How Digital Natives Will Shape the Future of Work

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I recently dove deep into the future for a series called *Work: Reimagined, analyzing the trends shaping the future of work and determining five qualities that will be imperative for successful future leaders.


But it turns out I left something out. I didn’t factor in how our future leaders will be Digital Natives—born after the widespread adoption of digital technology. Computers, smartphones, and the Internet are second nature to them. How will that change things on an organizational level?

Let’s start with the four key factors I identified that will shape the future of work:

Key Factors That Will Influence The Future of Work:

Workforce Demographics Will Be Drastically Different

There is a huge workforce demographic shift headed our way within the next ten years <link>. Minorities will be the new majority, 40% of the workforce will leave as Baby Boomers retire, women are leaving the corporate world, and freelance workers—already 53 million strong—are predicted to make up 40% of the workforce by 2020.

Hierarchy and Centralization Will Be Gone

 A structural shift will take place as well, as the future of work will be stripped of centralization and function more like an ecosystem. Instead of a centralized company, we will have a holacracy, where authority and decision-making doesn’t travel from top to bottom. Instead, governance will come from self-organizing teams.

Success Will Be More Than Profit

Success metrics are also changing and profit won’t be the only thing that matters. Workers want to find purpose in their work, and organizations will need to have purpose-driven values in order to attract talent and stay relevant.

key factors of influence

Traditional Education Will Hold Less Value

 And here’s a shift that might seem surprising. (Ivy Leaguers—you might want to skip this paragraph.) In the future, a better degree won’t necessarily equal a better job. Brick-and-mortar schools may not be as important as they once were, with new access to free education via massive open online courses (MOOCs).

Now let’s talk about the factor that I forgot to include—all future leaders will be digital natives. How will that change organizations in the future?

Future Leaders Will Be Digital Natives

I turned to an expert, Dionne Lew, for that answer. She is the CEO of The Social Executive®, a consultancy advising boards and executives on social media for business. Additionally, she is the author of The Social Executive – How to Master Social Media and Why it’s Good for Business (Wiley), A Manifesto – Why Social Media is Vital for Leaders and the eBook Relevance! How to Thrive in the Social Era.

Her insights were excellent and I’m excited to share her answers with you here:

Future leaders will be digital natives. How with that change organizations of the future?

  • Digital won’t be special.

    It will be so integrated into how we operate that we won’t even think about it – we’ll be using it at every layer of the business.

  • We will demand and use data for decision-making.
  • We will change strategy in real time.

    This will be possible due to feedback loops directly into the community via digital communication.

  • We will expect information instantly.

    and have the skills, people and business structures that allow us to implement quick changes.

  • Our brains may be remapped.

    Physiologically we’re geared for homeostasis; so growing up in this environment may alter us neurologically.

  • Beware of data worshiping.

    We should not think that having data, mining data and understanding data is going to predict human behavior.

  • Real and virtual connectivity will be truly mixed.

    People want hybrid experiences. They research online and then shop in a store because they want to be near other people. An example of fully integrated connectivity would be sharing a meal with a family member who is a hologram beaming in from your phone.

Thank you so much Dionne Lew for your thoughtful and informed insight! 

Our workforce is continually changing. So is technology. As these two factors intertwine with humanity, our work lives will become more complex requiring strong vision, leadership and adaptability. Read more here about the five qualities future leaders must have to succeed.

Bob Dylan sums it up well in is his song, The Times They Are A-Changin’:

Come gather ’round people/ Wherever you roam/ And admit that the waters/ Around you have grown/ And accept it that soon/ You’ll be drenched to the bone./ If your time to you/ Is worth savin’/ Then you better start swimmin’/ Or you’ll sink like a stone/ For the times they are a-changin’.

Are you ready for the changes ahead? What aspect of the future of work are you most excited about? What aspect most worries you? Let us know in the comment section below, send me an email, or let’s talk about it on Twitter.

*To learn more about the future of work and the leaders that will come with it, check out my original article on Medium –> Portrait of a Future Leader

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