Management and the digital native

 Today everything around us has gone tech. The need to have everything in place while being “on the move” is something that every person looks forward to. Apparel, furnishings, FMCG, food, housing, you name it and the internet provides you with a solution to bring it within your reach. This tsunami of digitization is being readily lapped up by a generation that drives the future. And it is this generation about whom the world is talking and taking notice of their activities.


The beginning of it all:

Digital natives, also expressed by some as Generation Me, are now entering or planning to come into the job market. This generation’s private activities, fashioned by growing up on a digital planet, will show strong effects on the future of business and the relations between employers and employees.

Older generations had an outlook of management which could be considered close to having a demigod status. Contemporary graduates have a different understanding of leadership and management. Previously managers had the powers because of their title. Digital natives on the other hand, follow the right individual who will lead them to eventual success. So, in case of ineffective managers, who do not seem to be equipped to lead the team; the digital natives will identify the most effective person and will tag along with him or her regardless of their title, or lack of it. This is not rebelliousness but somewhat a fresh, more valuable manner of running inter-team dynamics.


Graduates in their late-20s can be viewed as being superficial or casual as they experience the recently popular, “quarter-life crisis”. They question after years of study, whether the current job profile is what they would identify with, and many change careers before they’ve even started. On the face of their career, many of them don’t really recognize what it is that they covet. As a result, the aspiration for a dream job is not always in line by the facility to express what that job is.

Digital Natives are an exceedingly networked generation which is further facilitated by growing technology. Social networking is a primary element of the manner that they function. Expecting them to leave this way of being linked with the wider network when they arrive into the workplace will swiftly take them out to look for another place to work.

They carry technology with them and make use of social and tech tools for everything. Such an attitude is clearly seen in cases when they are provided with old hand-me-down tech, or expect them to perform with shoddy hardware or software; their dissatisfaction will be expressed in the substandard work that they will deliver. Their caliber is such that they will be managing their own world with new technology that they bring themselves at the same time, while the employer’s substandard tech lies on their desks.

B- Schools bringing a change:

B-school’s have a lot of smart populace. This is a fact no matter which way you look at it. Most institutes nowadays are also packed with people the internet likes to call digital natives. The type – whose understanding of pop culture is better than their knowledge of finance, for whom NSFW (not safe for work) means categorically open everywhere and who keep one eye on their Facebook feeds regardless of posting modestly.

It is not fairly close to the digital native Marc Prensky had thought whilst he wrote his influential study in 2001. As per Prensky, the main barrier this digital generation runs into is education, in particular the digital students being educated by analogue faculty. Having sat through classes in different domains and multiple locations, I have somewhat diverse outlook on this.

Today’s trial with the group of digital natives old enough to attend b-school is that we are the generation who tailored ourselves to the digital universe during the path of our lives. We were not born into it, we did not have access to tablets and mobiles at the age of five and we had to acclimatize to live our lives on Orkut, Facebook and Twitter. Now this adaptation has moved to such a height that we have become gripped to the digiverse in a way very similar to addictions seen with teens and other drugs related issues. It is a new side of the world we know which is exposed to agile minds at a time when learning latest skills is easy. With this logic, we are not the exact digital natives. The ‘originals’ are the ones who are being born today, yesterday or anytime after the iPod became a commodity.

B-schools have had to settle themselves to this imminent tide. Everyone identifies the fact that learning is on the rise and will one day be wholly digital. That gamification will puff out through the education system and future MBA scholars will be trained on negotiation from playing a hostage game or value capture from counter strike. However the challenge is that schools have tried to push “digitization” to an audience that does not necessarily use the plethora of resources aptly. How many of us in fact use more than one digital source to get real work done? What percentage of the bandwidth consumed across professional institutes, is Facebook and YouTube and why is no one alarmed that it is so high that it would call for tough actions?

I’m no special, every time I gazed about in class, I always saw a few scholars (ok more than a few) fiddling with devices for various motives. Institutes have to outline a system to keep students suitably focused as this generation of naturalized digital natives, will by no means be truly native.

