Why Gen Y workers bypass IT usage policies

Nearly half of Generation Y employees in Canada say they routinely bypass IT usage policies and a quarter of them face no repercussions for doing so, according to a national study conducted by IT World Canada and Harris/Decima.

In Freedom to Compute: The Empowerment of Generation Y, Toronto-based research firm Harris/Decima surveyed more than 1,000 workers between the ages of 18 and 29 about their attitudes towards technology. The results were presented to focus groups of CIOs and CEOs to explore the generation gap among older IT workers and future business leaders.

Of the 47 per cent of Gen Y workers who admitted to bypassing IT usage policies, 13 per cent said they do so on a daily basis. The most commonly used applications included instant messaging, music and online videos, according the report.

“Particularly disconcerting is the fact that 59 per cent of those respondents who work for companies that have usage restrictions say they believe employees generally do not follow these policies. It suggests that in many companies, usage policies are perhaps made to be broken,” the report says.

Harris/Decima vice-president Lise Dellazizzo said the report should be a wake-up call to CIOs. “This is primarily due to the lack of enforcement of policies compounded by little to no consequences when bypassing corporate policies,” she said. “We have also seen a ‘passing the buck’ attitude among senior leadership when it comes to who owns responsibility to enforce these policies between IT, HR and CEOs.”

Matt Elliot, a 25-year-old who runs a blog called YWorking.com, says the level of usage violations and social networking in the enterprise may be greater than the report indicates.

“Realistically it’s close to 100 per cent,” he said. “It’s not something they really think of against policy. It’s like picking up the phone and calling a friend in your office about getting together later. Because it’s on this new Web platform it scares off a lot of employers. In the minds of young people it’s no big deal.”

CIOs need to recognize the differences in Gen Y before usage policies become an issue, Dellazizzo said.

“The CIO is changing in large part because the demands being put on IT have changed as a result of a new breed of employee at an early stage of their career that are well equipped with advanced computing skills they bring to the workforce,” she said. “They’re independent, more willing to take risks and naturally inclined to almost anything technology based. They are hungry for information, highly mobile and globally connected. It is in CIOs’ best interest to understand that these employees are their clients.”

The worst thing CIOs can do, according to Elliot, is to start banning social networking and other popular online tools, as the Ontario Public Service and the City of Toronto, among others, have done.

“No matter what you do (from a policy standpoint) it will be circumvented,” he said. “There has to be a middle ground. A lot of the opposition to seeing Facebook on a screen at work is fear. Maybe this person isn’t doing any work or posting company secrets. There are privacy, productivity concerns. When you get right down to it, it’s such a big part of the 20-something generation’s life.”

Many users are preparing for the worst, however: 49 per cent of those surveyed whose companies have usage policies expect restrictions to increase in the next five years.

Tomorrow: Why do CIOs always have to be the bad guy?

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Shane Schick
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