… et ils débarqueront bientôt sur le marché du travail.
Le Financial Times de la semaine dernière publiait un article (article payant) de Lee Rainie, directeur du Pew Internet & American Life Projet, sur ces nouveaux arrivants qui envahiront bientôt le marché du travail, ces jeunes âgés aujourd’hui de 15 à 18 ans, les natifs du numérique.
Le titre en lui même (They are the future And they’re coming soon to a workplace near you The next generation of your staff is challenging the accepted ways of doing things in the business world.) est évocateur du reste de l’article (Lee Rainie explains who they are and why they are different – and what employers need to think about to attract the best.).
Dès le premier paragraphe, la table est mise avec cet extrait de l’étude de Mark Prensky:
As consultant Marc Prensky calculates it, the life arc of a typical 21-year-old entering the workforce today has, on average, included 5,000 hours of video game playing, exchange of 250,000 e-mails, instant messages, and phone text messages, 10,000 hours of mobile phone use. To that you can add 3,500 hours of time online.
Our work at the Pew Internet Project shows that an American teen is more likely than its parents to own a digital music player such as an iPod, to have posted writing, pictures or video on the internet, to have created a blog or profile on a social networking website such as MySpace, to have downloaded digital content – songs, games, movies or software, and to have snapped a photo or video with a phone.
D’ailleurs, Prensky met en perspective l’âge de ces nouveaux travailleurs avec l’arrivée des technologies récentes, dont le web:
« Today’s younger workers are not ‘little us-es’, » argues Mr Prensky, an educator, gaming expert, and author of Don’t Bother Me, Mom – I’m Learning. « Their preference is for sharing, staying connected, instantaneity, multi-tasking, assembling random information into patterns, and using technology in new ways. Their challenge to the established way of doing things in the business world has already started. »
Those challenges often flow from young workers’ embrace of technologies that have grown up with them. Today’s 21-year-old was born in 1985 – 10 years after the first consumer computers went on sale. When this young worker entered public school in 1990, Tim Berners-Lee wrote a computer program called the World Wide Web. Our worker’s college career saw the rise of blogs, Wikipedia, MySpace, Del.icio.us, Skype, podcasts, and YouTube.
Mais voilà, la réalité est que ces jeunes immigrants du numérique se heurtent à un marché du travail où règne en roi, les immigrants et les analphabètes du monde numérique. Clash en perspective.
Now, this 21-year-old and his peers are showing up in human resources offices as digital natives in a world dominated by digital immigrants – elders who often feel less at ease with new technologies. Here are five realities of the digital natives’ lives that must be understood by their new employers:
Les 5 réalités que les employeurs doivent comprendre et assimiler avant de songer engager un des ces jeunes, réalités sur lesquelles nous reviendront au cours des prochains jours :
*Reality 1: They are video gamers with different expectations about how to learn, work, and pursue careers.
A host of experts has affirmed that today’s young workers have internalised the new realities of work. « Job entrants now do not expect lifetime employment from a single employer, » argues Edward Lawler, co-author of the forthcoming book, The New American Workplace. « To them, the word ‘career’ is plural. »
These attitudes clearly reflect the larger realities of the changing nature of work. Yet there is also some evidence that the ethos of video gaming plays a role. John Beck and Mitchell Wade argue in Got Game: How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping Business Forever that games are the « training programs » for young workers (especially males) that help shape the way they behave in a world full of data-streams, where analysis and decisions come at twitch speed, where failure at first is the norm, where the game player is the hero, and where learning takes place informally.
For companies, this puts a premium on designing engaging work that allows workers to make a clear contribution and be rewarded for the same. If « organisation man » has become « gaming man », then the importance of worker morale is elevated – as is the value of basing work on completed tasks, rather than other measures of work effort such as hours on the job. « Give them projects to complete and then stand out of the way, » argues James Ware, who helps run Future of Work, an organisation for facilities, IT and human resources professionals based in Prescott, Arizona. « These kids quit when they are frustrated trying to finish a quest that will ‘get them to the next level’. »
*Reality 2: They are technologically literate, but that does not necessarily make them media literate.
Our research has found consistently that the dominant metaphor for the internet in users’ minds is a vast encyclopedia, especially among younger users, who have grown up relying on it to complete school assignments, perhaps too often clipping and pasting from websites into term papers.
