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The Digital Natives Report

The Digital Natives Report – an independent survey commissioned by Advanced – explores the attitudes of over 1,000 UK senior business decision makers across multiple generations and illustrates the role of the younger generation which now makes up a large part of today’s workforce.


As a new cohort of people – Generation Z – enters the workforce, employers are increasingly forced to accommodate the demands for modern technology, flexible working and a digital environment. Both Generation Z and Millennials currently account for 38 per cent of the workforce – a figure that is expected to shoot up to 58 per cent during this new decade – so there is no denying that the workplace of the future is going to look remarkably different. And, rightly so. This younger generation could arguably be seen as the silver bullet for helping organisations successfully meet the growing pressure to be digital-by-default. Because, like it or not, digital transformation is an essential component for business growth.

However, right now, organisations are faced with accommodating five generations of workers – Traditionalists (born before 1945), Baby Boomers (born 1945-1964), Generation X (born 1965-1980), Millennials (born 1981-1994), and Generation Z (born after mid-1995). It makes for an extremely challenging workplace when all generations have varying levels of technology expectation and knowledge.

Our report delves into this detail. It highlights the differences, along with any similarities, across the generations asking whether organisations are doing enough to attract the younger generation and if they are giving them a share of voice when it comes to technology adoption.



Every business should – and can – be a digital business. After all, technology can improve how organisations operate and how their people work. It’s therefore encouraging to see a significant increase in the adoption of innovative technologies. So what kind of technologies are we talking about? Our report suggests this largely depends on the age of the employee.

Nearly twice as many Generation Z workers, for example, see chatbots in their daily working lives compared to the over 55s. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the most used technology among Generation Z, at an impressive 40 per cent – much higher than the Traditionalists and Baby Boomers at 28 per cent. Wearable technology, virtual reality and blockchain are also gaining popularity among Generation Z.

Which of the following technology trends are you seeing in your daily working life?

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Every generation – with the exception of Generation Z – is seeing the Cloud, more than any other technology trend, in their daily working lives. The reason for this view among the under 25s is unclear, but one could argue that Generation Z workers perceive the Cloud as a given, or do not even consider it as a separate form of computing – it’s a tool they expect because their life has been based on accessible, mobile technology from a young age. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that Microsoft’s flagship Cloud product, Office 365, gains on average three million new users every month. It enables teams to chat which, according to the tech giant, Generation Z workers prefer to do more than any other age group.

Which of the following technology trends are you seeing in your daily working life? (Cloud software/services)

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What’s clear is that the younger generation has an enormous appetite for new technology. As much as 80 per cent of Generation Z and 81 per cent of Millennials would be happy to work alongside robotic technology if it meant less manual processes. This drops down to 59 per cent for the Traditionalists and Baby Boomers.

What’s more, 64 per cent of Generation Z think a robot would be better at decision making than their boss if it had access to the right business intelligence, a stark difference to the 39 per cent of the over 55s.

The perceived benefits of using such technologies are varied, and might come as a surprise. For Generation Z, the biggest benefit when adopting innovative technologies is improved profits at 40 per cent whereas, for Millennials and the over 55s, increased productivity is top (40 per cent and 41 per cent respectively). The report also finds big differences of opinion among the multiple generations about the benefits of real-time information, business continuity and support of innovation when embracing new technologies.

What will you benefit from most when adopting new and innovative technologies?

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A word on security

Finally, an appetite for innovative technology brings concerns around security. 64 per cent of Generation Z workers feel new technologies such as AI would put their company at greater risk of a cyber attack (compared to 43 per cent for the over 55s) while 62 per cent feel they would put their company at greater risk of non-compliance (compared to 36 per cent for the over 55s).

Do you feel new technologies will put your company at greater risk of cyber-attack or non-compliance with regulations?

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The reality is that these innovative tools are more secure than legacy technology systems. They have been designed and developed with security in mind right from the start – and built to perform in the connected world.



There is a role for everyone – regardless of age – to play in helping businesses become digital-by-default. As such, leaders need to understand how to appeal to multiple generations, and address the needs of different personalities and employee types that come with them. They also need to discover the strengths of each person and use them to their organisation’s advantage.

The report, however, suggests that leaders are not doing enough. 20 per cent of Generation Z workers say a lack of diversity and multi-generation experience will hold their organisation back from modernising its key business processes or systems. In contrast, only 8 per cent of Traditionalists and Baby Boomers agree. They say the biggest barrier to modernisation is cost (53 per cent).

What would hold your organisation back from modernising its key business processes or systems with new technologies?

