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Digital Natives And Old-school Leaders – Embracing Digital Change

digital natives leaders

The influence of technology and digital devices is visible to all of us. Digital transformation is deeply changing how we think and act, from daily and consuming habits to our jobs. Especially after the global pandemic, the role of digital devices is even more evident when it comes to living our lives. 

Between constant updates for users and new apps for businesses, the infinite possibilities of digital innovation, and its demand, can be overwhelming. It’s not a surprise if lately the first thought of company leaders is “acquiring more born-digital talent.”

We are talking about 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 technology, but think digitally. People who can strengthen your workforce through their data-driven decisions and accurate knowledge.

Like usually happens, the discourse is far more complicated than this. You can’t just cope with digital transformation by hiring a millennial. How companies strategically tackle these matters is crucial for their progress and growth.

Identifying and assembling a balanced team of digital natives and old-school, digital-ready leaders is the path to embracing digital transformation. Especially in remote teams, your recruitment strategy can make all the difference between success and failure.

The Status Quo in the Age of Digital Transformation

That’s why you need digital natives to embrace digital transformation. To keep up with current demand, companies need to think of their brand identity to reinvent their business on a digital scale. If back in 2015 the U.S economy realized only 18% of its digital potential, today is a whole different story. If pre-COVID remote workers were around 15%, following the pandemic remote workforces increased up to 35%

These surveys just show that no company can afford the luxury of getting away without implementing digital tools, on-site or remote. As a result of this ever-growing digitalization, customer demands increase proportionally with the experience of digital services or apps. They have more options than ever, and naturally, the competition for their attention becomes fierce. Unless you build a solid brand identity and emotional bond with your customers, they will replace you with a better competitor without batting an eye.

Digital Natives in The Era of Digital Change

The digital environment has trained their eyes for spotting the tiny spaces for innovations that will help you grow. That’s why you shouldn’t confine your search within the same industry.

Often the best digital talent can come from a different field, bringing different digital and customer perspectives. Hiring digital natives can help you place your brand identity and workforce using digital transformation as an ally, rather than an enemy.

Here a few things to keep in mind if you are hiring a digital native: 

1. Best Environment for Digital Natives

Living in this world without Status Quo, digital natives believe that 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 feeds digital natives. No breakthrough ever came from the first try. 

If you hire a digital native, make sure to leave some room for experimentations. Especially in remote teams, experimentation is a key feature to test new solutions. Experimentation without clear goals, however, is just a mess. With your digital natives and remote teams, make sure to provide clear expectations and organize the focus on a single, big, project at the time.

2. Balanced Strategy with Your Remote Team

At first glance, this strategy can be overly risky if there is nobody to balance it out. That’s why you need digital-ready leaders to even the scales between experimentation and minimizing risks and costs. They can provide digital natives with space they need to thrive without compromising the team’s workflow.

For your company, this balance means identifying the potential of digital innovation without losing a structured business plan. That is, as long as you bring balance and harvest their potential correctly.

Looking for born-digital talent, or digital natives, from different backgrounds, should be a mandatory element in your hiring strategy, playing with diversity to bring new ideas to your business. 

3. Digital-ready Leaders

In the era of digital change, 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 fast-changing times such as ours, real leadership is an essential quality for remote workforces. An adaptive mind and a knack for motivating employees will never go out of fashion, even with robots, AI and holograms.

That is to say, 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.

All apps and digital innovations are specifically designed to facilitate and simplify things we do everyday. As good as this trend may be, on the one hand, it is a double-edged sword.

The ‘easier is better’ philosophy belongs to digital natives, used to straightforward solutions and adaptable to fast updates. Digital-born talent will usually come at the expense of other qualities, which only old-fashioned labor, develops. Most importantly, inspiring people to overcome adversity is hard to learn when everything is easier than ever. That’s why you need digital-ready leaders with your digital natives. 

4. Synchronize Skillset

An old-school leader is an invaluable member of your team , who is capable of channeling digital talents to help your company growth. Meanwhile digital natives embrace the fast use of technology, 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 digital transformation is far from being over. After we experienced this pandemic, we all know that certainty can last a day. What is innovative today might be outdated tomorrow, like digital natives’ attitude. In other words, leaders are those who can overcome adversity and, more importantly, inspire others to do so finding new and original approaches to business. Their adaptive mind is an invaluable asset to any workforce. Subsequently, it should be the cornerstone of any recruitment strategy.

5. Don’t Forget, Digital Change is for People

As we mention, it’s quite hard to get away without tech updates nowadays. You can embed digital natives’ practices into your company’s current strategies. Certantly, 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. 

Just remember that digital innovation isn’t only about tools, but also about people. You need to promote a culture of self-growth and personal development as well. Encourage digital-ready leaders to tap into the repository of in-depth, accurate information with 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.

In conclusion, without someone to inspire calm and trust to face overwhelming digital change, even the brightest digital talent will fall – sooner or later. Combining these two types of skills and culture is the most effective recruitment strategy to improve your remote business in these uncertain times. This way, adaptability, data-driven decisions, and inspiration will become the primary drivers of your workforce.

How To Integrate Digital Natives And Digital-Ready Leaders in Your Remote Workforce

Integrating these kinds of talent into a remote company doesn’t just automatically happen when you hire them. It is important to consider the fundamental differences and traits of your team members, rather than simply expect them to work together. Strategically delegating their duties is what will determine your team’s success. 

Born-digital specialists tend to enjoy their independence and a certain degree of freedom. Assigning them a “boss’’ to hang over their shoulder – who possibly understands far less than them in a particular field – might result in diminished morale. Ultimately, this can leave their best ideas in their heads. 

Monitoring and surveillance are not the best shot with innovative people. On the contrary, they should be acknowledged as technical experts in their particular areas with a certain level of autonomy. On the flip side, digital natives are known to have lower interpersonal skills. They can encounter difficulties picking up on nonverbal cues.

Here is when digital-ready leaders step in putting the technical superiority of the digital natives to serve your 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.

If Your Business Was a Movie…

A digital-ready leader would be the director, the one with an overall vision. It is up to the leader to inspire, coordinate, make sure the film’s primary vision are always shining 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 the film plot in all its little tricks of the trait.

However, a good virtual leader will always know how to delegate tasks that require in-depth expertise. A director will know who to trust with editing, lighting, etc. Finding a 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 why tech is vital for businesses – after all, we are a remote recruitment agency with over a decade of experience! Our team can spot the best digital-ready leaders for your company in less than two weeks — if you want to know more, stay tuned and contact us!

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Petar Petrov

Petar Petrov

Petar Petrov is a freelance writer who works with DistantJob to research and synthesise the best remote work related content into practical, accurate and actionable guides and articles on how to improve remote leadership and better manage your teams.