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Gen X, not Gen Y, leads adoption of social technologies in workplace

CIOs should look to Generation X, not Generation Y, to be the early adopters of new and social technologies within their organization. Contrary to what you’d think, Generation X workers (roughly those ages 28 to 48) read blogs, participate in discussion forums and wikis and listen to podcasts at work more than Generation Y.

These were just some of the results from Forrester’s Workforce Technographics Survey, released yesterday at their Business Technology Forum in Chicago.

The survey showed that although 59% of the Gen Y (18- to 29-year-old) professionals use social technologies at home, only 14% use them in the workplace. Social media is not as much a generational thing as most people think, according to Ted Schadler, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester.

“Generation X is just better at problem solving and using their experience and authority,” said Schadler, the lead author of the report. “And using social technology to solve a business problem should be the first priority.”

The report surveyed 2,000 information workers — any type of employee who uses a computer or connected device to do his or her job — from companies with 100 or more employees.

One other point that came through was that users were not as advanced in terms of social technologies as we think. Only one in four workers uses instant messaging or Web conferencing, and one in 10 has and uses a smartphone.

So, what does all this information mean to the CIO? This type of quantitative assessment gives CIOs and IT professionals the tools to make better investment decisions. CIOs should apply these findings to benchmark their own technology adoption and satisfaction and develop a measurable strategy for adopting new technology that users want and use, and that will add the most value to the business.

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I'm not sure of the methodology Forrester used, but it's entirely possible that the younger workers have restricted access to social media at work. Is it a preference issue, or access? Or the nature of the work? The survey notes that the 14% usage is constant over age groups, so I'd assume that it is a policy rather than preference issue. Interesting results from research sponsored by the Institute for Innovation and Information Productivity showed that younger workers (18-21) start with a cognitive advantage over those in the 35-39 bracket, but interruptions by email/txt impact them MORE than the same interruptions to the 35-39 year olds and erase the advantage. More research needed in this area. see www.iii-p.org for information about that project - small sample, but fascinating finding
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