Addressing the unknown:

So, who are digital natives and what makes them unusual? Are they an opportunity, a threat or both? How can business use their explicit behaviors and mindsets to function productively? We explore some of these key characteristics to help counter these questions.

Digital revolution in the industry is generating new revenue streams for businesses but it is the generation of “digital natives” that is set to bring good yield. Nearly all international brands are trying to reinvent their industries by providing new digital services, crafting new sales channels and developing technology to get in touch with new global customers. In the path of doing so, they are opening up career prospects for tech-savvy business managers in departments and services areas that did not exist years ago.

As per a study by Capgemini, 77% businesses regard lack of digital proficiency an obstacle to their digital makeover. The quest to extract digital understanding is driving a requirement for highly trained graduates. Financial services group American Express (Amex), for example, plans to hire 250 MBAs in 2015 as part of its “digital renovation”. Technological change is one major reason for the sheer pace of this growth. Tech has renovated the face of how commercial businesses were run, from retail to banking to media. Cities like Bengaluru, Pune, NCR and Mumbai are home to more digitally-led organizations than other urban areas in most of Europe and the UK. Biz schools say there are prospects for MBAs to create their mark across the globe, particularly in management consulting.

MBA graduates bring a fresh approach and understanding of digital perspective into consulting companies. The understanding of digital services will be a key prerequisite for all consulting posts. A gush in hiring at the tech wings of big strategic quarters like Accenture and Deloitte is determined by the revenues of new service channels. Digital and tech services amplified their allocation of consulting profits by 6% last year, accounting for a quarter of income.

Digitization of media sector is one such trade area which is in dire want of managers. Managements talk about skill shortage on the rise, and biz schools have established professional MBA programs for various industries, including the much hyped media industry. An MBA with awareness of the trade will certainly be a valuable asset. Cable companies are moving content online. HBO in recent times stated about a new separate digital service, while online distributors such as YouTube are on the rise.

International advertising and marketing corporations have also been increasing their hiring to match with the pace of digital growth. Businesses say they value MBAs skilled in data analytics. As per Maurice Lévy, CEO a key French conglomerate, Publicis Groupe: To break new ground in today’s world of advertising, citizens need to have a high “technology quotient”.

Microsoft runs an internship program which takes in 75 MBAs per year, and they also are into recruiting about 300 students into full-time roles. The online retailer Amazon has also been the leading recruiter at various b-schools over the past two years. This upsurge owes to the fact that MBAs are strong problem solvers and analytical thinkers, thereby making them become a part of the potential leadership pipeline. MBAs blossom at strategic spots as they can take the ownership of big projects and work out hard problems for clients. Amex has opened up its employment process, and is targeting b-schools at the US, UK and India. In actuality, American Express is in the center of an exhilarating digital transformation and this presents infinite breaks for MBA grads.


The outlook of digital natives for the world is very different, even to those who are perhaps less than a decade older to them. Today’s university grads have most likely spent at least 50% more time using their digital toys than reading. In India, China and Japan, this figure is considered to be even more. Does this make them less intelligent or less educated than the previous generation? No it doesn’t. It only means that their learning patterns are different and they bring this divergence into the workplace. Digital natives live and work in a world where information moves at the speed of lightening. Pictographics play a significant role; milennials like to multi-task and they perform their best when networked. It all begins from within and how the leadership deals with their young digital native employees.

To conclude, it is highly likely that the future will hold a challenge for digital natives: if they are inclined to develop an aptitude for leadership, they must hone some emotional intelligence, or else the control will be possessed by a handful of senior web savvy folks who are more able to internalize information (since they are supported by technology) and with superior social skills (they learnt during their life).

Contributed by Deeba, (Class of 2013, IBS Gurgaon)


  1. Interesting research. It feels good to know that the power of young crowd is being noticed by the large MNC’s.
    I also liked how you linked the different studies with the power of management education.

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