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The Grey Resignation: Baby Boomers Are Reshaping Work For Future Generations

Sumair Dutta is senior director of customer and market insights at ServiceMax.

The age of exit from the labour market is lower today than it was in the 1950s. The ‘Silver Tsunami’ of seasoned talent leaving the workforce has been steadily progressing for about 30 years, but like everything else, COVID changed its trajectory. Pre-pandemic, many older workers had already planned to retire or move to a less demanding job because of their age. COVID simply accelerated their plans. An already an aging workforce saw an acceleration towards retirement to avoid health-related issues.

Older workers were more severely impacted by COVID in the early stages of the pandemic – especially in industries where working from home was not an option, such as field service engineers and technicians, who install, maintain and service equipment assets.

Because of the nature of their work, field service technicians were obliged to work through the most dangerous months of the pandemic to keep critical assets running. It’s a profession that’s been particularly affected, especially in the industrial and manufacturing industries where field service technicians tend to be older than workers in other sectors.

The problem for organizations isn’t just looming retirement of these key workers.  There’s a lack of new candidates interested in replacing them. Millennials typically want to innovate and make a difference rather than maintain what’s already been built, and not as interested in “getting their hands dirty”. 

Every industry has lost workers and valuable knowledge due to retirement – the only difference is the varying degrees. The four industries with the largest number of 50+ workers – health, retail, education, and manufacturing – account for approximately half (47%) of all 50+ workers in the UK economy. Likewise, in the construction industry, the total of workers over 60 has increased more than any other age group, while the biggest reduction is in the total of workers under 30.

Of course, the ageing workforce isn’t a surprise. Employers have known it’s coming for years now, but recruitment and knowledge transfer hasn’t kept pace, and now COVID amplified the problem.

The issue is further compounded by our global consumption. Businesses have had to adapt to service and support our industrial demand for uptime and outcomes.  A ServiceMax / Vanson Bourne study found that Generation Z, those born between the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, will be the last generation to remember a product-based economy as we continue to move to outcome-based contracts and business models.

Whilst industries are using AI, field service management and other technologies to capture and automate this type of knowledge before it walks out the door, there are some human insights that simply can’t be automated. Technology alone isn’t the answer.

Humans are critical in decision-making, especially in manufacturing and service. In a service context, AI will play a role in the near future to help categorize and classify issues, based on data ingestion and analysis, to assist and direct human engineers. Over time, when data collection is much more seamless, we still see the role of AI and advanced position as sifting through vast quantities of contextual information to place the humans in the right position.

But it’s not all bad news. Baby Boomers are actually reshaping the also the world of work, right before our eyes. They’re the first generation to work at older ages en masse with many choosing to work part-time with the right flexibility. This has the potential to transform traditional working environments, training and attitudes into something new that caters for older workers and paves the way for generations of older workers to come.

Older workers who choose to stay on past retirement age are typically motivated by different experiences than their younger colleagues.  They are not as interested in money or career advancement, but rather look for gratification on the job and opportunities that allow them to “pay it forward” by passing on their knowledge to the next generation of workers.

Within field services, more senior workers tend to have stronger technical and ‘hands on” skills, while younger workers tend to be stronger on the “adaptive” skills, such as analytical thinking and innovation and creativity. Younger workers also have a greater understanding and expectation of technology which makes it easier to implement digital tools and solutions. Likewise, some more experienced workers – who are not at retirement age – are also willing to take on part-time or project-related opportunities as opposed to full-time commitments as they seek more flexibility and freedom, enabling more ‘job sharing’ opportunities for older workers.

By combining the technical skills of the older generation of technicians and their desire to pass on their knowledge to younger workers, with the creativity, resilience and willingness to learn of younger generations, companies can create a powerful workforce. The grey resignation doesn’t need to spell disaster for industry.

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When something personal fills an important gap in the market 

by Cécile Mazuet-Eller, founder of NameSwitch

There aren’t many business ideas that go from a personal experience to filling an important gap in the market. However, this is certainly the case for NameSwitch, the UK’s pioneering and only name changing support service launched in 2018. But what inspired its inception and what challenges did it face? Here, Cécile Mazuet-Eller, the founder of the company, in its seventh year, explains.

My entrepreneurial journey is a bit unusual in that it started from my own experience of going through a divorce, which became a pivotal turning point for me not only emotionally, but practically too. I wanted to remove my married name, and I had a visceral reason to do so as I really didn’t want to keep it. Feeling extremely frustrated at still receiving letters and official documents featuring my previous name, I was desperate to change it but like for so many people it became a stop-start, arduous task.

