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Thread: Pew Research: Digital 'Natives' Invade the Workplace

Post#1 at 09-28-2006 01:22 PM by John J. Xenakis [at Cambridge, MA joined May 2003 #posts 4,010]
09-28-2006, 01:22 PM #1
Join Date
May 2003
Cambridge, MA

Pew Research: Digital 'Natives' Invade the Workplace

Pew Research: Digital 'Natives' Invade the Workplace

Digital 'Natives' Invade the Workplace

Young people may be newcomers to the world of work, but it's their
bosses who are immigrants into the digital world

by Lee Rainie
Pew Internet & American Life Project
September 28, 2006

As consultant Marc Prensky calculates it, the life arc of a typical
21-year-old entering the workforce today has, on average, included
5,000 hours of video game playing, exchange of 250,000 emails, instant
messages, and phone text messages, 10,000 hours of cell phone use. To
that you can add 3,500 hours of time online.

Our work at the Pew Internet Project shows that an American teen is
more likely than her parents to own a digital music player like an
iPod, to have posted writing, pictures or video on the internet, to
have created a blog or profile on a social networking web site like
MySpace, to have downloaded digital content such as songs, games,
movies, or software, to have shared a remix or "mashup" creation with
friends, and to have snapped a photo or video with a cell phone.

"Today's younger workers are not 'little us-es,'" argues Prensky, an
educator, gaming expert, author of Don't Bother Me, Mom -- I'm
Learning. "Their preference is for sharing, staying connected,
instantaneity, multi-tasking, assembling random information into
patterns, and using technology in new ways. Their challenge to the
established way of doing things in the business world has already

Those challenges often flow from young workers' embrace of
technologies that have grown up with them. Today's 21-year-old was
born in 1985 -- 10 years after the first consumer computers went on
sale and the same year that the breakthrough "third generation" video
game, Nintendo's "Super Mario Brothers," first went to market. When
this young worker was a toddler, the basic format of instant messaging
was developed. And at the time this young worker entered kindergarten
in 1990, Tim Berners-Lee wrote a computer program called the World
Wide Web. Upon entering middle school, our worker might have organized
his schedule with a gadget called a Palm Pilot (first shipped in
1996). And at the dawn of high school for our worker in 1999, Sean
Fanning created the Napster file-sharing service. When the worker
graduated from high school four years later, his gifts might have
included an iPod (patented in 2002) and a camera phone (first shipped
in early 2003).

Our worker's college career saw the rise of blogs (already
two-years-old in 2000), RSS feeds (coded in 2000), Wikipedia (2001),
social network sites (Friendster was launched in 2002), tagging
( was created in 2003), free online phone calling (Skype
software was made available in 2003), podcasts (term coined in 2004),
and the video explosion that has occurred as broadband internet
connections become the norm in households (YouTube went live in

Now, we have a reversal of the normal situation, where young people
migrate into a workplace manned by seasoned natives. Instead, in this
digitalized age, this 21-year-old and his peers are showing up in
human resources offices as digital natives in a workplace world
dominated by digital immigrants -- that is, elders who often feel less
at ease with new technologies.

How different are they? Several years ago when she was interviewing a
17-year old girl named LaShonda for a project about the future of
work, Rebecca Ryan, founder of a hip consulting firm named Next
Generation Consulting, noted the difference between digital natives
and their digital immigrant elders . In an email, she explains:

"We were at a food court in a mall outside Seattle. While I was
interviewing her, she was IM'ing, had her PDA on, her cell phone, the
whole thing.... I was so put off. I thought, 'She's not paying
attention!' And so I asked her, 'LaShonda, what do you think will be
the impact of technology on the future of work?' She looked me in the
eye and asked, 'What do you mean by technology?' I looked at all of
her gadgets on the table and said, 'Like this stuff!' She said, 'This
is only technology for people who weren't raised with it.' Whoa. The
point that came home to rest for me is that for LaShonda, IM'ing and
texting are like breathing. Fish don't know they're in water. LaShonda
didn't consider her gadgets technology."

This generational difference will inevitably pose challenges and
create opportunities for the firms that hire them because natives have
experiences and values that are different from digital immigrants.
Herewith, five new realities of the digital natives' lives that should
be understood by their new employers:

Reality 1 -- They are video gamers and that gives them different
expectations about how to learn, work, and pursue careers.

