Nokia Canada

Nokia Canada

September 28, 2005 06:00 ET

Workplace, Public Space New Hot Zones in Digital Battle of the Ages

Generations miles apart on technology preferences, digital etiquette Attention: Arts/Entertainment Editor, Assignment Editor, Lifestyle Editor, News Editor, Tech/Telecomm Editor TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Sept. 28, 2005) - There isn't simply a generation gap over the use of new technologies but a real point of conflict between people in different age groups over what is the right tool at the right time and what constitutes appropriate behaviour, according to a study released today by Nokia Canada and D-Code.

Nokia and D-Code set out to investigate generational differences related to the use of technology and found that the differences are significant enough to require a reassessment of protocols for the workplace and public spaces.

Relying on both quantitative and qualitative findings, including a national survey, expert panel discussions and guided multigenerational on-line discussions, the study concludes that rules of behaviour considered appropriate and thoughtful by one generation can be viewed as irrelevant or might even stand in the way of an effective workplace for another generation.

The researchers looked at people in three generational groups: Net Generation (ages 15-29), Nexus Generation (ages 30-45), and Boomer Generation (ages 46-60). They found that productivity in the workplace and retention of key employees may be affected if corporate Canada doesn't learn that younger workers relate to technology in a significantly different way than their colleagues from other generations.

"The insight from this research is that, for the Net Generation, work is what you do, not where you do it," said Nada Usina, president of Nokia Canada. "These young people want the 24-hour accessibility that mobile technology provides and they accept the blurring of the lines between their work life and their personal life that comes with that."

"What we found was that the Net Generation is more likely to want to be connected all the time but will use different devices for different purposes," said Robert Barnard, Co-Founder and Partner of D-Code. "Boomers are much more likely to use email or a cell phone for communication, where someone from the Net Generation is more likely to use instant messaging or text messaging, depending on the situation. Connectivity is just about as integral to their lives as clothing."

In The Workplace
The potential for conflict in the workplace arises when organizations structure their communication policies around behaviours that aren't relevant to a younger generation that has more fully incorporated technology into its everyday life.

"Telling someone from the Net Generation that he can't use IM in the workplace because he might be using it to chat with his friends is like telling a Boomer he can't have a telephone in his office because he might make a personal call," said Ms Usina. "These are people who have grown up accustomed to be connected all the time. They have an expectation that they will always be connected and therefore they see themselves as potentially on the job more than the traditional thinking of 8 hours a day."

The qualitative piece of the research - the guided online discussion and expert panel - showed a divide over the view of mobile technology and its effect on the quality of work and the quality of thinking. The debate, largely along generational lines, was over whether mobile technology is essential to maximum effectiveness in today's work world or whether it is a tool that is only as good as the person using it, and that may cause distractions that interfere with good thinking and good work.

"In general, the Net Generation accepts that distraction is part of their life and that total accessibility just means that sometimes they are multi-tasking," said Mr. Barnard. "The Boomer and Nexus generations were more likely to feel that multi-tasking means you're not being focused on what you are doing and that distraction leads to poorer thinking."

In The Public Space
The etiquette of mobile technology use also differs markedly from generation to generation. While Boomers and Nexus generation members were raised to believe there is a certain time and place for various activities, like making a phone call or listening to music, for the Net Generation these are anytime, anywhere activities.

More than 42 per cent of Net Generation respondents said it's OK to use cell phones in public, compared to just 15 per cent of Boomers, whereas 35 per cent of Boomers think cell phones are distracting and intrusive, compared to just 17 per cent from the Net generation.

"People on cell phones aren't really much of an annoyance to me because I tend to be on my cell phone often also," said one Net Generation respondent.

"No use in classrooms at all," said one Boomer. "Never use in a hospital, public concert or movie theatre. Employees should not have them on at their workstations as they detract from work …"

The research suggests that the Net Generation is more socially oriented than its predecessors. Some 34 per cent of Net generation respondents go to people as their first source of information, compared to only 19 per cent of the Nexus and 22 per cent of the Boomer generations.

"I think a world without cell phones and Internet would be a horrible place. I've come to need my cell phone and especially the Internet as a way of daily communication. These methods are indispensable to me," said one Net generation member.

"I get really angry when people don't have a phone, I will buy them minutes," said another. "Without my phone at first, I get the shivers."

While all generations listed the Internet as their top source of information by a wide margin, Net generation respondents ranked TV and friends as their next most likely sources of information. Boomers ranked newspapers and TV programs as their second and third choices for information.

In fact, it appears that the Net Generation is bad news for the newspaper industry. Only 18 per cent said they turn to the papers as a source of information, compared to 44 per cent of Boomers.

But the Net generation is significantly more interested in newer forms of communication, such as instant messaging and text messaging. Daily use of instant messaging was reported by 56 per cent of the Net generation participants, compared to just 21 per cent of Boomers. Daily use of text messaging from cell phones was reported by 15 per cent of the Net generation respondents and only 2 per cent of the Boomers.

"This study tells us that as a society, we have to look at the different ways in which each generation has integrated technology into their lives, and those differences are enormous depending on what stage of their lives they were first exposed to the technology," said Ms. Usina. "We're going to have to look at how we view mobile technology in the workplace, and in public spaces, because as the Net Generation moves through the workforce it is going to bring a vastly different set of expectations with it."

This study was comprised of live discussions with one group of experts in the fields of arts, communication and technology and with three generational groups (Net, Nexus and Boomer generations) of 6 to 8 participants recruited from the Toronto area, in an informal focus-group style discussion. Quantitative data was reached through a 1200 person on-line survey, with respondents in the 15 to 60-year-old range. Follow up to the live discussion and survey came from On-line discussions with three generational groups of six participants over the course of five days.

About D-Code
D-Code is a strategy, research and development company that has been developing unparalleled knowledge and expertise on the Information Age Generations - the Nexus and Net Generations - for eight years. Our insights and processes drive customer-based innovation in social, consumer, and work environments. We help our clients build a competitive advantage by helping them understand, attract and retain citizens, employees and consumers from the Nexus Generation (those born from the early 1960s to the late 1970s) and the Net Generation (those born from the late 1970s to the early 1990s).

About Nokia
Nokia is a world leader in mobile communications, driving the growth and sustainability of the broader mobility industry. Nokia connects people to each other and the information that matters to them with easy-to-use and innovative products like mobile phones, devices and solutions for imaging, games, media and businesses. Nokia provides equipment, solutions and services for network operators and corporations.

For further information, please contact:
Angie Di Rezze
Ketchum Public Relations Canada
(416) 544-4918

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