Forrester Says Gen Y isn't Different at Work

Scott Francis
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Ok.  Forrester didn’t really say that.  But in Ted Schadler’s article “The State of US Workforce Technology Adoption“, point #4 says practically that:

Gen Y employees are getting squashed at work.These younger workers behave very differently from others outside of work, but they are not so different in how they use technology in their jobs. Sixty percent of these 18- to 29-year-olds use social networking at home, but only 13% use it for work — the same percentage as Gen X employees ages 30 to 43.

I wouldn’t have said squashed.  That’s a characterization based on the assumption that Gen Y uses more technology than Gen X.  But only 13% use these social networking tools at work.  For all the carping I’ve heard about Gen Y using Facebook at work, one our own Gen Y members recently told me he quit using Facebook entirely and doesn’t miss it.  My personal theory:  like everyone else, Gen Y folks value real relationships more than virtual ones and eventually everyone finds a balance.  And at the end of the day, there’s work to get done. Maybe, someday soon, we can stop this “generational” management stuff and get back to work.  But sure as I say that, Fortune will coin a term for the next generation. Forrester makes some additional points that are worth noting:
There is pent up demand for smartphones. Only one in 10 information workers has a smartphone for work, but one in three agrees that they use a personal mobile phone for work purposes. Twenty-one percent of iWorkers would like to get email outside of work, and 15% would like email on a smartphone. Any way you slice it, this means that there is pent-up demand for smartphones at work.
It is amazing to me that still only 1 in 10 information workers has a smartphone for work.  Even more amazing: over the last couple of years I’ve seen Fortune 500 companies pull back their subsidies for smart-phones for work – essentially cutting off their information workers from company information during off-hours (and work hours while not at their desks).  The benefits of that connectivity confer primarily on the corporation, not on the employee, but apparently these firms felt that the costs outweighed the benefits.  In our business, we make sure that everyone has a smart phone. In another note, Forrester points out that collaboration tools are stalling out – leaving email as (still) the primary collaboration platform.   Of course, this makes sense: everyone has email, even if they don’t use your particular email platform.  The standards for email are well-established and widespread.  But to use a collaboration platform, we have to ALL use the same collaboration platform.  For those who have received early invites to Google’s Wave, I’m sure you can relate:  being early into the collaboration platform is like having Instant Messaging with no one in your contact list.  Who exactly are you going to collaborate with? This could mean that collaboration tools that leverage email will have an edge over new platforms.  It also means that collaboration tools that suit a particular niche (Business Process Modeling for example) are more likely to draw the appropriate audience than generic collaboration tools. UPDATE 10/22: I just read this article about Gen Y preferring to keep email over social networks, and it just sounds like more confirmation to me of what I already believed- the generations aren’t fundamentally different in big swaths of people as the media prefers to portray them – the labels are a convenience and contrivance to talk about people “of a certain age” without specifying exactly what that age is.  There are some questions on the validity of the study, but it is still a reflection of the realities of life imposing on social networks once people reach maturity.