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Gen-Y Finds Less Value in Meetings; This is Surprising?

A recent report commissioned by Citrix Online (and fielded by Frost & Sullivan competitor Forrester Research…bygones) takes note of what the authors consider a surprising finding: "Gen X workers--and not those in the younger Gen Y generation--make up the majority of those who use social networking for business, followed closely by Boomers aged 55 and older. According to the data, Gen Y's use of collaborative technology also lagged others."

The study focused on respondents' business use of communications and collaboration technology, and it consistently revealed that younger workers are less likely then their older counterparts to take advantage of new technologies like conferencing and social media on the job. For example:

* Gen Y is least likely to share information via text message (26%, compared to 47% of those aged 55+), and least likely to use video conferencing, video chat and web conferencing tools.

* Gen Y uses social networking the least frequently (40% of Gen Y workers who use social media for business do so daily, compared to 50% of those aged 55+).

* Older Boomers (55+) have increased their business use of social media 79% in the past year.

The study also looked at meetings in the enterprise--specifically, how valuable they are (or are not) perceived to be. According to the research, Gen Y is least likely to think meetings are efficient. Only 29% of Gen Y workers think meetings used to decide on a course of action are very efficient, compared to 45% of Boomers; and Gen Y is least likely to pay attention in meetings, and barely half (51%) believe it's very important to do so to decide a course of action.

The study also notes that 90% of Americans think meetings are important, and more than half meet daily; but only 30% think those meetings are effective.

Obviously, Citrix--a purveyor of (very good) Web conferencing software--has a dog in this race. Having recently introduced video as part of its services, the vendor can rightly note that people still see face-to-face meetings as important, and it can take advantage of the age-related data to encourage buyers to give their older, more numerous employees new conferencing and collaboration technology. But the study neglects to note two key points:

1. While most respondents say meetings are not efficient, the published results don't suggest this is more true of in-person discussions than of virtual ones;

2. Gen Yers are far less likely to use collaboration technology and find value in meetings because they are not yet in positions of power within their organizations. Their low-on-the-totem-pole jobs almost certainly require less collaboration, and it's unlikely that they have any real input into strategic planning and decision making. They aren't out at conferences and client sites, finding real people to network virtually with later; and they don't feel their thoughts and suggestions will be heard when voiced in meetings.

I note this not to discount the research, but to highlight the fact that technology adoption usually isn't about the technology at all. It's about the context in which it is used. Understanding end users' job roles and points of view is critical when doing research--and when making buying decisions about UC&C, or anything else.