Magazine Contact #21 - Magazine - About us - Concept Wiesner-Hager

Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants

Magazine Contact #21

The World Wide Web has exerted extensive influence on the office and not least of all on its players, who can be roughly divided into two camps: Digital natives and digital immigrants*.

Digital natives – also characterised as Generation Y – are people born from 1980, who have grown up with computers, the Internet, video games, smartphones, tablets and social media. Natives currently represent around 28 percent of the Austrian population. By 2018 the number will have already risen to half of the entire workforce. The counterpart to the natives are the digital immigrants, which include baby boomers and Generation X. They grew up without the Internet and had to familiarise themselves with digital technologies at an adult age. So much for the definitions. Of course different backgrounds, however, impact on the behaviour and points of view of the respective colleagues – and correspondingly determine their actions. Digital natives, for example, are accustomed to receiving information quite quickly via social media, such as Twitter and WhatsApp. They tend to multitask and prefer graphics to texts. Networking and direct access are important to them. Digital immigrants on the other hand, work quieter, more individually, proceed step-by-step and have a stricter point of view regarding the work itself.

How the two worlds can profit from each another.

A dangerous mixture for the office climate? That is matter of opinion. A good mix is key and allows the merits of both generations to be utilised. What could digital immigrants learn from digital natives: To more vigorously seek out teamwork instead of working alone. To measure performance on the result and less on the number of overtime hours worked. And what the natives can learn from the immigrants: To dedicate themselves to a focused goal instead of starting several tasks at the same time. They should thereby always bundle resources and stay in relationship. They should recognise company values and share as well as live them. Also they should appreciate and avail themselves of the experiences of their elders. So get along and learn something from one another!


* The terms and definitions of digital natives and immigrants come from American author and e-learning expert Marc Prensky, who formulated this distinction for the first time in 2001.

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