We’ve all seen it. The couple in a fancy restaurant texting someone else on their smart phones rather than communicating with their dinner companion. The college student walking while texting and not realizing the pedestrian crosswalk sign has changed. The manager sending emails to a sub-ordinate who is just down the hall, rather than walking over and talking in person.

But beyond our own casual observations, Digital Sociologist Dr. Julie Albright has studied this digital connectivity phenomenon and reveals the implications it is having on the future of work, how young people relate to work and how employers need to structure workplaces to fit into today’s “untethered” generation. The New Collar Network caught up with Dr. Albright to learn more about her research that has resulted in a new book, Left to Their Own Devices: How Digital Natives Are Reshaping the American Dream.

Dr. Albright explains this 21st century reality: “As young people embrace social media and pull up roots from traditional structures they sense unlimited possibilities in the world. Younger workers are more fluid in terms of their career path. They can job hop easily and successfully.”

The Gig economy also plays a role so that workers can have a patchwork career. Now, there are 3 or 4 career paths at the same time. Since young people are abandoning the traditional social norms like marriage and church going, they don’t have the responsibilities of home and family that limited prior generation’s options. Working part time at several gigs may not provide stability, but the concepts of freedom to explore options, impact the world, and generate personal expression are more valuable to young workers.

Dr. Albright feels that with this freedom comes a physical and emotional instability that is one of the leading causes of the high prevalence of suicide today in the under-30 age group. As she says, “Hyper-connectivity is disconnecting us from each other and unhooking us from core values that make us human.”

At her talk at The New Collar Workforce Summit, Dr. Albright will take her research and apply it to the future of work. Highlights of her talk include how employers must re-imagine the workplace to create the sense of community that is lacking in Digital Natives’ lives today.   By doing so, not only can we win economically but we can provide a platform for digital natives to thrive.

Learn more about Dr. Albright’s work at The New Collar Workforce Summit June 9 – 11, 2019 in Santa Fe, NM.  She will also be signing copies of her book, Left to Their Own Devices: How Digital Natives Are Reshaping the American Dream.

If you recognize the urgency to explore how you must change your workplace today to ensure a viable workforce request an invitation today at: NewCollarNetwork.com

Dr. Julie Albright
University of Southern California