Let’s be honest about Gen Y and technology dependency

A recent Cisco report illustrates the expectations — and addictions — of the next wave of social business workers. The gap is closing, but one risk management issue remains

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Two out of five college students and young professionals reveal they “would feel anxious, like part of me is missing,” if they couldn’t use their smartphones to stay connected according to a recently released 2012 Cisco Connected World Technology Report.

Much is made of this because it serves to stereotype Gen Yers as tech-addicts.  “They’re so different from other generations.”  Of course they are.  They’ve mostly grown up with the internet and can’t imagine life without it.

The report examines how Gen Y uses the internet and mobile devices to connect with the world around them.  Some results were not surprising, others were. The millennial generation (those today between ages 18 and 30) is expected to make up 45 percent of the workforce by 2020.  This generation lives to connect and communicate.   It’s the new normal –but is this label limited to Gen Y or have most of us embraced these new online mediums and methods to better fulfill our lives, too?

  • 60 percent of Gen Y subconsciously or compulsively check their smartphones for emails, texts or social media updates.
  • 90 percent of Gen Yers will get dressed, brush their teeth, and check their smartphones as part of the morning ritual for getting ready for school or work.
  • While 2 out of 5 say their company forbids them to use company-issued devices for non-work activities, 71 percent said they don’t always obey those policies.
  • 66 percent feel that employers should not track employees’ online activities.
  • 81 percent of respondents believe that people have different online and offline identities.
  • Only 44 percent said their online identity was the same as their real-world “offline” identity.

Call me naïve, but I’m curious to understand the reasons Gen Yers believe online and offline identities differ, which suggests they don’t necessarily trust online personas.  Bypassing or ignoring acceptable use policies isn’t such a stretch these days, given how social media sites have become a part of everyday life.   Yet, I was surprised to learn that over half of the IT respondents did not seem to acknowledge prevalent misuse.  Having faith is one thing, but isn’t risk management another?

For a younger generation at work, accessing Facebook or Twitter is just like placing a phone call to a friend –they see nothing wrong with it.  And I suspect this applies to most of us who’ve become smartphone warriors, using our latest and greatest smartphone to stay in touch, Gen Y or not during office hours.  Based on the texting and driving I’ve observed along the 401, those twenty-somethings are not alone.

Some gaps certainly exist, but it would seem the gap is narrowing and narrowing rapidly mostly due to our overall dependence on technology in our personal lives.  Just ask your IT department today.  Most of us want technology at our fingertips whenever we want it and however we need it. Our willingness to adapt to change, try new technologies and openness to doing things differently is what helps to close that gap in the workplace, but we need to do so appropriately.

What do you think – is the gap real or is it just a fuzzy line these days?

Get more ideas on how to manage the expectations of Generation Y by clicking the button below to receive ‘How to Transform Your Company Into A Social Business — Seven Steps to Success,’ from Frost & Sullivan.

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