Digital Natives And Old-school Leaders – Embracing Digital Change

Digital Natives Old-School Leaders

Technology is an unmatched source of change. Its substantial influence can be felt and observed everywhere. From small aspects of our everyday lives to our consuming habits, to naturally – our jobs. The digital transformation that was born out of technology is probably the strongest manifestation yet of disruptive change.

Digital innovations come and go faster than ever.  At times, the possibilities, and respectively the demands the digital age poses can be overwhelming. It is only natural that the first thought of company leaders to be “acquiring more born-digital talent.”

These are the so called “digital natives” – people born during the digital era. People whose mother tongue is the digital one. Those who don’t just speak it, but think of it. Experts who can strengthen your workforce through their data-driven decisions and accurate knowledge. However, dealing with something as delicate, and even aggressive, as digital transformation requires a much more in-depth analysis.

The way companies tackle those matters can prove crucial for their progress. It is essential that they approach those issues with a crisp strategic focus. Identifying and assembling a balanced team of digital natives and digital-ready leaders is the path to embracing digital transformation. Your recruitment strategy can make all the difference between success and failure.


The Status Quo is hardly an option in the age of digital transformation

Digital innovations  seem to emerge almost out of thin air. The digital world is hard to keep up with. Missed opportunities are inadequate as they are, but nowadays they are even worse. There is hardly any room for middle ground. Missed chances don’t only mean failure to progress. They equal losing to a competitor who foresaw those opportunities and took advantage of them. Maintaining the status quo is hardly an option in the age of digital transformation, especially in the long-run.

Staying continuously current with it is something only true digital natives are capable of. This is why without digital talent an organization could never embrace digital transformation. There simply won’t be anyone capable of identifying opportunities due to the lack of expertise in the particular niche.

Companies need to think about their brand identity and workforce and reinvent them on a more digital scale whenever possible. According to an insightful survey, “the US economy as a whole is realizing only 18% of its digital potential.” In the last 50 years, the average lifespan of S&P companies has declined 3 times. This just goes to show that no company can afford the luxury of getting overly comfortable. In the face of digital transformation, innovators have more tools than ever for becoming disruptors.

As digital advances improve the customer experience, the customer demand increases proportionally. What is satisfactory for the client today might not stay that way for long. Customers have more options than ever, and naturally, the competition for their attention becomes fierce. Unless you have a solid brand identity and emotional bond with your customers, which is a whole other topic altogether, they will replace you with a better competitor without batting an eye.


Digital Natives

Adding digital natives to your team is important. The digital world is complex, woven out of many different, particular and thin threads. It requires in-depth knowledge and actual expertise. Those are the trends digital natives have grown up amidst and been educated to tackle. They tend to have a significant focus on one major area, the same way an expert does.

The digital environment has trained their eye for spotting the tiny spaces for innovations that will help you keep your customer base. That’s why you shouldn’t confine your search within the same industry. Often the best digital talent can be the one from a different field altogether, precisely because of the different digital and customer perspective he/she can bring. Acquiring digital natives can help you place your brand identity and workforce within a more digital environment and frames.


Trial and error environment for digital natives

Digital talent tends to unfold in a trial and error environment fully. Digital natives believe failure is part of learning. Quick, data-driven decisions are critical in a dynamic digital environment. That's why trying out what works and what doesn’t draws digital natives. No breakthrough ever came from the first try. Your company needs to provide them a certain level of room for experiments. Digital natives like clear objectives and being able to focus on a single, big project. They feel most comfortable within a clear structure with relatively defined independence and goals.


Balanced strategy

However, one can see how this strategy can be overly risky if there is nobody to balance it out. Digital-ready leaders are the ones to even the scales between experimentation and minimizing risks and costs. They can provide digital natives the space they need to thrive. This way, their niche expertise can help you identify opportunities and make the most of them. Digital natives are crucial if you want to stay on top of the digital transformation wave. That is, as long as you bring balance and harvest their potential correctly.

Obtaining born-digital talent, or digital natives should be a mandatory element of your hiring strategy. But it by far shouldn’t be the only one. An all-round, comprehensive recruiting strategy is key.


Digital-ready leaders

Old-school leadership is often underestimated or even looked down on. Some would say that this kind of leadership, crafted and honed throughout time, isn’t a real skill, talent, or asset. That couldn’t be further away from the truth.

On the contrary, even in rapidly changing times such as ours, real leadership is an essential quality of evergreen value. It should be a major component of any company’s workforce. An adaptive mind and a knack for motivating employees will never go out of fashion.

