Digital Transformation Challenges Amongst Generation In The COVID-19 Pandemic

An article about digital transformation challenges in the COVID-19 pandemic amongst generations. 

Exactly one year ago, it was predicted that since Generation Z who were born as digital natives would be joining our workforce, there would be some changes in terms of working culture.

Most members of Gen Zers are still not yet old enough to be in the labor market; however, the oldest among them, 1997 and 1998 babies are turning 22 and 23 respectively in 2020, which means roughly more than 260 million (36 percent) will take over the global workforce in 2020. 

And because Generation Z is more comfortable using all the remote work tools and technology than any other previous generations (proof: they are all familiar with video platforms, social media, internet, texting, and other internet technology issues), more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations, and are on track to be the best-educated generation yet, still they have similar points of view to Millennials on major issues, they can get along with the previous generation and fill the gap.

Gen Zers not only will bring the trend of flexible working hours outside the office but also will actively attempt to detach from the daily grind and become digital nomads who are financially stable and explore the world. 

Digital Transformation Challenges Amongst Generation In The COVID-19 Pandemic

These young adults will bring some extra spices to the “working dish”. They are expected to be advanced, tech-savvy candidates for companies and care more about work-life balance.

The working remotely trend was anticipated to be one of the leading trends in the future due to the “working environment invasion” of Generation Z.

But despite all of the forecasts about the future of work made every year, nobody expects this working trend to expeditiously and flabbergastingly take place this soon. 

When the World Health Organization declared the outbreak at the end of January and a pandemic in March, the whole world screeched to a halt. All businesses of all kinds of industries started to seek solutions to face the looming threat.

The pandemic has caused severe damages to the economy, social and politics. In 1995, it was said that 
the likelihood of pandemics has increased over the last century due to globalization (increased in global travel and integration), urbanization, exploitation of the natural environment.

These pandemics cyclically occur and are unavoidable, but 
they all result in economic damage through multiple channels (fiscal shocks, long-term negative shocks to economic growth) and behavioral changes (physiological needs disruption). In 2020, the responses to COVID-19 are varied, but most businesses' key decision-makers all come to the same solution: digital transformation. 

Technology is no longer a choice, it is a fundamental strategy that must be intertwined within the business operations.

No need to mention why digital transformation is essential, it just made sense, especially in this rough time. While we have to stay at home and be in an active quarantine state, many companies have been operating via the internet. Remote work and online collaboration is the only choice.

Taking the retail industry, for example, the pandemic forced the closure of physical stores, nobody knows when we can have the in-store experience again. This disruption has left retailers around the world to decide they will utilize the power of technology to overcome the obstacles.

Most digital and omnichannel retailers like Amazon, Alibaba, Lazada, Apple, Wal-Mart Stores Inc, etc have pivoted more easily than the ones that prioritized physical stores and face-to-face engagement. We are now reaching the digital transformation expected level of the next five years

It is proved that any enterprises that want to be successful must integrate technology into their business operations (think of any big-name of any industry);

However, digital transformation isn’t the path that companies and organizations lean towards under normal conditions. The outbreak pushed everyone to adopt technologies and shift from in-store experiences to online platforms and applications.

Now for young adults who are digital natives (like Generation Z) and who were born in the cusp years of Millennial and Generation Z, this digital movement is not a problem at all, but for older generations, how the transformation took place was a total humongous task.

This is understandable since the transformation process was born in an emergency and forceful context. Older generations need to devise a strategy that allows them to integrate digital technologies into their business models and operations, the problem lies in their ability to pick up new technologies trends (this is just one of million reasons leading to unsuccessful digital transformation among all businesses).

A study conducted by Epsilon in 2018 has helped us to understand more about the interest, acceptance, and impact of new technologies amongst all generations.

Now because of the invention of technology, the concept of ‘Generation’ has exploded; therefore, we can rely on how different generations adopt technologies and trends to understand the gap and challenges each generation has to deal with when going through digital transformation in this critical time.

The Greatest Generation (1901 - 1924)

Those who experienced the Great Depression and World War II in their adulthood, they have little memory of the Great World since they were still babies in the period of 1914 - 1918. They have strong models of teamwork to overcome and progress.

Growing up without modern devices like TV, refrigerators, electricity, and AC, therefore, their communication and making financial decisions preference are face-to-face meetings. Their communication is via formal letters. The Greatest Generation is considered the slowest generation to adopt technology in their life since the youngest amongst them is now 96 years old in 2020.

The Silent Generation (1924 - 1945)

Some early babies of this generation also experienced the Great Depression and World War II while growing up. They are hardworking, respect authority, traditional, and loyal employees. However, just like the previous generations, they also prefer face-to-face communication and formal letters to be their communication media. The Silent Generation can be tech-challenged. They are Frank Sinatra, Swing, Jazz, Mickey Mouse generation. 

