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Clear generational differences seen in attitudes towards work: New study



Featured | Small Business

By Loren Webb

Recent research from GoDaddy reveals that there is a clear difference in attitudes towards work between the different generations.

The global study was conducted by Savanta in April and May of this year. The local sample comprised 500 respondents, distributed throughout Australia including both capital city and non-capital city areas. 

“Small business,” in this context, refers to businesses with 25 employees or less.

Some key insights at a quick glance:

  • Millennials handle tech issues themselves.

    81% of Millennials handle their business’s technology needs themselves – compared with just 68% and 67% of Gen X and Baby Boomers respectively.

  • Baby Boomers and Gen X don’t value social media as much as Millennials.

    45% of Millennials say social media platforms are the most attractive online channels for their customers, compared with just 27% of Gen Xs and 20% of Baby Boomers. 39% of Baby Boomers don’t have an online presence for their business.

  • Baby Boomers least likely to regret starting a business.

    If given the chance to do it all over again, 82% of Baby Boomers would jump straight in, compared with 75% of Gen Xs and 73% of Millennials.

Perhaps those bullet points surprise you, perhaps they don’t. The point remains, however, that survey data does in fact support the popular school of thought that generations do operate very differently in business.

This survey sheds light on specific areas of business from their interviews; from what business owners view as ‘most important’ for success, to how leaders from different age brackets view and use technology.

We talk often at Dynamic Business about the importance of a diverse workforce, and this report highlights that different ways of working will bring different pros and cons. Although this data looks at small business owners specifically, it is useful and important in recognising the differing viewpoints, and using them to an advantage in small business.

The single most important factor to succeed in business

Both Baby Boomers (41%) and Gen X (46%) agree that ‘reach,’ and by that we mean continually finding new customers, is most important for ensuring success in their small business.

Millennials, on the other hand, see themselves as their biggest factor to consider. Learning how to run a business is of most importance to them, much more so than ‘reach,’ with 43% of the millennial participants agreeing that self-learning is key.

Other options, including team and tech, were less popular among all generational groups.

Handling technology needs when it comes to running a business 

As mentioned above, all age groups agreed that ‘doing it myself’ was the best answer to this question. However, millennials are much more likely to take a DIY approach, with over 8 out of 10 millennials (81%) saying they would handle tech alone.

Baby Boomers came in at 67% and GenX at 68% for this approach in comparison.

Outsourcing, asking family and friends and having a web professional do it were not as likely to be chosen amongst all participants.

Interestingly, both GenX and Baby Boomers were more than twice as likely to ask a friend or family to help them with a tech issue. Only 5% of millennials saying that they would do this, whereas GenX and Baby Boomers came in at 12% and 11%.

Most attractive online channel to customers

The youngest generation, Millennials, identified social media platforms as most important (45%, compared with GenX at 27% and Baby Boomers at 20%).

The GenX majority (27%) also said social media, agreeing with the Millennial choice in this instance, however with much less confidence.

Baby Boomers, the oldest age group in the study, answered ‘no online presence’ in response to this question (39%.)

Expected business performance over the next 3-5 years

Millennials come in as most ‘optimistic’ or ‘driven’ with their growth, as the vast majority (39%) said they will grow rapidly (by at least 50%) in the next 3-5 years.

GenX think it’s more around the 25% growth mark, and Baby Boomers believe they will stay the same size.

No Millennials said that their business would shrink significantly, but 9% of Baby Boomers thought that their business would.

Best part of being a small business owner and entrepreneur

All groups agreed that the best part of being a small business owner was flexibility, and the ability to work when they want, how they want, where they want.

This is an interesting finding as it fits in with the coverage we see for the demand for flexibility among employees also.

Possible external challenges that could affect business success over the next 3-5 years

In this case, Millennial (47%) and GenX (42%) generational groups agree. The inability to sufficiently invest in their business is their top concern.

Baby Boomers didn’t have a clear answer on this, as the majority of respondents (36%) said they were unsure. The options were:

  • Societal and political turbulence in my country and globally
  • Cyber security threats, such as viruses, DDOS attacks or ransomware (all respondents marked this as the least concern)
  • Failure to keep up with technology changes (of which, Millennials had the least issue with (16% – compared to GenX 22% and Baby Boomer 26%)
  • Inability to sufficiently invest in my own business
  • Not sure

To read up on further articles on generational differences, see the below features:

Let’s talk: Generational gap

Lazy and entitled? Millennials break their stereotype, operating the fastest-growing small businesses in Oz

Small businesses not targeting millennials or Gen Z enough, missing out

The Issue of Generational Cyber-Risk: Millennials Versus Baby Boomers

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