Gen Z is the generation of digital natives with impressive exposure to modern technology, but when they enter the workforce, they find themselves struggling with the technology used in working environments. The modern workplace setting boasts stackable monitors, laptops, smartphones, big data, high-speed internet, and hyperconnectivity, but it also offers the same old office equipment like printers, scanners, and copiers, which Gen Z is not familiar with.
Professor Sarah Dexter, Director of the Computer Information Systems program at the University of New Hampshire, describes that the common perception is that Gen Zers are inherently tech-savvy, given their extensive exposure to digital devices at a young age, leading them to be more confident in technology-based scenarios than traditional ones.
However, it is important to understand that they are the geniuses of the digital world because they are so adept at adapting to new software, smartphone applications, and the latest social media platforms. With modern technology comes breakthroughs in communication and productivity, but those improvements can be for naught if the young people express “tech shame” around these traditional machines that require a different set of skills altogether.
Tech shame describes the unpleasant sensation that Generation Z faces of not knowing how to use traditional office machines, leaving them feeling embarrassed and as if they are out of touch with their colleagues. According to HP, around 25% of Gen Z users between 18-24 years admitted to pretending that they knew what they were doing with traditional office equipment while having no idea how to operate them.
Such a problem can lead to severe consequences ranging from lower productivity, poor output, and missed deadlines, leading to poor job performance and job dissatisfaction. The attitude of tech-shame and the wrong assumption of inherent tech-savvy only hinders their work performance and job satisfaction.
The struggles with the “old” technology become apparent when new hires such as 25-year-old Garrett Bemiller start working at a law firm and find themselves struggling to operate the copy machine. Despite being tech-savvy in the digital realm, Bemiller and his peers are at a disadvantage in traditional offices, where file folders and the physical organization of documents are commonplace.
Unlike the practice of using Google at home, searching through file folders and directories on a computer is still time-efficient for many business practices, necessitating a new skill set in-office organization.
According to the 2018 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, Generation Z accounts for around 16 million workers out of the total number in the workforce. As a massive chunk of the workforce enters the office with inadequate skills and understanding of the traditional office machines, it’s crucial to ensure skills in using software and traditional office equipment are part of a Gen Z employee’s onboarding process.
Companies must recognize this skill gap and offer onboarding programs that cover the necessary techniques, allowing younger employees to work more efficiently and effectively in the office. The tech innovation companies should also invest in machine-learning algorithms to train and identify skill gaps in younger employees and prepare them better for traditional office equipment.
With the world’s technologies continuing to evolve with advancements around every corner, new technological hurdles will arise in workplaces. Companies must play their part in bridging the skill gap between the generations and ensuring that the knowledge transfer is smooth, efficient and effective. With investments in employee training at the forefront of every company’s onboarding process, Generation Z and their “tech shame” can be a thing of the past.
Companies may also introduce more modern solutions and implement new technologies, making it easier for younger employees to feel confident about the learning curve of traditional office equipment. With technology evolving at lightning speed, it’s essential during this period of transition to make sure your company, your office and your employees are equipped to work with both modern technology and traditional office equipment.