My company recently teamed up with Monster.com on a new and very unique study on employee attitudes across multi-generations of workers. The three main generations in the workplace who participated in the research include Gen Y (also known as Millennials), Gen X and Boomers. Having focused on the younger demographic in most of my previous research, my original hypothesis was that Gen Y would prove to be the most entrepreneurial generation, but this current research proves otherwise. The new report found 41% of Gen X employees and 45% of Boomers consider themselves to be more entrepreneurial versus only 32% of Gen Y employees. The reason for this transformation, I believe, is due in part to Boomers feeling they are best positioned to be entrepreneurs because of their experience, their network and their wealth. The older you get, the more likely you are to have time to develop yourself, establish your credentials and build professional relationships. Boomers also have the most financial stability; while this may shift in a few years, it still holds true for now.
Gen Y, on the other hand, is suffering both economically and professionally. Millennials have the highest unemployment rate relative to the national average (11.5% vs 7.8%). Many Gen Yers are either still enrolled in college or recent graduates who are unemployed or currently fine themselves at entry-level positions within companies. They simply aren’t equipped to run a successful business right now the way Boomers are. Of course, there are exceptions that have bucked the trend and made news headlines. Two such millennial outliers when it comes to entrepreneurship are Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and David Karp of Tumblr. For the most part, though, while the internet and technology have lowered the barriers to entry for starting a business, it’s still extremely tough and I speak from experience. It takes a lot of courage, risk, luck, persistence, connections and timing. Entrepreneurship simply isn’t for everyone and not everyone will become an entrepreneur.
Instead of starting their own businesses, many workers can pursue the spirit of entrepreneurship by becoming intrapreneurs within their current roles. An intrapreneur is someone who acts entrepreneurial within the confines of a company. In our study with Monster.com, we found that nearly one third of respondents across generations feel like they have the resources and support to be intrapreneurs. What’s interesting is that being an intrapreneur can help lead you on the path to becoming a great entrepreneur. I was an intrapreneur at EMC, helping the company to leverage social media back in 2007. I gained the skills needed in a professional setting that I was able to leverage to run a successful venture. The biggest advantage of intrapreneurship is having the resources, brand recognition and talented people within an established company, which all contribute to your success in becoming an eventual entrepreneur. When you’re starting out all on your own, you typically need to fund your own business and find your own resources, which is no easy task.
Other interesting findings in our current research included the criteria that different generations use when evaluating companies. Gen X and Boomers are looking for location and salary, whereas Gen Y is looking for training and development. Based on some of my previous work with Millennials, I can tell you that Gen Y, relative to other generations, is focused on mentoring as well. Since Gen Yers are just beginning their careers, and many are desperate to find work – location isn’t as much as of a priority as it is with older, more established workers. On the flip side, healthcare is more important to Boomers as a priority in making job decisions, relative to younger workers. We also found that workers don’t really care much about the products or services a company offers when deciding to join an organization. In order to attract and retain individuals from each generation, this information is vital to HR leaders.
In conclusion, I believe this current study shows that entrepreneurship isn’t the trait of a single generation. Those who are determined to succeed will tend to have more of an entrepreneurial mindset and attitude in the way they approach their careers. Workers with an entrepreneurial spirit take charge of their own lives and careers, without relying on others. People who are able to make things happen within a company, that go way beyond their current job description, will always stand out from others. Whether it’s starting a company, or building a product from scratch, challenge yourself to become an entrepreneur or intrapreneur. People have done it successfully so why can’t you?