Today’s young employees are the engines of the knowledge economy and tomorrow’s business leaders. And according to The Born Digital Effect, the latest research from Citrix Systems, Inc. , they’re primed to deliver an extra $1.9 trillion in corporate profits. But they’ll need some help to pull it off.
Made up of Millennials (born 1981 to 1996) and Generation Z (born after 1997) workers, the Born Digital are the first generation to grow up in an entirely digital world, and now account for most of the global workforce.
“These young employees are different from previous generations in that they have only ever known a tech-driven world of work,” said Donna Kimmel, Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer, Citrix. “To shore up their future business success, companies must understand their values, career aspirations and working styles and invest in their development.”
To help them do this, Citrix, together with Coleman Parkes Research and Oxford Analytica, conducted The Born Digital Effect, a study that combined global opinion research from 1,000 business leaders and 2,000 knowledge workers in 10 countries to understand what the Born Digital want from work, with economic modeling to quantify the impact they can have on business and the larger economy.
A Fundamental Disconnect
And it revealed that when it comes to understanding what engages and motivates younger workers, leaders are out of touch. Among the key findings:
Job stability, upskilling, and quality workplace technology matter most to employees – Faced with an uncertain job environment, younger workers in India are most focused on work factors like career stability and security (94%), opportunities for additional qualifications, training, or re-skilling (93%), and access to quality workplace technology (92%). Leaders, on the other hand, think young workers prioritize a competitive remuneration package and job satisfaction over all other work factors.
Leaders overestimate office appeal – Globally, 90% of Born Digital employees do not want to return to full-time office work post-pandemic, preferring a remote or hybrid model instead. This number is 76% for India, where:
- 48% want to remain working from home most or all of the time. Their leaders voted in stark contrast at 14%
- 11% would like hybrid working with more time in the office
- 17% would like hybrid working with time evenly split between home and the office
- 23% would like to be in the office full time
While they may prefer to work remote, 86% of Born Digital workers in India recognize that social interaction is crucial in a business context, which is significantly higher than the global average (68%).
“As companies move forward in enabling work from anywhere, they will need to provide opportunities for employees to come together both physically in offices and virtually from home to keep them connected, engaged and prepared for the future of work,” Kimmel said.
More than anything, the Born Digital want employers who give them flexibility and choice – Although a five-day week is still a popular working pattern, the Born Digital in India believe that employers should offer the opportunity to work a four-day week (76%) to promote employee well-being post-pandemic. When given a choice, this generation expects to be able to decide when to begin and end their working day (22%), and a few want to work unstructured or output-based hours (4%).
And they want to be given freedom and an environment to grow – When asked to identify the three most important aspects of company culture they look for in choosing an employer, the Indian Born Digital cited:
- Autonomy, or the opportunity to work in a high-trust environment (90%)
- Innovation at its core (90%)
- Priority towards learning and development (90%)
Family and well-being take center stage – A striking 90% of Born Digital in India expect employers to have a better understanding of family commitments, compared to the global average of 74%. Also, 92% of Born Digital workers in India say they would prioritize employee wellbeing as they advance in their career.
Young workers and leaders inhabit different digital worlds – Only 19% of Indian business leaders use instant messaging apps like Slack or WhatsApp for work purposes, compared to 89% of Born Digital employees in India. And only 21% of Indian business leaders like using these apps for work, compared to 92% of Born Digital workers. Interestingly, in India, 90% of Born Digital employees will focus on increasing workspace technology in the future, if they were to take on leadership roles.
Purpose is a privilege, not a priority – Only 34% of Born Digital employees in India would leave an organization that lacked purpose, compared to 72% of Indian business leaders. And only 31% would leave a role if they felt that the culture did not reflect their personality adequately, compared to 64% of business leaders.
Digital technology is the future – Over four-fifth (86%) of Born Digital employees in India believe that the pandemic has shown that their organization needs to invest more in digital technology, while only 16% of business leaders believe this is the case.
As the data makes clear, today’s business leaders are clearly disconnected from what the Born Digital really want from work. And in order to unlock their full potential and the value they can deliver, they need to plug in.
The Future is in Their Hands
“Successfully attracting and retaining the Born Digital will require organizations to invest in the work model and tools to create the flexible, efficient and engaged work environment that this next generation of leaders craves and thrives in,” said Tim Minahan, Executive Vice President of Business Strategy, Citrix. “And there is clear commercial benefit to doing so.”
To quantify these benefits, Citrix worked with economists to build an economic model that assessed the impact of Born Digital employees on companies’ profitability, examining the relationship between the size of a country’s Born Digital population and the profitability of that country’s businesses.
“As the model shows, businesses in countries with above-average Born Digital populations can see an increase in corporate profits equivalent to more than the entire market capitalization of the FTSE 100,” said Minahan.
Countries in the study with relatively well-developed education systems or younger populations compared to their peers – such as the US, China, the UAE, Mexico, the UK and the Netherlands – are benefiting most from the Born Digital dividend as their above-average Born Digital populations are helping to ensure their businesses enjoy greater profitability, now and in the future. For countries like India whose Born Digital population is just 0.4% of the total population, the negative impact on companies’ profits is up to $221 billion.
“The Born Digital are the C-Suite of the future and in 2035, the success or failure of business – and the global economy – will be in their hands,” Minahan said. “To secure it, companies need to cultivate younger workers and adapt their workplaces and working practices to groom them today.”