Once upon a time, Gen Z’s mastery of the digital realm was hailed as second nature.
Yet, a recent study by staffing agency LaSalle Network shows that a staggering half of graduate entrants into the workforce feel technologically unprepared – giving rise to the concept of tech shame and a generational tech gap.
20% of Gen Z workers feel judgement when they are faced with experiencing technical difficulties, compared to only 4% in older generations, according to an HP survey.
And when in that situation, Gen Z employees are ten times more likely than their older colleagues to experience a personal sense of shame in this situation.
One of the reasons? In the way that new technology can sometimes baffle older generations, Gen Z has the reverse — no exposure to older technologies.
Enter the term: “tech shame”.
But why is the most digital-savvy generation grappling with tech fear?
Understanding Tech Shame: A New Phenomenon?
Coined by HP, tech shame captures the feeling of inadequacy younger workers feel when handling basic office tools (PDF).
But, this is hardly a Gen Z-exclusive sentiment – people have experienced it whenever a new gadget entered the workspace.
The real conundrum: why is it hitting Gen Z harder? Let’s unpack Gen Z’s tech dilemma.
- Mismatched Expectations: Contrary to popular belief, Gen Z isn’t universally tech-literate. They’re proficient with what they grew up with – smartphones, apps, and internet services.Toss them a fax machine or an enterprise-level printer, and expect some head-scratching. The blanket assumption of their technological omnipotence unfairly sets them up for potential failure.Remember, someone born in 2001 has probably never had a reason to see a ‘floppy disk’ in person, may rarely use a printer, or wonder what a tape cassette player in a car is (is it an iPhone dock?).
- Media Stereotypes: Thanks to segments in shows like “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”, young people grappling with older tech became the laughing stock. Instead of bridging generational tech gaps, they exacerbated them.
- The Evolving Nature of Entry-Level Jobs: Entry-level roles are no longer about basic tasks like data entry or organizing physical documents. They now demand higher skills, placing undue pressure on fresh entrants.
- Pandemic-induced Shifts: Many Gen Z members started their careers in lockdown – the absence of face-to-face interactions made onboarding and hands-on learning challenging.
- First-Job Anxieties: Remember the jitters of your first job? Now, imagine coupling that with tech anxieties in a hyper-digital world. That’s the Gen Z plight.
Tech Shame: Not a Gen Z Exclusive
It’s worth noting that while Gen Z might be at the forefront of tech shame discussions, they’re not the sole bearers. Many face tech challenges, irrespective of their age.
Surprisingly, 25% of young American workers feel overwhelmed, not by their tasks, but by assisting older colleagues with tech issues.
The broader picture indicates a dire need for tailored tech training across age brackets.
The Generational Tech Gap: A Closer Look
Surprisingly, the crux of ‘tech shame’ can also be linked to a more profound generational tech gap.
While Baby Boomers and Gen X grew up witnessing the gradual evolution of technology, Gen Z was thrust into an already digital-centric world.
This means that while older generations have had experience with both analogue and basic digital tools, Gen Z’s experience is primarily with advanced and user-centric interfaces.
Moreover, the fast-paced progression of technology in the last two decades means that even tools and software that were prevalent ten years ago seem outdated to the average Gen Z individual.
On the other hand, older generations had the time to acclimatize to technological changes slowly.
This disparity in tech evolution exposure contributes significantly to Gen Z’s tech shame, as they’re expected to intuitively understand both old and new tech, even when their exposure might have been limited.
Digital Education at The Heart of the Generational Tech Gap
Furthermore, the role of education can’t be understated.
With 56% of young adults reporting minimal digital education, as per Dell’s survey, there’s an evident disconnect between academic institutions and the real-world tech demands.
The curriculum in many educational institutions hasn’t kept pace with the rapid tech advancements, leaving graduates feeling stranded and unprepared.
There’s a growing call for educational reforms that ensure students are not just tech users but also tech literate, understanding the mechanics behind the tools they use daily.
The digital divide isn’t just about access but about equipping all generations with the skills and confidence to navigate their tech environment.
For businesses, addressing this requires understanding, tailored training, and debunking age-related tech myths – alongside a healthy dose of digital education.
As technology develops exponentially, it’s vital for businesses to foster an environment where questions are encouraged, training is accessible, and tech shame is a thing of the past.
Gen Z might be at the epicentre of the tech shame discussion today, but the solution requires a collective approach.
For Gen Z, and indeed all of us, the future of work lies not in fearing technology but in harnessing its power.