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These barriers clearly need to be addressed. Otherwise, organisations will potentially be deterred from transforming. Companies with a dependency on legacy technology will spend more money maintaining aging systems than modernising them – a cost that will only increase over time. A key trigger for this is the employees who have spent decades managing legacy applications are now beginning to retire – taking the vital skills they have acquired with them.

Businesses with a more diverse workforce can typically migrate with less disruption. The reason is that the younger generations are more likely to have the required flexibility of technology skills to use these modern solutions.

40 per cent of Generation Z say the most important attribute for a business leader in the digital era is to ensure their leadership team is diverse enough to bring a mix of skills and experience. This is seen as far more salient than the ability to react with pace, or have a clear vision amidst uncertainty which, for the over 55s, is of significant importance.

The biggest difference across the generations is their view on work-life balance. Just 4 per cent of Generation Z workers say the most important attribute for leaders is to proactively encourage a work-life balance among their workforce. This suggests that striking a balance between professional and home life isn’t an issue, perhaps because they typically have less to juggle, with fewer responsibilities in terms of house, children and so on.

What do you think are the most important attributes for a business leader in the digital era?

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What’s interesting is that the younger generation has the most confidence in their leaders. In fact, 42 per cent of Generation Z workers are ‘very confident’ in the leadership of their company to run a modern digital business – compared to 32 per cent for Millennials and 19 per cent for over 55s.

One explanation for this could be that the older generation, having already spent decades working, are more likely to feel disenchanted. The younger generation, on the other hand, are new to the world of work and are therefore more likely to feel optimistic and have fresh perspectives. What’s more, Generation Z workers are at the start of their career so, naturally, they are more driven. They are constantly learning to advance in their field – and technology is part of that.

Or perhaps it could be that these younger workers, who as we know are digitally savvy, are confident that innovative technologies will enable management to successfully run their business.

Leaders need to tackle these differences head on, creating a workplace that will enable and successfully use the skills of a radically more diverse workforce than the one we have seen up until now. They cannot afford to ignore Generation Z entering the workforce but, equally, they must also make the most of the older workers who bring a level of life and business experience that no other generation can provide.



To thrive and survive in today’s economy, businesses need to become digital businesses. And it is Generation Z’s innate technology skills that can benefit the entire workforce.

Just over half of Traditionalists and Baby Boomers (51 per cent) think learning from the younger generation will help meet their organisations’ digital demands – higher than any other age group. What’s more, 61 per cent of them think maximising the skills of multiple generations will help. Interestingly, this is almost double when compared to Generation Z (30 per cent).

Perhaps this means Generation Z workers feel that only the younger generation have the right knowledge to address these demands. This could be reinforced by the fact that only 8 per cent of them say specialist training would help – significantly less than the over 55s (at 53 per cent).

Which of the following do you think will help meet your organisation's growing digital demands through your workforce? (Learning from younger generations entering work)

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The question is – are enough organisations maximising the skills of the younger generation?

Worryingly, our report suggests not.

Around one in four (26 per cent) of Generation Z and Millennials say their company isn’t doing enough to attract the younger generation. As if this finding isn’t bad enough, 31 per cent of them don’t think their company gives the younger generation a voice when it comes to technology adoption.

The reasons for this are unclear but one explanation could be that businesses – especially those that have been around for a long time and often rely on old established ways of working – do not fully understand the role the younger generation can play in bringing technology skills into the business.

If this is the case, then there is untapped potential among the entire workforce to use digital tools that could help them become more productive – something which is incredibly important as businesses look to maintain an edge over their competition.

What’s clear is that organisations must embrace the younger generation. And that means being open to change and a different way of doing things. They must not underestimate what this new generation can achieve – especially from a digital sense. This means not pigeonholing them into uninspiring roles, but creating jobs based on their skills, knowledge and talents.

This is where reverse mentoring, in which young people mentor their older colleagues in the workplace, is invaluable. As digital natives, Generation Z can help businesses keep up with the fast pace of technology. They are also well placed to support colleagues who are resistant to change or lacking the confidence to try new tools. This in turn encourages these diverse groups to work together cohesively, encouraging every generation to learn and share their own experiences.

So how do businesses go about ushering in a younger and therefore more inclusive workforce? One way is to actively work to eliminate bias so that age – whether young or old – is not even a deciding factor. Unconscious bias exists at every step of the hiring process unless objectivity is forced out of the process and managers are trained accordingly.

Otherwise, the danger is that people run unstructured interviews unconsciously, making too many assumptions about why a person might be right (or not) for the role. These assumptions are often based on age but also where they were educated, their industry experience, the number of job moves, or whether they have worked for a certain type of company – and even race, religion and sexual orientation.

