Digital natives are shaping the future of work

Technology has already revolutionized our personal lives—today’s college grads are leading the same revolution in the workplace

digital natives and the future of work

I have three grandkids. They won’t graduate college and search for their first job until around 2035. That’s a ways off, so right now I mostly enjoy watching them learn to walk and talk. But this graduation season has gotten me thinking about what their future work lives will be like. That’s because I believe 2019 graduates are entering a dramatically changing world of work.

A better way to work. Let me explain.

In suburban Chicago, where I grew up, my first job was driving a beer truck. I’m 59 years old, so this beer truck was definitely “analog” by today’s standards. No GPS, no camera, no on-demand playlists blue-toothed through crystal clear speakers. I had a map, my memory, and a short list of AM radio stations.

In contrast, today’s college graduates are digital natives. They grew up online. And by the time they reached middle school, mobile phones were becoming a ubiquitous daily life necessity. Tapping, texting and swiping. Easy mobile experiences became their daily life experiences for sharing, shopping, getting around town, keeping up with friends.

And these digitally native graduates are entering the workforce expecting the same digital experiences at work. Simply put, they expect to be digitally native workers. Technology should make their work lives as easy, simple and intuitive as their personal lives. Right? The answer is yes. And it’s happening now.

Redefining the work experience

The intelligent, intuitive mobile-first tech that has transformed our personal lives over the past decade is beginning to radically transform work. Cloud-based platforms and mobile-first technology is making work, work better for people. Digitally native graduates will be entering a world of work that is increasingly digital, intelligent and intuitive. That’s a game changer, both for people who will find work more meaningful and less monotonous, and for companies who will find their employees more engaged and productive.

For any of us who have been in the workforce, we know it hasn’t always been this way. For nearly all of my 35-year business career, work has been filled with frustrating, repetitive, routine tasks that stole our time, sapped our energy and robbed us of more meaningful, productive experiences. A broken printer. A frozen computer. An email password reset. A simple approval process.

These everyday work tasks have been too hard, cumbersome and time-consuming. A college graduate today can change their Venmo password from anywhere in the world, in just seconds, in just a few clicks. Why is it still so hard to do a simple task like changing our passwords at work?

Increasingly, we will find work experiences to be as easy and engaging as our consumer experiences. On Day One of a new job, digitally native graduates should expect on-boarding to be as easy as ordering dinner or hailing a ride: all done through a friendly mobile app. The frustrations that most of us have experienced in starting a new job will disappear. The back-end complexity will be invisible, managed by intelligent, intuitive technology.

Technology in service of people

Here’s another simple example. I work out in our company gym every morning. When I joined ServiceNow two years ago, if the treadmill was broken, I had no idea how to get it fixed. Fast-forward to today. We have an app for that. I snap a photo with my iPhone. The ServiceNow app uses advanced image processing to recognize the treadmill, location services to determine where I am on campus, and keyword matching to recognize the issue once I type (or speak) it. As soon as I hit “submit,” it’s automatically routed to the right team to fix. They have all the information they need, and I can get on with my workout or focus on the rest of my day.

This experience illustrates the technology-enabled, mobile-friendly future of work. Technology in the service of making work, work better for people. And it goes far beyond an on-campus gym. Companies all over the world are investing in digitizing their employee experience. They recognize the value: Better work leads to higher employee engagement. The more satisfied employees are, the more productive they become. Productivity and happy employees lead to bottom-line business benefit.

Over the past decade, technology has transformed how we live our lives. It’s time for technology to transform how we work. It’s time to make our work lives more like our real lives: simple, easy, convenient, intelligent, intuitive. And that’s the future for today’s graduates entering the workforce.

We know firsthand how technology has revolutionized our personal lives. Now it’s time to revolutionize our work lives.

That’s the future of work for us all.