How Digital are 'Digital Natives' Anyway?

Posted by  Edo-Jan Meijer

They watch an average of 35 hours per week on a screen, but have great difficulty with simple tasks like sorting email into folders. According to research from Change the Equation 'digital natives' are not so 'digital' at all.

This generation, also known as Millennials, is the first group of employees who grew up with the Internet. They are often praised for their digital skills.

The study shows however that Millennials have difficulties performing even the simplest tasks such as sorting email responses to a party invitation into pre-existing folders to keep track of who can and cannot attend: a whopping 19 percent of millennials did not know how to do that.

How can it be that these young people who have grown up with the Internet, have such low digital skills?

Did we perhaps overrate them?

The answer is: of course not. It is somewhat reminiscent of a famous cartoon depicting our education system:

If you want to measure people’s skills, then you have to measure the correct skills. Dragging emails into folders is typically something the 35 plus generation would; the baby boomers and generation X. Like the teacher in the cartoon the comparison does not work as it is testing a skill that a large part of his class does not possess; researchers have identified digital skills according to their own (rather narrow) definition.

But in reality, most Millennials have long replaced email with WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger and other social media.

Millennials will increasingly become part of the business. And if we want to welcome this generation to our workforce, then we will have to look carefully at their wishes and demands, which also means adjusting our business software to the way they like to work.

It is our job to evolve because only then we can give them 'a great day at the office'. How? I will explain that in my next blog post.

Edo-Jan Meijer

Edo-Jan Meijer