We Created the Digital Generation. Now What?

We have been talking about Millennials and their influence on the workplace and society for a while now. In the meantime, the next generation—Gen Z or the Digital Generation—is rapidly coming of age and looking to reshape our world views once again.

What do we know about this Digital Generation of people born between 1996 and 2015?

It’s big. Approximately 32% of the current world population falls into the Digital Generation category, surpassing Millennials and Baby Boomers.

It’s diverse. In the United States, 48% are non-white and more than a third know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns.

It’s engaged. Activism is an essential part of individual identity for 73% of Gen Z members, and 60% believe that brands and corporations can do more to drive change than governments. When looking at potential employers, 77% say they factor diversity into their decisions.

It’s connected. Nearly 98% of Americans, Brits and Australians in this age group have smart phones and use them an average of three hours a day. In APAC, six hours or more is typical for about one-third of the Gen Z population. The average age for getting their first mobile phones? 10.3 years old.

The Digital Generation

While Gen Z may be the first product of the digital world, we are all inhabitants of it for better and worse. We’ve all seen the double-edged sword of a connected world—the same social media that brings us together also enables like-minded people to gather in echo chambers. Navigating the onslaught of information and misinformation is a challenge even for those of us who remember the days of local papers and shared news sources. It’s no wonder that the Digital Generation—capable of multitasking on five devices at once and with an 8-second attention span—finds itself vulnerable to the many influences of the digital world. Forty-two percent say social media shapes how they feel about themselves, and 68% read at least three product reviews before making a purchase.

Which is why all of us who live and work in the realm of technology play a special role in ensuring this world remains a safe, productive, and equitable space for all. At Avanade, this means having forward-looking leaders and seeing ourselves as stewards of sustainability and digital innovation in the world around us. We strive to do right by our clients, our people, and our communities as part of our commitment to be a responsible business.

Technology as a Tool for Positive Human Impact

As the CEO of a leading digital innovator, Avanade, I feel both pride and responsibility for how technology continues to shape our society. I believe it’s imperative that we keep humanity as our North Star as we innovate, which is why our company’s stated purpose is to make a genuine human impact. We’ve helped create the digital world in which we all work and live. And we are committed to providing a better human experience for current and future generations.

We see the human impact in the work our individual employees have been taking on during the COVID-19 pandemic, creating apps to help track ventilators and manage patient flow in regions where resources are stretched. We elevate the ability of nonprofits seeking to make positive change, like providing fresh, healthy meals to those who are hungry all across London. We help homeowners and large organizations assess and reduce their environmental impact using sensors and artificial intelligence to monitor energy usage. And we facilitate workplace flexibility with Microsoft solutions that enable people to work safely and efficiently both in and out of the office.

For several years, we’ve focused Avanade’s corporate citizenship efforts on closing the digital divide, especially for young people, so that everyone has an opportunity to participate in the digital world. We have nearly 100 Avanade STEM Scholars—young women around the world whom we’ve sponsored in their pursuits of university degrees. Our global corporate citizenship activities around closing the digital divide for youth became especially important during the global pandemic. We work with InterConnection to refurbish our laptops and get them into the hands of children in need. And last year, more than 1,000 Avanade volunteers worked with over 6,000 Junior Achievement youth through individual mentoring, group classes, and regional events.

Think Globally. Act Locally.

It is incredible to imagine the impact we could have when we harness our collective energy and expertise, and I would like to invite my fellow tech leaders to join me in committing to operating as a responsible business leader. While every organization needs to define exactly what that means to them, here are the pillars Avanade is using to become a force for positive human impact.

  • Values. Do your organization’s stated values reflect who you are and who you want to be? What are you doing to close the gap between reality and aspiration? How do you encourage and reward people who live out your values every day?
  • Purpose. Values cover who and what you are, and purpose articulates the why. What are you here to do as a company? What impact does your work have on your employees, your customers, your community and fellow citizens?
  • Citizenship. Are you focused on doing good in addition to doing well? This goes back to the title of this piece—we’ve created this digital world, now what are we going to do to make it a safe, inclusive, inhabitable one for all?

It is in our human nature to create and identify with groups; generational distinctions are no exception. So, as we watch the group that we have dubbed Digital Generation come of age in a world that is increasingly online and interconnected, I hope that my fellow digital innovators (one of my groups!) will join me in the group of responsible business leaders looking to leave this world better than we found it.


Author Pamela Maynard (pictured, top) is CEO of Avanade. Read more from Avanade here.

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