A host of experts have affirmed that today's young workers have
internalized the new realities of work. "In contrast to a generation
ago, job entrants now do not expect lifetime employment from a single
employer; they do not expect a full menu of paid corporate benefits;
they do not relish jobs in hierarchical bureaucracies," argues Edward
Lawler, Director of the Center for Effective Organizations at the
University of Southern California, and co-author of the forthcoming
book, The New American Workplace. "To them, the word 'career' is

These attitudes clearly reflect the larger realities of the changing
nature of work. Yet there is also some evidence that the ethos of
video gaming plays a role. Studies at the Pew Internet & American Life
Project show that virtually all college students play video, computer
or internet games and 73% of teens do so. John Beck and Mitchell Wade
argue in their book, Got Game: How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping
Business Forever, that games are the "training program" for young
workers that helps form their attitudes about the way the work-world
operates -- a world full of data-streams, where analysis and decisions
come at twitch speed, where failure at first is the norm, where the
game player is the hero, and where learning takes place informally.

For companies, this puts a premium on designing engaging work that
allows workers to make a clear contribution and be rewarded for same.
If "organization man" has become "gaming man," then the importance of
worker morale is elevated -- as is the value of basing work on
completed tasks, rather than other measures of work effort such as
hours on the job. "Give them projects to complete and then stand out
of the way," argues James Ware, who helps run Future of Work, an
organization for facilities, information technology, and human
resources professionals based in Prescott, Arizona. "These kids quit
when they are frustrated trying to finish an effort that will 'get
them to the next level.'"

(Continued in next posting)

Post#2 at 09-28-2006 01:25 PM by John J. Xenakis [at Cambridge, MA joined May 2003 #posts 4,010]
09-28-2006, 01:25 PM #2
Join Date
May 2003
Cambridge, MA

Pew Research: Digital 'Natives' Invade the Workplace

(Continued from previous posting)

Reality 2 –They are technologically literate, but that does not
necessarily make them media literate.

Our research has found consistently that the dominant metaphor for the
internet in users' minds is a vast encyclopedia -- more than it is a
playground, a commercial mall, a civic commons, a kaffee klatch, or a
peep show. This is especially true for younger users, who have grown
up relying on it to complete school assignments, perhaps too often
clipping and pasting material from websites into term papers.

Sandra Gisin, who oversees knowledge and information management at
reinsurance giant Swiss Re, says her colleagues marvel at the speed
with which younger workers communicate and gather information. Still,
she has had enough bad experiences with credulous younger workers
accepting information from the top link on a Google search result that
she says the firm will begin new training programs next year to teach
workers how to evaluate information and to stress that "not all the
best information is free."

Dow Jones news organizations have similar worries. They have created
programs for journalism educators and reporters-in-training to drive
home the point that journalists should not rely on Web sources without
checking its origin and confirming it in other ways. "We drive home
the point that it's not good enough to say, 'I read it on the
internet,' without taking other steps to verify it," notes Clare Hart,
Executive Vice President of Dow Jones and President of the Enterprise
Media Group.

At the same time, younger workers' comfort with online tools can be a
boon to marketing departments. Hart, 45, says younger workers on the
staff "convinced us Baby Boomers" to put more information from Dow
Jones conference presentations online and to create podcasts of the
best of them. Since then, email offering podcasts gets opened about
20% more frequently than traditional marketing email.

Reality 3 -- They are content creators and that shapes their notions
about privacy and property.

More than half of American teenagers have created a blog, posted an
artistic or written creation online, helped build a website, created
an online profile, or uploaded photos and videos to a website. They
think of the internet as a place where they can express their
passions, play out their identities, and gather up the raw material
they use for their creations.

So, why shouldn't young employees think it clever and fun to post on
their blogs pictures of Apple computers being delivered to the loading
bay at Microsoft headquarters? That is what Michael Hanscom, a temp
employee for a Microsoft vendor, did and was quickly fired for
violating the company's non-disclosure rules. An even more benign
episode ended the same way when Bill Poon, a database marketing
manager for Collectors Universe, a sports memorabilia authenticating
company in Los Angeles, posted a photo of his department's president
on his MySpace profile. Poon also filed a few comments poking fun at
the firm's dress code and cubicle culture and was axed based on the
company's concerns about "identity theft."

In the many-to-many broadcast environment of the internet, the
prospects for data hemorrhage from companies have grown exponentially.
The rise of consumer-creations online also means that outsiders have
all manner of ways to record and report on the behavior of employees
-- as AOL discovered recently when a customer recorded and posted a
frustrating telephone encounter with a customer service representative
who refused his request to change his service plan and persistently
pressed him with other options.

