Older workers drive social networking in the office

Step aside you whippersnappers! Gen X'ers, Baby Boomers are on top of this

Think those young workers, fresh out of college, all shiny and idealistic are driving the use of social networking at your company?

Well, think again.

The youngest workers in the office aren't the driving force behind social networking in the enterprise. It's Generation X -- people between the ages of 29 and 49 -- who are taking to these new tools, according to a Forrester Research study.

And it's not just Gen X'ers showing up the Generation Y'ers, who range in age from 15 to 28, in the office. The report, which was sponsored by Citrix Systems, noted that after Gen X workers, baby boomers over 55 were the most likely to use social tools in the workplace.

"We know from our own experience that the workforce is more dispersed and mobile than ever, and that people are increasingly turning to technology to help them collaborate with colleagues and customers many miles away," said Bernardo de Albergaria, a Citrix vice president, in a statement.

And it may be no surprise that the youngest workers aren't driving this social push in the enterprise.

A 2009 study by digital consulting firm iStrategyLabs showed that the number of Facebook users over the age of 55 was booming, while the number of high school and college-age users was on the decline. Specifically, the report found that the number of users over 55 had grown 513.7% in just a six-month period.

And just months before the iStrategyLabs study came out, online tracker Hitwise reported that the number of Facebook users over the age of 35 was showing huge growth.

This week's Forrester Research study showed that Gen Y workers are using social tools. They're just not using them as much.

The report, which was based on an international online survey of 797 information workers last month, showed that 40% of Gen Y workers who use social media for business do so daily. That's compared to 50% of workers who are 55 and older. And those 55-and-over boomers have increased their business use of social media by 79% in the past year.

The study also noted that the use of collaborative tools is on the rise.

The use of video chat is up 56% from last year, while the use of team document-sharing sites is up 55% and webconferencing is up 52%.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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