Once I started the process, I realised it was taking up far too much time I didn’t have; being a single mum to two young children and working full-time is no mean feat, so when I embarked on the name changing process I realised it wasn’t going to be easy.  Searching for a solution to help, all I came up with was a service covering the US and Canada, but nothing that worked for the UK, so in the end, I spent a whole year to get everything changed that had to be, which proved long and stressful to say the least.

Nurturing the idea

In the early days I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by positive people who had good contacts, and who saw the viability of my idea. Living in a small community filled with intelligent and well-rounded people, I wasn’t short of encouragement from them and friends, who recognised as well as I did there was a definite gap in the market. Working with a web development team in Serbia which was also recommended, I enlisted additional help from a university student on some research.

I always wanted to run my own business, and there were several reasons why I needed to embark on something new. As the only breadwinner in the house, there were mounting bills while balancing the demands of motherhood and other financial responsibilities. Cash was limited but what little I had was used carefully which I put into the business.

In the early stages, which included the development of the unique technology that underpins the service, I carved pockets of time at night and on weekends to create a strong foundation for the business. Creating something completely from scratch was like a form of healing, which is why it was and remains such a personal project.

Mulling over the idea for at least two years following the original lightbulb moment, the business was registered in 2015, with time needed for building the robust platform in order to  create a viable product. Drawing on my previous experience, I investigated overseas equivalents, financials and marketing intelligence ensuring there was a genuine need for the service in the UK. Fortunately enough I was able to share my plans with my employer at the time, who turned out to be my biggest supporters, becoming my first paying customer who purchased a NameSwitch for his ex-wife, who was getting married to someone else!

With a career in telecommunications and a degree in marketing, I was already used to hard work and having the support and encouragement from my telecoms team was extremely helpful.   

Support and coaching

Coaching was an important element of the start-up process, obtained through a wider network and some financial support from family,  with no other funding or investment being available.

The challenges

Presented with certain obstacles like all businesses are, there was a lot to juggle and at times it felt like too much but I managed to navigate the complexities involved. When Covid hit that was a huge set-back, given that our biggest target market was and still is, newly-weds. With all weddings being banned, it hit NameSwitch hard, but our saving grace were the people who used the time to change their name’s in lockdown, by doing something they previously didn’t have time for. Being 100% employed by the business by this stage, it turned into a year of survival and another big challenge.  

In 2022-2023 we concentrated on growth for NameSwitch, when me and my dedicated team were satisfied with the service, it was time to consider investment into PR, advertising and partnerships to increase brand awareness to reach the revenues that were needed.

In 2022-2024, it was forecast that 285,000 – 415,000 weddings will take place resulting from the pandemic, which has reflected well on the business in recent years. And amidst the trials and tribulations it’s proved to be both exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure.

With hindsight, there are certain things I’d have done differently, such as bringing in a partner early on to put us in a stronger position sooner, and adding more resource  to improve growth, but I know that’s all part of the steep learning curve and something to take with me to projects in the future.

Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs

For anyone contemplating their own entrepreneurial endeavours, I’d recommend to ‘one hundred percent go for it’ – but do not bet the house on it and whatever happens, embrace the journey.

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How relationships with work are changing

by Amrit Sandhar (CEO/ Founder, &Evolve)

Since Chris Argyris’s work in the 1960s into the psychological work contract, the assumption’s remained that it’s based on mutual exchange of beliefs and expectations of what employee and employer can expect from each other, given a contract only works with two parties agreeing to it.

But have we seen a shift in the balance of this contract, where the expectations of employees have really changed? Since the industrial revolution, organisations dictated employees’ working arrangements which focused on driving greater productivity and performance. This reflected the imbalance of power, with employees reliant on their organisations to structure working arrangements to drive the best results.

Employees signed up to this psychological contract, despite it representing an imbalance in favour of the employer. However, the pandemic stressed this equilibrium, which has led to many, reevaluating their relationship with their work.

While the pandemic has had a long-term impact on most, affecting everything from education to mental health, it could also be the cause of an evolution that’s changing people’s relationship with work. While organisations were supported through furlough schemes and government grants, employees took responsibility for keeping businesses going, by changing the way they worked. Employees took an unprecedented situation and found ways of dealing with it and since the first time in many years, employees had and took direct ownership of the success of the organisations they worked for – which changed everything.