Digital-ready leaders are the ones who can spot holes in your game and figure out how to patch them, leveraging their years of experience. They bring perspective and interpersonal skills into your workforce that digital talent can never substitute.

At the core of digital transformation is the desire to simplify things. All apps and digital innovations, they are all designed to facilitate some aspect of our lives. As good as this trend may be, on the one hand, it is a double-edged sword.

Side effects are a natural consequence of the “easier is better” philosophy. Digital-born talent will usually come at the expense of other qualities which only true, old-fashioned labor develops. The kind of work that gives birth to a different kind of skillset. One, consisting of a strategic, adaptive mind, a strong will and a winner’s mentality. Inspiring people to overcome adversity is hard to learn when everything is easier than ever.

An old-school leader is an invaluable member of your team and workforce, one who could never be replaced by the most genius, digital-oriented mind.

On the contrary, it is the old-school leader that is capable of channeling digital talent the right way, helping your company harvest its brainchildren. They have made a career out of motivating people and bringing the best out of them in critical times. The confidence they inspire in digital natives is key to unlocking digital talent.

It is probably safe to say that change and digital transformation are far from over. What is considered innovative today might be seen as outdated tomorrow. Digital natives might soon feel stale. Leaders are those who can overcome adversity and more importantly, inspire others to do so. Their adaptive mind is an invaluable asset to any workforce. Respectively, it should be the cornerstone of any recruitment strategy.

Digital-ready leaders are those who combine the strong mentality of an old-timer with a desire and aptitude for learning. Their desire for self-growth is almost encoded into their nature, and it should be in your operational model as well.

That's why it’s important to expose leaders to digital settings. You can embed digital natives’ practices into your company’s current ones. They can become a source of education, and enrich your operational model and workforce. They can fill the gaps of expertise in your old-school leaders’ experience. You need to promote a culture of self-growth and personal development as well. Encourage digital-ready leaders to continuously tap into the repository of in-depth, accurate information that is the digital-born talent. This way managers can apply their experience, adaptability and learning ability to first-time situations. Those are valuable traits, honed by years of practice, in times when easier didn’t always mean better.

Without someone to inspire calm, trust, and nourish the kind of attitude to face overwhelming change with, even the brightest digital talent will fall short, sooner or later. Combining the two types of skills, qualities, and culture is the correct recruitment strategy and approach in the rocky age of digital transformation. This way adaptability, data-driven decisions, and inspiration will become the primary drivers of your workforce.


Strategically integrating the two types of workforce

Integrating both kinds of talent into a thriving company doesn’t just automatically happen once those people are recruited. Recruitment strategy can only go so far. It is important to take into account some the fundamental differences and traits of these people, rather than simply expecting them to blend into each other. Strategically delegating their duties is what will determine your team’s success. 

Born-digital specialists tend to enjoy their independence and a degree of freedom. Assigning them a “boss’’ to hang over their shoulder who understands far less than them in a particular field might result in diminished moral. Ultimately, this can leave their best ideas in their heads. On the contrary, they should be acknowledged as the technical experts in their particular areas and regarded as the authority on the matter. They need a certain level of autonomy. Furthermore, digital natives are known to have lower interpersonal skills. They can encounter difficulties picking up on nonverbal cues.

It is the leaders who need to be in charge of putting the technical superiority of the digital natives to work towards the company’s visions and goals. Old-school leaders possess a higher level of emotional intelligence and cultural dexterity. They understand how the business operates in the grand scheme of things. Leaders envision the big puzzle and fit the digital pieces together. They need to be in charge of motivating employees, even experts who enjoy some degree of freedom.

This way, digital natives’ best practices can be adopted into the heart of your company’s operational model and serve your long-term goals.  


If your business was a movie…

Imagine that your company is a movie.

A digital-ready leader would be the director, the one with an overall vision. It is up to the leader to inspire, to coordinate, to make sure the film’s primary vision and theme are always shining brightly for all members of the production to see. A director, or a leader, should have an extensive range of qualities and knowledge, interpersonal skills, adaptive mind. Digital leaders should know well the film business in all its little tricks of the trait.

However, a good, sensible leader will always know how to delegate tasks that require in-depth expertise. A director will know who to trust with editing, with lighting, etc. Finding the happy medium between teamwork and celebrating individuality to a good extent is essential.

A leader could never know how to do everything but should be able to understand what needs to be done and inspire the experts – the digital natives – to do it. In this way, your workforce will operate at full power.

At DistantJob, we understand which digital natives and which digital-ready leaders are right for your company. Get in touch

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