Baby Boomers (1946 - 1964)

The Telegraph has the best description of this generation:

"Those born in the years after World War II, when there was – thanks to soldiers returning home – a significant spike in births, both in America and in Britain. These are the men and women who tuned in, got high, dropped out, dodged the draft, swung in the Sixties, and became hippies in the Seventies. Some, like Bill Clinton, made it to the White House. Idealistic and uncynical, this was the generation that fought the cold war and smashed down the Berlin Wall."

They are goal-centric, mentally focused, strong work ethic, self-assured, and disciplined, they may not be digital natives, but they can utilize technology tools in their learning journey and working culture. Ideally, they prefer face-to-face meet up but email and telephone can be applied if required

Digital transformation consultants who work with Baby Boomers should respect their personal experience as it is one of the strongest traits of them. There will probably be a strong resistance when their working environment turned upside down into a digital business with all the digital strategies. 

Baby boomer Sandra Bullock is one of the famous American actresses

And of course the famous Bill Gates

Generation X (1965 - 1980)

Generation X kids often grew up with divorced or career-driven parents. In the workplace, they are more direct than Millennials and Generation Z and embrace work-life balance compared to their parents.

They don’t care about niceties and don’t let negative feedback keep them up at night. This generation is deemed as the renaissance of entrepreneurship. And because Gen Xers are digital immigrants who have a hybrid relationship with technology, their signature product is computers, plus they are more adept at collaboration.

The reason is that they were adults by the time smartphones came into play, they spent years without screen and focused on developing their interpersonal skills. The research shows that only 40 percent of Gen Xers use their phones more than an hour per day compared to their next demographic cohort.

Taking the famous American TV sitcom ‘Friends’ for an example, they illustrate the generation perfectly when they spent most of their time networking with each other at the coffee house and later on started to adopt new technology like mobile phones and computers.

Moreover, this generation is more comfortable with the idea of changing since their working years are filled with so many technological innovations and advances. But time is necessary for them to adapt to new changes. Research also shows that Generation X has more negative feedback towards new technologies like AI, they don’t like the idea of experiences driven by algorithms.

Millennials (1981 - 1996)

Millennials are sophisticated and technology-wise. They are immune to almost traditional marketing since they have experienced it all since childhood. The younger Millennials can be considered as digital natives in some developed countries, but the older one is also digital immigrants like the previous generation. They used to rapid change and believe that every change brings improvements.

Since 75 percent of the workforce will be Millennials by 2025, they welcome any change related to technology and digital transformation. When it comes to attitude toward their career, they believe that they work with organizations, not for. Therefore, if they suggest any digital transformation idea, they expect to be listened to.

Generation Z (1997 - 2012)

Most members of Gen Z are digital natives (not so much in developing and least developed countries). They have integrated technology effortlessly since the youngest age. If newspapers are indispensable to The Silent Generation and Baby Boomers then computers, smartphones, tablets are Gen Zers’ “food, air, water”. They are technology savvy and expected to experiment with Google Glass, 3D computing, driverless cars, and nano-computing. They consume media on a daily basis and find their inspiration, motivation, and entertainment mainly on the Internet. So far, Gen Z is the only generation that has positive viewpoints toward VR, and eSports.

Even though the media has portrayed them as some screen addicts and have attention problems, the truth is, Gen Zers are feeling pressured since they are not taken seriously by the previous generation because of their lack of experience. They want to be heard and believe that their ideas are not less valuable compared to members of the older generation.

Furthermore, Generation Z welcome changes since they were born and raised in a fast-changing world. They constantly seek new ideas and how to leverage resources (technology). They spend hours online seeking information and engage communication there. Despite receiving many head shakes from their predecessors, this generation is still so important. It is proved that they are the largest group of consumers by 2020 and influence 93 percent of household purchases. 

While they are eventually joining the future workforce, the world is eager to see further digital transformation movements due to Gen Zers step up in the industries.

In conclusion

Now as we all know, digitally transforming businesses is not easy, there are strategies and steps to follow. As if it is not difficult enough, the COVID-19 even pushes companies to take action as fast as possible.

But not every generation is born-digital natives and willing to change. Resistance, of course, because of the generation’s traits and the growing up situation. These factors shape how each of them reacts differently to changes during this hazardous time.

While the Millennials and Generation Z may find this pandemic time an opportunity and an exciting challenge to overcome, much more negative reactions by Gen X and Baby Boomers are noted. Facing a sudden digital transformation in this time can be a discombobulating experience, but a quick shift and action are priorities, forcing whoever in the workforce to take action. 

Members of C-suite around the world might be seeking a solution at this time: digital transformation consulting service.

By understanding the traits of each generation, consultants can make more precise decisions and have different approaches depending on their customers. Once the personalized plan is developed, the situation will hopefully turnaround during and post the COVID-19 time.