On the motivational drivers of gray entrepreneurship: an exploratory study

Rainer Harms, Florian Luck, Sascha Kraus, Steven Thomas Walsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)
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Against the background of demographic change, gray entrepreneurship has become more prevalent. When gray entrepreneurs chose to leave paid employment to become self-employed, it is of concern for companies who may lose highly capable older employees. One of the reasons for this can be a failure to understand the motives of those older employees who are likely to become self-employed. Another is the fact that gray entrepreneurs proactively utilize entrepreneurial action and technology to improve our multigenerational society. Thus older people provide more to society than just being passive receptors of technology based innovations to improve their lot. If this is true then there is a missing link in our understanding of technology utility and the aging society. The purpose of this article is to understand how gray entrepreneurs affect entrepreneurial action and to highlight the motivational drivers of gray entrepreneurs with a particular emphasis on multigenerational HRM challenges of an aging workforce. We investigate the motivational drivers of 12 gray entrepreneurs with semi-structured interviews and in doing so becoming the first study to use the theory of planned behavior (TBP) to better understand gray entrepreneurs. The results are coded and structured around the concept domains of the theory of planned behavior. Our interpretive analysis shows to what degree HRM challenges were perceived to be push or pull factors in gray entrepreneurship. The results show that contrary to classic stereotyping, gray entrepreneurs remain highly ambitious and open to technological developments. Few other reasons related to HRM challenges play a role in their decision to become self-employed. We show that there is at least a segment of the “gray” society that creates value for the society through entrepreneurial action. We conclude this article by discussing implications for practice and theory
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-365
Number of pages8
JournalTechnological forecasting and social change
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2014


  • METIS-304904
  • IR-91686


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