Profound shifts in the use of technology are under way in the U.S. workplace, as older workers are retiring, to be replaced by younger, more tech-savvy workers from Generation Y, according to CompTIA’s “Generational Research on Technology and its Impact in the Workplace,” a quantitative online survey of 700 office workers conducted May 9 to May 17.

Roughly half of survey respondents characterized their employer either as “cutting edge” or “upper tier” when it comes to the use of technology. Forty-two percent said their companies were somewhere in the middle of the adoption curve, while just 11% said their employer was on the low side of the curve when it comes to tech savvy and use, according to CompTIA’s report.

CompTIA’s study revealed differences in technology use and savvy that if not unsurprising, were stark nonetheless. Seventy-four percent of Gen Y workers said they’d used a smartphone for work purposes in the past, for instance, as compared to just 37% of Baby Boomers. Younger office workers and senior level execs also made greater use of other CE devices, including tablets, laptops and GPS systems.

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Self-perception of tech acumen also differs between generations. Seventy-four percent of Gen Y respondents considered their own tech acumen as “cutting edge” or “upper tier.”

Millenials are Taking Over
Those in Gen Y, also known as Millenials (20-34), will become the predominant age bracket in the US workforce, leapfrogging the smaller Gen X (35-49). Hence, “the youngest segment of workers in the labor market are expected to be the most voluminous by roughly 2015,” according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projections, CompTIA notes in its report.

“In the next five to ten years Gen Y will completely dominate the workforce the way that Baby Boomers once did,” Todd Thibodeaux, president and chief executive officer, CompTIA, delivering the keynote speech at ChannelCon, was quoted in a press release.

“Generation Y has been raised in technology and they consider their aptitude for tech as a value that they bring to the table when seeking a job.”

Companies Need to be Tech Savvy to Recruit Gen Y Workers
Perceived “tech savviness” of companies is a key factor in how those in Gen Y rate and assess prospective employers, with their “expectations of tech in the workplace being quite high,” CompTIA notes.

CompTIA put together a short list of facts and figures revealing the “different set of expectations, work preferences and attitudes that younger employees bring to the workforce – and that business owners will have to accommodate”:

  • 43% of 18-24 year-olds say that texting is just as meaningful as an actual conversation with someone over the phone, according to eMarketer;
  • 40% of Gen Y think that blogging about workplace issues is acceptable, compared to 28% of Baby Boomers, according to Iconoculture;
  • 29% of Gen Y workers think work meetings to decide on a course of action are very efficient, compared to 45% of Baby Boomers, according to Iconoculture;
  • 24% of Gen Y say that “Technology use” is what most makes their generation unique, the #1 answer, based on Pew Research.

Different Demographics Impact the Workplace
As CompTIA report authors point out, “managing across many age groups is no small feat when you consider these differences in skill sets, work habits, employer loyalty and preferences for the type of IT tools they use.

“External market factors are also in play to generate a workplace in flux; the rapid pace of technological change, new ways information is shared and stored in the cloud, the advent of socil media, the embrace of telecommuting and BYOD.”

In addition to generational differences, CompTIA found substantial gender differences in the use of technologies, such as tablets, smartphones, GPS and laptops, with males far more likely than females to have used any of these devices for work purposes in the past year. In addition, CompTIA found:

  • 65% of males vs. 44% of females said they used a smart phone for work purposes;
  • 72% of males vs. 55% of females said they used a laptop for work purposes;
  • 46% of Gen X males said they had used a tablet last year compared to 16% of females;
  • 7 in 10 Gen X males used a smartphone for work purposes vs. 4 in 10 females.

Impact on Training and Tech Support
Having to adapt to this emerging younger workforce means management will likely have to “extend into the areas of training and professional development,” according to CompTIA.

“E-learning is especially appealing to Gen Y workers, who tend to want to be autonomous in how they choose to interact with technology, deciding their own pace and not being forced to interrupt normal workflow for training.

This attitude will also have an impact on workplace technical support. “They often will try to troubleshoot the problem first on their own end want to brainstorm together with the IT staff,” Thibodeaux noted of Gen Y workers. “That’s different than older workers who want to hand off problem and get it back when it’s finished.”

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