Digital Native Graduates – Managing the Next Generation – Raymond de Villiers

How are you managing your new graduates?

It is very easy to fall into the trap of doing things the same way –  doing what has always been done. The reality of today’s modern digital native graduates however, is that they are not merely younger versions of the older members of management.

While there are many graduates coming out to university every year not all of the graduates are equal. We all want to make sure that that we get the best of the bunch, and that we are able to keep them in our organizations, all the while making the most money off of these relatively cheap resources!

If you want to get the best out of your graduates it is critical that you realize that they need to be treated as a unique demographic with specific needs, requirements, and levers that need to be pushed to get the best out of them.

Older generations had a view of management that was just short of demigod status. Modern graduates have a different view of effective leadership and management. Historically managers were followed because they had the title. Digital natives have learned to follow the right person to lead them to eventual success. So, if the manager is not the best equipped person to lead the team digital natives will identify the most effective individual and will follow him or her regardless of their title, or lack of it. This is not insubordination but rather a new, more effective way of managing inter-team dynamics.

Graduates in their late-20s may be perceived as being flaky or uncommitted as they experience what is being called a quarter-life crisis. They are asking questions after years of study as to whether this is who they want to be, and many of them are changing careers before they’ve even started.

Looking at their careers many of them don’t actually know what it is that they want to do. Consequently, the desire for a dream job is not always matched by an ability to enunciate what that job is.

They are a highly networked generation with this networking facilitated by technology. Social networking is an integral part of the way that they function. If you are expecting them to leave their means of connecting with the network outside the door when they come into the office the will very quickly end up looking for another place to work.

They carry technology with them and use technology for everything. If you give them the old hand-me-down tech, or expect them to work with sub-standard hardware or software their frustration will be expressed in the substandard work that they will deliver. At the same time they will be managing their own world with new technology that they bring themselves, and will have lying next to your substandard tech on their desks.

SOME PRACTICAL POINTS TO MANAGE THESE CHALLENGES.

  • Give significant opportunity for multiple job rotations in the graduate development program. This will accommodate their desire to find the dream job, while not knowing what that dream job is. It will deal with the disillusionment and confusion that accompanies the quarter-life crisis and their trying to find who it is that they want to be.
  • Provide lots of rewards and recognition. Some of these rewards may seem trivial or superficial but this is a generation that got medals just for pitching up. Participating was seen as just a significant as winning through their childhood and adolescence. Multiple opportunities for reward and recognition leverage this dynamic in the workplace.
  • Accompany reward and recognition with many opportunities on on-the-job training. Remember, many of them studied just for the purpose of getting a qualification as they start working they will need more targeted training to make them more effective employees. Job rotation with appropriate reward and recognition can be linked to these on-the-job training experiences.
  • Tap into the bring-your-own-device trend allowing your digital native graduates to provide their own technology, where appropriate, to deliver tasks and functions in their jobs. Realize that they will be using their own technology to manage their social networks, whether you give them permission or not. Making this a stressful hidden activity erodes their productivity and focus on the job. Rather, create time and space within their work day when they are freely able to connect with their network outside of the organization. Remember, talented people have talented friends and their social network it is much an asset that you want to tap into as their brains and their professional abilities.

There are no silver bullets to get the best out of good digital native graduates. Treating them in the same way as you treated their parents, or the way you were treated when you entered the workplace will, however, lose them. Tap into the social, interpersonal dynamics, and challenges that they are experiencing in this life stage and you will be better equipped, and positioned, to get the best out of them.

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