Forrester study on Generation Y: Social media myths debunked?

Myths debunked: New Forrester research shows the Generation Y lagging behind the older generations in social media and technology in the workplace. But are these weighted to project failure in the first place?
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

A post by my good friend Eileen Brown, CEO of Amastra, a company focusing on social media and strategy for business and enterprises, pointed out a few key features in a study performed by Forrester and Citrix Online about the Generation Y.


In short, the summary offers an interesting insight into the state of social media and the workplace, which most people may not expect:

"Generation X workers – and not those in the younger Generation Y generation – make up the majority of those who use social networking for business, followed closely by [Baby] Boomers aged 55 and older. "

Remember this is a research study done by Citrix, which as many companies do, roll out research which somehow integrates with the products and services it provides. The results will all but certainly be biased, but it does give me the apt opportunity to debunk a few myths based on my own experience.

On with the show, anyway.

1. Generation Y is the least likely to share work information via text message, video conferencing and video chat. The survey showed that only 26% would send work information by text message, compared to 47% of those aged 55 and over.

I suspect this is the case for two reasons. The first being that those working in an office environment will all have the same email address system, thus making it pretty easy to send information to a colleague based on little pre-existing knowledge. It'll normally come as your first plus last name, followed by the domain of the company.

Plus, text messages are restricted to a maximum of 800 characters. It's not the best form to send something to someone at the best of times, falling within the critical framework of the working infrastructure. It is mostly common sense, beyond anything else.

2. Generation Y use less social networking for work. The survey showed that 40% use social media for business, unlike 50% of those 55 and above who do.

This finding is an interesting one. Most would roll in the Generation Y as being pioneers of social networking and instant communications. Yes; while this is true, only 40% use social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn directly for business purposes.

Again, in most cases it is not efficient or fundamentally appropriate to communicate with colleagues and superiors over services like these, when email and internal communication systems - perhaps instant messaging over a corporate solution, is best.

This statistic does not show that the Generation Y are not in any way the lesser user of social networking and media for personal purposes, though. Overshadowed perhaps, but it still shows that nearly half are using social networking to promote their business or connect with professionals on dedicated services.


3. Generation Y is least likely to pay attention in meetings. 51% of the Generation Y believe it is important to pay attention in meetings to decide a course of action.

The argument goes that the iGeneration have a short attention span because we need to be 'constantly entertained' by Facebook, the media or computer games.

On the other hand, how many members of the Generation Y are high enough up in the workplace food chain, let alone old enough to be so, to play a part or feel as if they can contribute value of worth in meetings? In some areas, such as software development, most are on equal footing with their colleagues it would seem.

However, in most industries it should not surprise that the younger generations have to follow the lead from the existing managers of the older generation.

4. Generation Y is least likely to think meetings are efficient. 29% of the Generation Y think meetings to decide a course of action are efficient, compared to 45% of those aged 55 and over.

This shows once again a disparity between the older and younger generations. One could take the previous argument that it is because those making the decisions are of a higher pay grade and often fall within the older age range. Generally, the younger you are, the lower down in the hierarchy of the organisation or industry - unless you have created a Silicon Valley 2.0 startup, of course.

Even then, one set of researchers found that the highest rate of entrepreneurial 'activity' in fact belongs to the 55+ group of Baby Boomers.

5. Generation Y less likely to use eye contact. 79% of those aged 55 and above feel eye contact is important, where 65% of members of the Generation Y.

Now this one I can't explain. Any psychologists in the house? I would argue that the 'generational difference' between those born in the late '80's to those who were schooled during the '70's and '80's experienced very different institutions, thus playing a major factor

It isn't a huge difference to be fair, as nearly three-quarters of those in my generation consider it to be important in business. Yet as working from home is on the increase as well as working in areas of business where eye contact is not an issue - call centers, for example, then this could make up the difference.

Are the Generation Y losing focus, or still the underdog and at a disadvantage to the older generations? Leave your thoughts.

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