There is a corresponding VUCA response that we can take advantage of as we walk with Digital Natives into the future world of work that takes VUCA dynamics as a given.
TomorrowToday has a general leadership response to the VUCA world. For leadership development:
V equals Vision
U equals Understanding
C equals Connection
A equals Agility
See our Leading in a Changing World keynote overview for more on this.
When considering the type of organization that will get the most out of Digital Natives (Generation Y & Z) it is also a useful framework as it describes the world they grew up in and frames their views and expectations of the world of work.
V equals Voice
In a volatile world Digital Natives need to be given the opportunity to exercise their voice. Older generations at the same work stage were expected to sit in the corner, observe, and be quiet. Digital Natives have grown up in a world that has never been stable, and from early childhood they have also never been expected to be disengaged from this reality that surrounds them. Adults and people in leadership have always involved Digital Natives in the conversations and decisions that affect their lives. To get the most out of Digital Natives in a workplace becoming increasingly more volatile, you need to give them an opportunity to exercise their voice, and voice their wisdom, gained from growing up in a world different to anything when you experienced at the same age.
U equals Understanding
In a world of increasing uncertainty Digital Natives grew up by finding their way through trial-and-error and engaging the counsel of parents, peers, and others within their social network. Understanding is not only about engaging in dialogue as oppose to traditional managerial monologue, it is also about having the courage to have conversation with those historically expected to just listen and act. Digital Natives have an understanding of this uncertain world that is significantly more intuitive than older management may have. Leveraging the understanding of Digital Natives will enable the creation of a team and organizational culture that is able to take uncertainty in its stride.
C equals Commitment
Generation Y have grown up in the world in constant flux and have consequently known very little real commitment. From an organizational perspective we need commitment and dedication in order to achieve real benefits from those who work with, and for, us. To get commitment from Digital Natives it be important to show your commitment to them first. There are many ways to show commitment to Digital Natives e.g. opportunities for job rotation to get border experience, sending them on training that they request, supporting them with life skills development to navigate the quarter-life crisis, not only having an open door policy but rather no-door flat structured work environments. The commitment that can be expected from Digital Natives is not lifelong dedication to the organization, but rather access to their extended social network for further recruitment, energized creative and new world of work relevant delivery for the time that they will be with you. Commitment my also mean that they stay with you longer than that initially anticipated when they joined the organisation.
A equals Attitude
In short, we all need to adjust our attitudes. Digital Natives need to understand that they have lessons to learn and wisdom to be developed. This comes from time. Time spent earning the rights to higher positions of influence and authority within the organizational structure. For older leaders, however, our attitude needs to be adjusted to understand that just because Digital Natives are young that does not mean that their contribution has less value.
In a VUCA world we need to understand and embrace the benefits, challenges, and opportunities of working with a demographic and generation who’ve grown up with this world and consequently see it as “normal”.