Clearly, firms need to create policies about how internal bloggers
should treat company information, what kinds of intellectual property
need to be protected, and basic norms of behavior that should guide
people who want to create online material.

Reality 4 -- They are product and people rankers and that informs
their notions of propriety.

This is the wisdom-of-crowds generation that grew up rating peers'
physical attributes (, pop culture creations
( reviews), teachers' style and grading practices
(, products and services (, and even
weddings ( No surprise, then, that there are websites
drawing decent traffic for people to rate their bosses, their clients,
and their customers. The tone of online commentary is often
flame-oriented, racy, and retaliatory. This, too, is the generation
that has given rise to cyber-bullying.

So, organizations might ponder adding a new clause or two to the
policy manual about online etiquette inside and outside the workplace.
"Most companies have policies in place against harassment based on
things like sex, race, and ethnicity," says Lynn Karoly, an economist
at the RAND Corporation who has studied the 21st Century workplace.
"But we should probably create new categories of policies to handle
unacceptable online behaviors where liability might emerge."

Reality 5 -- They are multi-taskers often living in a state of
"continuous partial attention" and that means the boundary between
work and leisure is quite permeable.

The ubiquity of gadgets and media allows younger workers to toggle
back and forth quickly between tasks for work and chatter with their
friends, research for projects and diversions on their screens. Many
marvel at their capacity to juggle multiple tasks at once. An even
sharper insight comes from Linda Stone, a technology consultant, who
has noted that many technophiles function in a condition she calls
"continuous partial attention," where they are scanning all available
data sources for the optimum inputs.

Those who operate in such a state are not as productive as those who
stay on task. They also do not make distinctions between the zones of
work and leisure, consumer and producer, education and entertainment.
"Their worlds bleed together," argues Charles Grantham, another
principal at Future of Work. "It is pretty useless to try to draw
borders around different spheres of life for them. It's better to let
them shift among them at their own choosing as long as the work gets

Rebecca Ryan of Next Generation Consulting says she has recently
gained a new appreciation for young workers' capacity to multi-task
even when it seems rude and inattentive. In an email, she explained:

"We currently have an intern who's working on several critical
projects. She's brilliant and a great fit for our team. At meetings,
she's online the whole time. At first, I was totally put off by this
-- Why isn't she looking me in the eye? But then I realized that our
'to do' lists were a LOT shorter after these meetings because she
would locate the information we needed in real time, which eliminated
the need for a lot of follow-up work. So, something that I initially
perceived as 'poor manners' on her part actually ended up being a
great efficiency in our team meetings."

Again, companies would be wise to spell out their tolerance levels for
the amount of personal activity workers are allowed on the clock and
their expectations about the availability of workers outside the
office and after hours.

Many firms see no option but to embrace the world of digital natives.
Agilent Technologies, a top global measurement company, began early
this year to distribute iPod Nanos to new employees hired from U.S.
college campuses. The Nanos were preloaded with podcasts describing
each of the benefits offered by the company, such as the 401(k)
retirement plan and options for health insurance. "The college kids
loved getting the benefit overviews preloaded on the iPod, while our
older workers often preferred to read about these things on our web
site," notes human resources manager Cathy Taylor. "There are
different generational learning styles."

Still, the ethic of podcasting information has now begun to spread
through the company and some of those older workers have caught the
bug, too. For a recent retirement party, staffers from Agilent's
far-flung offices collaborated on a podcast for the retiree. You Raise
Me Up by Andrea Bocelli was dubbed over the voiced well wishes and the
podcast was played over a WebEx teleconference. "It was a first for a
virtual retirement party," enthuses Taylor. "We'll be doing it

Lee Rainie is director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
A shorter version of this article appeared in the Financial Times on
September 20, 2006.

Post#3 at 09-28-2006 07:04 PM by Virgil K. Saari [at '49er, north of the Mesabi Mountains joined Jun 2001 #posts 7,835]
09-28-2006, 07:04 PM #3
Join Date
Jun 2001
'49er, north of the Mesabi Mountains

Thumbs up The Millennial as an Harmonium I am, here I am, here I am, here I am, here I am, here I am, here I am... glad you are, so glad you are, so glad you are, so glad you are, so glad you are, so glad you are...

... ... ... >>>>>>>>>