Digital Natives are changing the way we work, NOW WHAT?

March 1, 2021

This week was my turn to write a Meet the Minds article. So let me start by introducing myself! My name is Ed Kooijman, head of operations ar 12CU. The reason why I am so interested in Smart Building Technologies is that Smart Building Technologies is all about developing tools that help us understand human behaviour and the way we work and as individuals and as a whole ecosystem in offices. I have worked in IT and Supply Chain for over 25 years internationally. I guess you could say I am a veteran in the IT sector. Above all I am future-oriented and so my choice for the subject of this article was simple. Always, when something new makes its appearance, my first question is: can you show me?!

I wanted to write a response to our own Digital Native’s piece by posing the following question:


In order to avoid the discussion whether the generation entering our corporations qualifies exactly as a Digital Native, the least can agree on is that the generation now entering our corporations, workspaces and teams is the generation who consider online media as their main source for information, they see new media as a perfectly normal channel to build relationships on and their tech Saffy workstyle allows for virtual teamwork easily. Ten years from now, Digital Natives will form the backbone of our organizations and many traditional organizations will have digitally native leaders.


In what type of companies will these employees be working anyway?Nearly three out of four of the Fortune 1,000 companies have been replaced in the last 10 years, and more than half of the Fortune 500 will cease to exist in the next decade.

Future-oriented organizations are trying to get nimbler, increasingly turning to on-demand workers to fulfil specific needs. Future-oriented organizations have increasingly prioritized designing entrepreneurial and flexible cultures that empower employees with more autonomy and more freedom of choice in order to attract and retaining the right talent (JLL, 2018 World Forum). Who do we mean when we say “The right talent”, well that’s simple: we are talking about the Digital Natives.


If you are the leader of a company, there is one thing you can be absolutely sure of: your ability to attract and retaining Digital Natives is critical for the survival of your company.  My guess is that you better get prepared early rather than late when it comes to adopting your company to these new entrepreneurial and flexible cultures.

Already in 2012, Marie Puybaraud from JLL’s research identified the needs of this new generation of workers :

  1. BYOT – Bring your own technology: Digital Natives are comfortable bringing their personal equipment to the office, such as laptops, iPads, and smartphones.
  2. Always connected: The use of light portable and mobile technologies allows for a high level of mobility and efficiency in the workplace.
  3. No loss of transition from home to work: The smooth integration of technologies while in the office, such as WiFi access, booking systems, and 3G video conferencing, will allow workers to easily transition work from the office to their homes.
  4. Consumer technologies in the office: Where possible, organizations should move away from corporate IT solutions to consumer-friendly ones to adapt to the use of employees’ personal technologies and devices in the workplace.
  5. Social networking-friendly solutions: Allow workers to build and maintain a social network while at work to share knowledge and foster communities.
  6. Collaborative solutions: Provide solutions that allow workers to collaborate with one another wherever they are, at any time.


How can we implement this in such a way you can build it into your company’s culture, office and working environments. Let’s brainstorm for a bit, by looking at some extremes.

One extreme: having no office at all. You work where best suits you and your team, this could literally be any location. Already today, some software development teams or product development teams go to (sometimes exotic) locations to develop a product in a pressure cooker type environment. Great fun and hard work.

Another extreme: create a 100% versatile office. The office has a fixed location but is adjusted permanently, depending on need. Month by month, size, zoning and services adapt to needs. You still have the benefits of strong (corporate) IT infrastructure, e.g. for secure data access. Traditional offices of many corporations are gradually transitioning in this direction.

Or how about this one: Lets mix and match Office and public space. Parts of the building are for public use, eg. shops, childcare, coffee bars. Other parts are for employees only, or mixed zones where guests are able to work in a more formal environment with more advanced services. You already see examples of this in the newly designed head-offices of organizations opening their doors in downtown areas.


The common issue in all these situations is planning. All this flexibility increases the need to have the predictive capability for (a type of) office use. Traditionally we plan using spreadsheets and have facility managers work out future office needs. That won’t suffice here. We will have to predict office needs based on behavioural patterns. The best prediction of how we behave in the future is how we behave in the present.   For example, the question: when do we go to work? The answer depends on whether we have young children or not, whether we live nearby, our hobbies, type of work, age, means of transportation, weather and so on.  

When you understand how behaviour translates to office use, you can start building the predictive models linking those triggers to workspace needs. This is a complex task but fortunately, these models are now constructed using machine learning. In practice, 12CU software is already doing this for you. You install the machine learning algorithms. Day by day, 12CU Office Analyzer will gather office traffic data and built a predictive model matching the behaviour of the buildingś occupants. Sounds like a far in the future type of scenario? Well, It has just begun.

12CU Office Analytics. Real-time. Big Data. Simple.

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