by Jarina D'Auria

Younger Workers More Likely to Break Corporate Rules for Web Apps

Apr 04, 20086 mins
IT LeadershipMentoring

As the new generation of workers blurs the line between work and play online, a study by Symantec shows that IT departments need to balance the security risks these users pose with the techno-savvy they bring to the office.

Growing up in the digital age, Millennials (those born after 1980) are far less likely to leave their preference of technology, specifically Web 2.0 applications, behind as they head to work.

According to a survey released last month by antivirus and security software vendor Symantec, less than half of Millennials—45 percent— say they stick to company-issued devices and applications. That’s much less than other workers, 69 percent of whom said they only use work-sanctioned products.


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Half of the 600 respondents have policies banning applications such as social networking, iTunes, streaming video and gaming applications, which Millennials tend to access far more than other workers. This kind of attitude should be a spark to business leaders to change how they structure their company, says Samir Kapuria, managing director of advisory services for Symantec. The survey also found that workers save an average of five to six hours per week by using these types of technologies. The respondents included 200 Millennials, 200 older workers and 200 IT executives.

Kapuria said the survey suggested that, instead of blocking applications and preventing workers from using Web 2.0 applications, CIOs should be trying to use these technologies as recruiting tools.

What employees are accessing at work

Millennials Others
Personal e-mails 75% 54%
Facebook/MySpace 66% 13%
Instant messaging 46% 22%
Streaming Audio/Video 38% 18%
Photo sharing applications 37% 17%
Gaming applications 23% 14%

“Instead of blaming their culture, why not ask your IT department why the company’s software isn’t what the employees are used to and want to use?” says Kapuria.

These younger workers have learned to use Web 2.0 applications to increase their proficiency. While the social networking site started out as a way for college kids to meet, some Millennials have begun to use the site’s nearly endless database of contacts as a way to network in business. Such applications have no physical like bygone limitation, making rolodexes a thing of the past. Instead of contacting one person at a time with a phone, employees can contact many people simultaneously, therefore increasing the amount of information they receive, with much less effort.

CIOs should recognize these skills and learn to harness the Millennials’ proficiency within their IT infrastructure, says Kapuria.

Focusing on the Millennial workers is a vital part of keeping a business afloat in a environment dependent on technology. “CIOs need to understand how young people use technology,” says Penelope Trunk of, whose website is focused on the hiring and training of young professionals. Learning these skills can even help CIOs run their departments and lead to success, especially as businesses become more dependent on technology.

More data from the survey:

  • 69 percent of Millennials will use whatever application/device/technology they want regardless of source or corporate IT policies (compared to 31 percent of workers in other generations).
  • 47 percent of IT respondents feel younger workers pose a moderate to significant new challenge; 12 percent say they are more risk-savvy.
  • Only 57 percent of both groups think they have been trained on their company’s policy regarding technology usage at work.
  • Millennial workers have differing attitudes regarding technology use and adoption in a work environment, when compared to their older colleagues.
  • When asked whether they feel entitled to use whatever application/device/technology they would like, regardless of source or corporate IT policies, 69 percent of Millennials said “yes” (only 31 percent of “other” workers’ fell into this category).
  • 75 percent of millennials have downloaded software onto their work PC for personal use (only 25 percent of other workers have done so).
  • Millennials indicate they are slightly more productive because of new technologies: 54 percent say productivity has been at least slightly improved (42 percent of other workers’ claim at least some productivity improvements).
  • “It would be career death for a CIO to ignore young people,” says Trunk. The biggest problems for CIOs are hiring and staying current with the newest technology. Both these problems, according to Trunk, could be solved by hiring those most familiar with the best tools, which would be the Millennials. “The next generation is too big and too powerful to not hire them,” she says.

    Of course, with the good comes the bad. Even though these programs increase efficiency, downloading software from an outside company can be seen as a security risk. The Symantec survey showed 89 percent of corporate IT managers have recognized at least some increase in risk in the past five years, due to the new wave of younger workers and technologies, and 36 percent have written new policies and enforce them regularly. One of the security risks correlated to Millennials is their tendency to store corporate information on personal devices, such as their personal PCs (39 percent) or external USB drives (38 percent).

    On the other hand, many everyday tools can also be seen as risks to the corporate environment, such as telephones, says Trunk, so these new technologies might just need an adjustment period. “People can pick up the phone and read corporate memos to competitors, but businesses certainly couldn’t survive without a phone,” she says. That same type of logic can be used to show the benefits of younger workers. Without them, businesses would have a harder time keeping up with the pace as technology changes around them, so the argument against Web 2.0 use is “ridiculous,” she says.

    The cultural differences between the generations are obvious, mostly involving the availability of technology. Baby boomers grew up with a regimented 9 to 5 idea of the working world, where the personal life kept out of the office, says Symantec’s Kapuria. The Millennials, on the other hand, tend to mix personal with professional, he says.

    With that being said, Millennials still have productivity and efficiency on their minds, says Kapuria. They aren’t better or worse than other workers, they are simply different, and IT executives need to shift their structures to incorporate these differences. “It’s a wake-up call” he says, “to prepare businesses for Millennials to come and apply Web 2.0 applications in their organizations.”