Gen Y vs. Gen X: Who causes more IT headaches?

You've heard the Gen Y stereotypes before: They're lazy workers, exude entitlement and have been reared on social technologies that they bring into the workplace, whether IT departments like it or not.

A new Forrester Research report sheds light on the latter issue, finding that Gen Y workers actually are not much different than Gen Xers or in some cases, even Baby Boomers, when it comes to their views on technology. Businesses should consider and rely more on this Gen Y group of employees when implementing policies and technologies, Forrester advises.

Take, for example, this statistic: Among the first wave of Gen Y'ers that graduated college in 2001 or 2002, 52 per cent have been in their current role between three and 10 years, according to the report. 27 per cent of Gen Y'ers are now managers or executives in businesses.

This means that Gen Y is-and is increasingly becoming-an experienced group of workers-who understand how their companies operate and how to thrive in the business. They are also likely to be influencers in the development and implementation of technology policies, according to the report.

[ How CIOs Can Devise a Social Business Strategy]

"[Content and collaboration] pros creating collaboration and technology strategies for their employees must set policy based on facts not stereotypes," writes report author and Forrester analyst TJ Keitt. "Thus, it's important to gauge the actual attitudes of Gen Yers toward the IT department and its policies to understand what Gen Yers are actually doing with technology."

Here are Forrester's findings on Gen Y's attitudes toward IT-some of which may be surprising-and its suggestions for effectively working with that generation.

-Gen Y believes their technology is better than your technology. There's a disconnect between Gen Y and the rest of the workplace when it comes to which technologies are better, the report says.

31 per cent of Gen Y says they believe their technology at home is better than the technology they have at work, according to the report. 23 per cent of Gen X agrees, but the big difference is apparent in Boomers: Only 17 per cent believe their technology is better than the tech in the workplace.

-Despite this, Gen Y is no more likely than Gen X to bring the tech to work. While IT departments frequently fret about the dangers that Gen Y'ers bring to the business by using outside technologies within the workplace, the reality is that they're not the only ones to blame, the report says.

While Gen Y'ers top the list with 44 per cent admitting to installing software on the computer they use for work, Gen X follows close behind at 42 per cent. Following that are Boomers at 36 per cent, according to the study. Additionally, more than 40 per cent of each generation group admit to accessing online services like Google Docs for work purposes.

[ Google Apps: How We Convinced the C-Suite]

-While Gen Y likes their tech better, they're still satisfied with the tech they use for business. The majority of Gen Y'ers are satisfied with the technologies they use to do their jobs (55 per cent) and the technologies their departments use (52 per cent), which is in line with Boomers.

Also interesting to note is the report's finding that Gen Yers are generally more satisfied than their Gen X counterparts across each of these measures.

-Gen Y embraces the IT department. Contrary to what many businesses might think, Gen Y doesn't see IT as a hindrance. Only eight per cent of Gen Yers believe their IT department is "clueless" and two per cent view IT as "significantly hinder[ing]" in getting work done. In fact, almost two-thirds view IT as getting them what they need, or at least attempting to do so.

Because more and more Gen Y'ers are entering into managerial and executive-level positions, they want to-and are able to-help make technology decisions. According to the report, 69 per cent of Gen Yers want input in the technologies that they use most in their jobs. That presents content and collaboration professionals an opportunity to work with them in making tech decisions and setting policies.

For example, Forrester recommends polling not just Gen Y workers but all workers on what tools they need to do their jobs, as well as asking them to evaluate the technologies that the company is considering. This ensures the tools brought in meet the needs of the employees, helping gain employee buy-in, which usually spurs adoption, Keitt says.

Another suggestion for working with rather than against workers is to explore a "bring your own" tech program-with constraints-to allow employees to find tools that work for them.

Because employees have demonstrated a willingness to bring tech into the workplace-such as in the cases of smartphones and tablets-Forrester says that content and collaboration professionals can tap into this trend by extending certain technologies to a larger number of employees. The key to this, however, is setting policies to ensure any devices employees bring in are supported and secure.

Kristin Burnham covers Consumer Technology, SaaS, Social Networking and Web 2.0 for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at kburnham@cio.com

Read more about it organization in CIO's IT Organization Drilldown.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags business issuesInternet-based applications and servicesManagement Topics | IT OrganizationGen XbusinessForrester Researchinternetsocial mediaIT departmentgen YforresterManagement Topics

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Kristin Burnham

CIO (US)
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?