Digital natives – what we need to learn

Two leading industry lawyers discuss the impact technology and AI will have on employment law.

Digital natives – what we need to learn

Recently the team at MinterEllisonRuddWatts hosted a lively seminar on digital natives[1] and the future of the workplace. The session considered the impact of technology and AI on the workplace and our employment laws.

What is clear, is that the future workforce will be an even more flexible one. This is likely to require companies to move away from rigid traditional business models and allow people to work to a more personalised rhythm. Employees will reward companies through increased productivity if they are allowed to meet their deliverables in a more flexible way. The modern worker will learn this through their own inquiry and in their own time and then deliver accordingly.

Outcomes not hours

For many organisations the future will no longer see employees clocking in and clocking out. It is predicted that the workplace philosophy will move, almost wholesale, from an ‘hours’ focus to a ‘deliverables’ focus. Employers will require employees to deliver an outcome, rather than compelling its employees to work for a set number of hours.

The new generations set to hit the workforce will have different expectations about the way in which they will work. This is great news as they will bring a fresh perspective to the workplace (as all new generations do). This means that leaders, with HR’s support will have to be willing to listen to everyone, even the most junior members of a team, and adapt to new approaches. In fact, while junior staff may be less experienced in the workplace they will be more experienced with technology, social media and digital communication which businesses will need to maximise. This will increasingly mean that employees will have to be fully aware of the dos and don’ts of social media in the workplace.

Wellbeing and work/life balance in the digital world

Balance will be generated through organisations empowering and trusting employees to work where they want and when they want, provided outcomes are achieved. Employees more than ever will require time within the traditional working day to meet their social, emotional and physical needs. The use of new technologies and flexible working arrangements will facilitate this and have a positive impact on people’s wellbeing at work. However, businesses will need to facilitate and support new ways of working, including where human interaction becomes less and less as a result of agile working and digital platforms.

The future self-enabled workforce

While more manual jobs become automated, new opportunities will be created and individuals will need to upskill and learn to keep pace and be able to demonstrate value to an organisation. In a number of industries, such as tech, people will need to self-direct to upskill and reskill. The introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into the workforce will also provide an exciting opportunity for new forms of employment to be created to complement the jobs done by AI.

The effect of a self-enabling workforce is likely to mean that individuals have more responsibility for understanding and demonstrating their responsibilities to the market and other employees through online options such as Safetrac’s compliance training.

Employment legislation

As a result of these future changes, it will be interesting to see how the legal framework comes up to speed with current practice. For New Zealand, it may be a chance to take the lead, although no doubt a lot will also happen overseas. To find out more about flexible online compliance training, including social media in the workplace, visit the Safetrac website.


[1] Digital natives are individuals who are due to hit the workforce in 2025.

By Gillian Service and June Hardacre

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