This needs to change and 40 per cent of Generation Z workers agree. They say that changing hiring practices to increase the number of employees from under-represented groups is important. This is compared to just 18 per cent for the over 55s who are perhaps used to traditional hiring methods.

Which of the following do you think will help meet your organisation's growing digital demands through your workforce? (Changing hiring practices to increase the number of employees from under-represented groups)

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Businesses need to look at what innovative solutions can do to improve the hiring process. Predictive cognitive testing, for example, ensures that every single hiring decision is made on objective measures across the board, and at every level. Everyone follows the same processes around learning capabilities and potential. They cannot ‘unconsciously’ use their gut, but instead must now rely on data-driven evidence.

Digital businesses need digital natives

Digital businesses need digital natives

The argument for organisations to attract, and make best use of, the younger generation is strong. These workers have been inherently familiar with the internet and technology from a young age, are tipped to be the innovators in the workplace, and are prepared to challenge the technical status quo. These qualities will help propel businesses into the digital era.

However, leaders and managers shouldn’t see hiring Generation Z workers as a tick-box exercise. They need to maximise the effect these younger employees can have on a business. This means providing a platform for them to innovate, supporting them at every stage, giving them exposure to the business, encouraging them to interact with older generations and seeing what they can handle.

“For the younger generation, gone are the days when the same person will do the same job, or a similar job for their entire careers. Employers need to recognise that employees will start to have ‘multi-stage’ careers, which requires a shift in mind-set in traditional processes and procedures.“
Recruiter Perspective

Employers need to provide younger generations with the freedom to mould their roles into what they want them to be. People want to be empowered to work in a way that they think will deliver the most value, and in a way that will play to their key strengths. If staff are given the freedom to do this, they will be able to build a sense of personal meaning into their work.

We know from our What Workers Want 2019 research that employees want to work for an organisation that is investing in technology, particularly the younger generation. It’s really important that employers actively promote their digital transformation initiatives and investment in automation to prospective candidates, something which a quarter of employers say they do not currently do.”

- James Hallahan, National Technology Director, Hays UK & Ireland

“Growing up with evolving technology from a young age has enabled me to understand the benefits it can offer in the workplace. It therefore makes sense that, as a member of Generation Z and ‘digital native’, I am drawn to organisations that advocate the ever-changing digital landscape.“
Generation Z Perspective

When I graduated from university I knew I wanted to work for a digitally-led and modern organisation that promoted diversity and equality. When I first came across Advanced, I recognised it offered a variety of entry level roles which immediately caught my eye. For such a large organisation to promote this – and employ individuals regardless of their background and experience – really showcased its dedication and commitment to diversity. A month into working for Advanced, I recognised its intention to focus on organic growth, allowing its employees to evolve alongside modern technology. I immediately knew I made the right decision, and this was the best place for me to make a difference.

This is why I strongly believe in the importance of attracting a younger and more varied workforce. We are determined to bring about change and are incredibly keen on making our mark in today’s digital world. Our generation needs to be given a voice within the workplace and that’s why it’s important for us to find an organisation that is willing to give us a platform to put forward ideas. This means employers need to be creating roles that encourage Generation Z’s innate digital talents and embrace the positive changes they can bring. I was given this opportunity at Advanced, and hope I can inspire others to believe they too can make a difference.”

- Vaneesha Patel, Business Development Team Leader at Advanced.

About Advanced

We are the third largest British software and services company in the UK. We help organisations create the right digital foundations that drive productivity, insight and innovation – all while remaining safe, secure and compliant.

We enable our customers to achieve increased efficiencies, savings and growth opportunities through focused, right-first-time software solutions that evolve with the changing needs of their business and the markets they operate in.

Our solutions for both commercial and public sector organisations simplify business challenges and deliver immediate value, positively impacting millions of people’s lives.

We have a strong track record in helping our customers journey to the Cloud. We manage private, public and hybrid Cloud environments, as well as deliver sector specific Cloud-based solutions and services. We are certified partners with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft, and have achieved the highest levels of accreditations.

Our Cloud solutions are used by organisations of all shapes and sizes including Highways England, PRS for Music and Aspire Furniture.


The Advanced Trends Survey Report 2019-20 was carried out online by Research Without Barriers (RWB) between 7 September and 25 September 2019. The sample comprised 1,012 senior decision makers working in organisations in the UK with over 100 employees. Over 40 per cent of these respondents are Generation Z or Millennials i.e. between the ages of 18 and 34 years old.