We’ve seen a seismic shift in how we think about work since the that time, which goes far beyond submitting requests for flexible working. It shows that we’re at the threshold of realising a more balanced psychological work contract, driven by employees, who have different mutually agreed beliefs and expectations in how employees and employers work together.

Gone are the days when employees are only satisfied with financial reward and a nice manager. Gen Z will soon become the largest generation making up our workforce and while money is important to them (as they’re likely to be poorer than previous generations), many want work to be something that complements their life, and not something that only provides financial reward.

Some have said the generation gap is a myth, and before the pandemic this may have been true. But when a generation has experienced such a paradigm shift it brings a different mindset of beliefs and expectations about how work can and should be carried out.

It’s hard to see how anyone could go back to the previous way of working, which should have always focussed on outputs and outcomes rather than hours worked. Other than manufacturing, where it was easy to measure productivity, organisations have become complacent in measuring output and outcomes, with employees paying the price for this ambiguity.

Organisations utilising employee engagement surveys, listening forums, and employee representative initiatives often launch them with the best of intentions, however, the historical underlying imbalance of power towards employers, has prevented a more equitable relationship from forming, despite these initiatives. The strain some organisations are experiencing with mounting pressure to challenge how work is carried out, whether from expecting remote working to questioning if a four-day week would drive greater productivity, shows the shift taking place to the long-standing equilibrium of the psychological work contract.

Future successful organisations will be those that can attract and retain the best talent, and it’s unlikely that the next generation of employees will be willing to relinquish their courage to challenge how work is done.

Employees will seek a greater understanding of exactly what’s required of their role and expect organisations to clearly define measures, to understand how their value and success will be measured, regardless of when, where, and how they choose to work.

Rather than resisting change organisations should consider how they can shape it, by questioning and finding solutions to measuring outputs and productivity, by looking at how they help employees feel respected and valued, and how they help bring the psychological contract, based on a new set of mutually agreed expectations and beliefs to life.

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Why email marketing remains one of the best forms of digital marketing

Crafting a strong email marketing strategy involves a real balance between creativity and making data-driven decisions, which, is just one of the roles undertaken by marketing and data company Go Live Data on behalf of its many clients.

Guiding some of the biggest corporates in the UK including Amazon Business, AxA and Premierline Business Insurance, Adam Herbert, CEO of Go Live Data, advises on the key components to a successful email campaign and why as one of the most effective marketing tools available, email still plays a crucial role in digital marketing:

Forming a direct means of communication, emails provides a and two-way access between businesses and their customers. And it may sound obvious to say, but unlike social media or other digital channels, every email allows marketers to reach their audience straight into their inbox, and this is where individuals are most likely to engage with the content they’re being shown.

Offering a high return on investment,  emails consistently deliver one of the highest ROI’s compared to other forms of digital marketing such as PPC and advertising. According to studies, the average is around £40 for every £1 spent, which is huge; and due to the low cost of email, its ability to drive conversions and to retain customers.

What’s more, with email segmentation and many personalisation techniques available, marketers can tailor their messages to specific groups of their audience, based on demographics, their behaviours, interests, and purchase history making them not only very targeted, but personalised too. The key is to deliver relevant content to subscribers, which means marketers can increase engagement, conversions, as well as customer satisfaction.

There are specific platforms which allow for automation, giving marketers the ability to set up automated workflows triggered by user actions and also means that marketers can deliver timely and relevant messages at scale, by nurturing leads, as an effective way to guide customers efficiently through the sales funnel.

Emails are also an excellent way to build customer relationships, by nurturing over time. By consistently delivering valuable content, exclusive offers, and personalised recommendations, businesses can strengthen the ‘bond’ with their audiences and increase brand loyalty. Email provides a means of two-way communication, which allows customers to send in their feedback, to ask any questions they may have and to  engage with a brand directly.

They are also a great way to drive traffic to your website, blog and social media, or any other digital channels connected to your business. By including attractive or compelling calls-to-action (CTAs) and relevant content, you can encourage subscribers to take action such as making a purchase, signing up for a webinar, or downloading a resource, which in turn will drive conversions and revenue for your business.

Email platforms offer substantial analytics and reporting functions that enable marketers to track the performance of their campaigns in real-time. Monitoring of key metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, and revenue generated, allows marketers to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and of course make data-driven decisions to optimise and plan future activities.

Overall, emails are an integral component of a digital marketing and by leveraging email effectively, businesses can engage their audience, nurture leads, drive sales, and ultimately grow their businesses.

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