Wednesday 18 November 2020 10:01 am

Meet the BETAs: the decision-makers of the future

Tyrona Heath is director of market engagement at LinkedIn’s B2B Institute

What comes to mind when you think of the modern professional?

To find out, LinkedIn’s B2B Institute partnered with GWI for a first-of-its kind study on the rising generation of business decision-makers — affectionately coined “the BETAs”. 

Our findings characterise the BETAs with the following: Blurred work-life boundaries, with an Evolving mindset, Tech natives who are time poor, with raised levels of Activism.

Author and forecaster Lucie Greene describes BETAs coming of age as a time when entire sectors like banking and retail were upended within a few short years. For that reason, BETA culture has zeroed in on adaptability as a means of survival. The BETAs are the first “LinkedIn Generation” — they came of age professionally when LinkedIn was very much of the professional culture lexicon and a new concept entirely. 

Now, the oldest of the BETAs are nearing 40 and assuming executive and leadership roles, which makes it increasingly crucial for B2B brands to reach them. So what’s the key to understanding them?

They live in a world where the personal and professional are blurred.

The loss of dedicated workspace due to the pandemic is felt intensely by  BETAs. They’re most likely to be living in shared households or with their parents, and are least likely to have their own home office.

The work day also often bleeds into their personal day and so working late, working overtime, checking emails outside work, and using personal devices for professional reasons are all behaviors they engage in more than any other cohort. 

The BETAs are of the “always on” smartphone generation, spending an extra 550 hours per year on their smartphones compared to older professionals — that’s an additional 68.5 working days. Their use of the mobile phone will be as critical to the future of B2B as the invention of the telephone and typewriter to companies one hundred years ago. 

They’re constantly on a mission to improve, adapt, and evolve.

To the BETAs, career is increasingly also identity — they’ve been raised in an era where personal brands intersect with professional careers. 

As Jason Mander, chief research officer at GWI which conducted the research, puts it: “The BETAs are the most likely to describe themselves as career-oriented, wanting to achieve more, and wanting to challenge themselves. They’re also highly engaged with online learning, seeing it as a way to improve themselves as people as well as boosting their work capabilities and qualifications in a cost-effective and flexible way.”

Indeed, 65 per cent in the UK (and 80 per cent globally) are participating in online learning to improve skills: the younger the professionals, the more engaged they are.

They are tech natives who champion an ethos of innovation and out-of-the-box thinking

 “BETAs’ ethos of pushing the boundaries is evident both in how they see themselves and the companies they work for,” states Mander.

They seek to innovate and stay cutting-edge: keeping up with the latest trends is key (30 per cent of 21–30 year olds compared to 20 per cent of 51–64 year olds), as is trying a product because they know a competitor is using it (22 per cent versus 10 per cent).  

BETAs think of themselves as quick decision-makers who make choices based on gut feeling — but they’re also the most likely to seek expert opinions and recommendations from their network before making a purchase. 

They embrace activist values and expect the same from businesses they work for — and with.

To take just one example, according to one of GWI’s global studies, 83 per cent of business professionals want to see companies taking brand actions in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. But among BETAs specifically, this is higher — at 88 per cent and as high as 92 per cent of BETAs under 30. 

The companies that understand BETAs’ attitudes and behaviours will create substantial opportunities for business growth. They now form the biggest group of purchasers and decision-makers — ignoring them isn’t an option. 

If there has ever been a good time to get to know how business people think and feel, it’s now. Your audience might surprise you.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.