Sandra Gisin, who oversees knowledge and information management at reinsurance giant Swiss Re, says her colleagues marvel at the speed with which younger workers communicate and gather information. But she has had bad experiences with younger workers accepting uncritically the top results from a Google search: she says the firm will begin training programmes next year to teach workers how to evaluate information and to stress that « not all the best information is free ».
Dow Jones news organisations have similar worries. They have created programmes for journalism educators and reporters-in-training to drive home the point that journalists should not rely on a web source without checking its origin and confirming the information in other ways. « We drive home the point that it’s not good enough to say, ‘I read it on the internet’, without taking other steps to verify it, » notes Clare Hart, president of Dow Jones Enterprises.
At the same time, younger workers’ comfort with online tools can be a boon to marketing departments. Ms Hart, 45, says younger workers on the staff « convinced us baby boomers » to put more information from Dow Jones conference presentations online and to create podcasts of the best of them. Since then, e-mail offering podcasts is opened about 20 per cent more frequently than traditional marketing e-mail.
*Reality 3: They are content creators and that shapes their notions about privacy and property.
More than half of American teenagers have created and shared content online. They think of the internet as a place where they can express their passions, play out their identities, and gather up the raw material they use for their creations.
So, why shouldn’t a young employee think it clever and fun to post on his blog pictures of Apple computers being delivered to the loading bay at Microsoft headquarters? That is what Michael Hanscom, a temporary employee for a Microsoft vendor, did and was fired for violating the company’s non-disclosure rules.
In the many-to-many broadcast environment of the internet, the prospects for data haemorrhage from companies have grown exponentially. Clearly, companies need to create policies about how internal bloggers should treat company information, what kinds of intellectual property need to be protected, and basic norms of behavior that should guide people who want to create online material.
*Reality 4: They are product and people rankers and that informs their notions of propriety.
This is the wisdom-of-crowds generation that grew up rating peers’ physical attributes (amihotornot.com), pop culture creations (Amazon metacritic.com reviews), teachers’ style and grading practices (ratemyprofessors.com), and products (epinions.com). No surprise, then, that there are websites drawing decent traffic for people to rate their bosses, their clients, and their customers. The tone of online commentary is often racy and retaliatory.
So, organisations might ponder a new clause or two in the policy manual about online etiquette inside and outside the workplace. « Most companies have policies in place against harassment based on things like sex, race, and ethnicity, » says Lynn Karoly, an economist at the RAND Corporation who has studied the 21st century
workplace. « But we should probably create new categories of policies to handle unacceptable online behaviours where liability might emerge. »
*Reality 5: They are multi-taskers often living in a state of « continuous partial attention », where the boundary between work and leisure is quite permeable.
The ubiquity of gadgets and media allows younger workers to toggle back and forth quickly between tasks for work and chatter with their friends. Many marvel at their capacity to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously. An even sharper insight comes from Linda Stone, a technology consultant, who has noted that many technophiles function in a condition she refers to as « continuous partial attention », where they are scanning all available data sources for optimum inputs.
Those who operate in such a state are not as productive as those who stay on task. They also do not make distinctions between the zones of work and leisure, consumer and producer, education and entertainment. « Their worlds bleed together, » argues Charles Grantham, another principal at the Future of Work. « It is pretty useless to try to draw borders around different spheres for them. It’s better to let them shift among them at their choosing as long as the work gets done. »
Again, companies would be wise to spell out their tolerance levels for the amount of personal activity workers are allowed and their expectations about the availability of workers outside the office and after hours.
Many companies see no option but to embrace the world of digital natives. Agilent Technologies, a top global measurement company, began early this year to distribute iPod Nanos to new employees hired from US college campuses. The Nanos were preloaded with podcasts describing each of the benefits offered by the company, such as the 401(k) retirement plan and options for health insurance. « The college kids loved getting the benefit overviews preloaded on the iPod, while our older workers often preferred to read about these things on our website, » notes human resources manager Cathy Taylor. « There are different generational learning styles. »
Still, the ethic of podcasting information is now spreading through the company and some of those older workers have caught the bug, too. For a recent retirement party, staff from Agilent’s far-flung offices collaborated on a podcast for the retiree. « You Raise Me Up » by Andrea Bocelli was dubbed over the voiced well-wishes and the podcast was played over a WebEx teleconference. « It was a first for a virtual retirement party, » enthuses Taylor. « We’ll be doing it again. »