If you are under 40 you are a digital native. Most of the under-40 group has been online since at least their teenage years. Having been attached to screens and aspects of the virtual world has made this group much better prepared to deal with working remotely (and in general) during the pandemic. Digital immigrants – like me, have it a bit tougher.
How you say? Digital natives have had years of practice avoiding actual phone calls. This came about as a result of SMS texting and instant messaging. Talking was, and is, SUCH a hassle! All this was learned in their formative adolescent and teenage years. On the other hand, digital immigrants came out of an era when the phone would ring at the office and you’d have to pick it up not knowing who was on the other end. It wasn’t all that long ago. Of course back in the day there were ‘secretaries’ , receptionists, and administrative assistants that would answer your phone (before voice mail) to offer excuses on why that person could not talk with you, but grudgingly would take a message. (Remember the pink ‘While you were out’ pads?). Interacting with people electronically for digital immigrants has been more disruptive than for digital natives.
If you are a digital native the fact that there are few if no in-person meetings is, mostly,….FANTASTIC. Productivity during the pandemic has risen 7.3% in part due to the lack of the need for commuting. The millennials I talk to are in no hurry to ‘get back to the office’ and hope (maybe even expect) to work remotely through the end of the pandemic and then have the option to work from home going forward. The idea of going back to the office 5 days a week is almost unthinkable. I do feel the same but not all digital immigrants would agree.
Digital immigrants being older, also enjoy the lack of a need to commute. That’s if the job they have affords them the opportunity to work from home. And even then, the idea of going back to the office once, twice or more a week is not crazy as not being around the people you work with is unfamiliar and sometimes unsettling. Old dogs can learn new tricks but…
Looking for a job, or a prospect, has shifted to social media sites like LInkedIN. Yet while everybody does the email thing, not everybody is connecting on LinkedIN. This puts digital immigrants at a disadvantage since it may indicate that their digital chops are not up to standard. And for digital natives who have LinkedIN profiles and are employed, well, they are less likely to poke around (what’s the point?), read messageslook at content for long periods, than digital natives who may not have patience for phone calls, but do have it when it comes to looking at screens. This makes reaching new employers, job prospects, sales prospects or a peer through LinkedIN, more difficult for them.
Digital immigrant salespeople are challenged even more than digital immigrants when it comes to driving new customer engagements. Not being versed in modern digital sales techniques is an impediment in that the older the target the more challenging it is to reach them via a digital effort.
By now, both digital immigrants and digital natives have tired of the endless Zoom meetings. This came about out of necessity and it’s not going away, even when people actually do start going back to the office. And people will start going back to the office. How else to explain why Amazon is planning on several thousand new jobs in its Fifth Avenue office in Manhattan? Amazon knows people will want to go back to the cities as soon as the general population feels it’s safe enough like when a vaccine is widely available. It may not feel like it right now, but the idea that people will eschew city life in the future, after the pandemic, is just wrong.
Digital immigrants have adapted to significant changes in the way they work during their professional careers. If they want those careers to continue, they will have to continue to adapt.