Digital Natives, Work Values, and Computer Self Efficacy

Digital Natives, Work Values, and Computer Self Efficacy

Melia K. Stockham (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, Lawerence, USA) and Mary Lind (School of Business & Economics Department, North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJSITA.2018010101

Abstract

Generational differences in the workplace have been the subject of much discussion for the field of management. In many cases, the technology savvy of the youngest generation in the workplace, coined “digital natives,” is the motivation behind organizational decision-making. However, little empirical evidence exists as to whether it is their comfort and confidence using technology that truly sets digital natives apart from their generational predecessors known as “digital immigrants.” Work values, those areas of importance that enhance satisfaction and engagement in the workplace, are rooted in the belief that there is a structure to basic human values. This study connects the theories of work values, generational differences, and computer self-efficacy to investigate if computer self-efficacy interacts with digital native status to influence differences in work values.
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Introduction

A debate exists in the field of management regarding the differences in attitudes and behaviors between individuals in the workplace. Some researchers posit that these differences can be predicted based on sociological, psychological, or demographic influences (Cogin, 2012; Kapoor & Solomon, 2011; Rhodes, 1983; Schwartz, 1994). Others argue the practice of generalizing differences based on these influences is a dangerous path many management professionals are beginning to tread (Bell, 2010). Generational theory drives one of these debates, stating that an individual’s attitudes and behaviors are influenced by their generational alignment. The generations examined in management research include Baby Boomers, born around 1940; Generation X, born around 1960; and Millennials, born around 1980 (Parry & Urwin, 2011). Rhodes (1983) outlined the influences that differentiate one generation from other. Along with chronological age, which is the most common defining factor in generational literature, Rhodes describes cohort and period effects, which encompass sociological and environmental influences. Cohort effects are comprised of shared experiences within an age cohort that shape the perspective of individuals, including cultural phenomena or education. Period effects are shared environmental influences like relationships, responsibilities, resources, and the expectations of others. Using these effects as the basis for defining generational cohorts with shared attitudes and behaviors, digital native status presents an opportunity to further the investigation of generational diversity.

First introduced by Prensky (2001), a digital native is an individual who has been exposed to digital technology since birth. Conversely, a digital immigrant is an individual who has adapted to live and work in the digital world, rather than having been raised in it. Chronologically, the line between digital natives and digital immigrants is drawn around 1980, those born before considered immigrants and those born after considered natives (Corrin, Bennett, & Lockyer, 2010; Thompson, 2013). Even though digital native status is defined by age, it is the cohort and period effects of generational theory that define what it means to be a digital native. The ubiquitous exposure to digital technology serves as a shared cohort effect, and the societal expectations of technology savvy serve as a shared period effect (Eastman, Iyer, Liao-Troth, Williams, & Griffin, 2014). An extension of this literature includes the computer self-efficacy of digital natives and how it impacts their attitudes, behaviors, and values in the workplace. Leuty (2013) explored work values with respect to generational differences in the workplace, but the focus primarily addressed generations older than digital natives.

As the generation of digital natives is relatively young, the oldest in their mid-thirties, their tenure in the workplace is short as compared to their generational predecessors (Leuty & Hansen, 2011). Hopkins (2010) called attention to the importance of understanding the work habits of digital natives and encouraged managers to adapt to this new reality in the workplace. Additionally, generalizations regarding digital natives and their technology preferences have led researchers to suggest organizational initiatives regarding technology (Ferri-Reed, 2012; Mhatre & Conger, 2011; Murphy, 2012). However, without much evidence as to the actual computer self-efficacy or work values of digital natives, these choices could be misguided.

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