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.
Goodbye excel spreadsheets, hello performance management tools
By Harald Matzke, Executive
Adviser at Serviceware Performance
Whether it’s the implementation of new software or the use of innovative technologies such as RPA, the opportunities and challenges that arise in the context of digitalisation are manifold. Many companies face challenges due to the complexity of converting systems and processes: high costs as well as investment effort and the lack of time and resources. The project landscape for many companies is becoming increasingly confusing, which repeatedly leads to errors in project management. For example, project resources are planned twice, schedules and deadlines are not met, the budget is not adhered to or, in the worst-case scenario, the project fails completely. Unsuccessful IT projects are not uncommon, especially with large-scale projects, such as initiatives for digital transformation. Despite this, research from Citrix has revealed that three in four IT leaders (77%) see opportunities for success in past digital transformation failures.
IT projects fail – but why?
There are many reasons why IT projects fail. Errors occur both before and during the project phase. Often it is due to the scope of work, which was inadequately defined in advance. Companies also repeatedly underestimate the scope and impact that IT projects have on the entire business. Quite often, they plan too little time, so that even at the beginning, important targets can only be met with difficulty.
So how should companies proceed? First of all, they should ask themselves two questions:
- Are we running the right projects?
- Is our project implementation result-oriented?
The intersection of these two core issues is the project portfolio, which maps the projects already underway and those awaiting a decision. A good portfolio management should actively add and remove projects in order to achieve the intended transformation goal. Portfolio management is an important basis for comparing resource supply and demand and making it transparent for all stakeholders. In project scoring, defined criteria can be used to make a comparison of different project alternatives as objective as possible. Especially when so-called hard and soft facts have to be taken into account, project scoring provides valuable support for the most diverse investment scenarios.
The goal at the beginning of planning is to find a project or product portfolio that is as balanced as possible in terms of opportunities and risks whilst also promising long-term success. Project costs must also be calculated here. In addition to classic cost types such as personnel, travel or material costs, these also include those that have a special significance in the project context, for example external consulting services. Project cost management includes both planning and actual plan comparison as well as regular revision during the project in order to have a clear picture of the costs incurred at all times. Adjustments only work if there is continuous and complete project reporting. Here, the achievement of project goals is to ensure that the business is attaining a desired outcome.
The importance of keeping an optimal overview of projects
To get a clear overview of the status and development of projects, companies often use a number of different tools and applications such as Excel or PowerPoint. In principle, both are solid tools for calculating projects and creating reports. However, they quickly reach their limits as soon as the requirements increase. Modern tools are therefore essential, especially when managing complex IT project portfolio. If a tool from the performance management area is chosen, non-financial indicators can also be taken into account and serve as a basis for business decisions. Parameters such as “service level performance” not only indicate the pure cost aspects of a new project, but also take into account the scope and quality of the service provided.
But what should performance tools do in order to make the described planning steps more efficient? First of all, the most important requirement is integration into existing systems, making sure that it meets the needs and requirements of the company and the respective projects. Often, individual systems (product data management, enterprise resource planning or operational project management) already exist in the company and the data only needs to be merged and prepared.
The chosen solution should also provide a transparent view of the entire project portfolio in relation to the resource and capacity situation. Information should be stored “multidimensionally” (project view, organizational view, time, data types in forecast versions) and analyzed using standard reports and ad hoc evaluations. The forecast view also helps to simulate potential future portfolios and predict their impact on the future cost situation and resource utilization.
Furthermore, the tool should offer the possibility to develop business cases that can serve as a basis for comparison for later versions of the project. By filing them in a central database, the assumptions in the business case can be continuously refined over time and supplemented with facts and key figures such as net present value, payback period or internal rate of return (IRR) can be calculated. Organizations should also be careful not to use business cases only as an initial means of defining the project scope and evaluating the economic viability, but to keep an eye on them on an ongoing basis. Unfortunately, experience shows that few organizations open up the initial business case at the milestones and, in particular, review the initial assumptions and objectives after the project has been completed. In some cases, this would be important in order to see that projects are no longer goal-oriented and would possibly contribute more to success if they were stopped, thus freeing up the resources used for other projects and tasks.
Two sides of the same coin: project and people
With performance management tools, a close link to business strategy and operational planning and budgeting can be achieved, which brings more transparency to react in time to rapidly changing developments. Besides all the technical possibilities that can be used to implement IT projects, however, the human factor must not be forgotten. Changes and transformation are usually unpopular because they often trigger concerns about being replaceable or having to give up privileges and routines. Involving the affected groups of people and open communication regarding the introduction of new software that will impact the company and the work is crucial. Managers should always deal honestly and openly with employees’ concerns and wishes and communicate changes in the course of the project promptly. Then nothing will stand in the way of project portfolio success!
Burnout is not a badge of honour: How to spot the five stages of burnout
In a traditional work environment, there is a clear distinction between work and your personal life, enabling people to separate the two and relax in their home environment. However, with more people now working from home than ever before, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for people to switch off from work when they have finished for the day. This difficulty means more people are experiencing burnout while working from home.
In a study by Capterra, 54% of respondents said that stress increased when working from home due to there being no separation between work and personal life.
This article from business support platform Rovva will define the five stages of burnout and what you can do to avoid it.
What is burnout?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. Burnout can be caused by anything that makes a person feel exhausted or overwhelmed.
The term ‘burnout’ was first coined by Herbert Freudenberger in 1974, who defined burnout as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause of relationship fails to produce the desired results.”
Burnout can affect anyone at any stage of their career. A 2020 Micro Biz Mag study found that of 1,000 adults surveyed in the UK, 22% have experienced job-related burnout. Business owner burnout is particularly common, especially in the early stages of a startup. Small business owners might feel like they need to work long hours to ensure their business gets off to a great start. However, this level of overworking can contribute to burnout and have the opposite effect.
What are the 5 stages of burnout at work?
While burnout can be caused by several factors, and each person’s experience is different, there are generally five stages a person will go through before they experience burnout.
The first stage of burnout is often experienced when a person starts a new job. With high levels of enthusiasm and commitment, driven employees will use their energy, ambition and desire to succeed to push through the demands and challenges of a new role.
Many people are also keen to impress at this stage, which means they will go above and beyond to show their capabilities. However, this can eventually lead to stress as a person undertakes more taxing tasks.
The employee and their manager need to implement positive coping mechanisms, like ensuring they feel part of a team, especially when working from home. By finding methods for coping with stress, they could remain in the honeymoon phase without progressing onto burnout.
The Onset of Stress
After the honeymoon phase, people may start to experience the onset of stress. This is also known as the balancing act, where people feel like they’re juggling several tasks.
Stress is prevalent in any job and industry, but if you don’t learn to manage stress early on, it can lead to burnout and severely impact your professional and personal life. Some industries experience more stress than others, including government, telecoms, media and marketing. However, this doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.
Once the excitement of a new job has started to disappear, people may begin to notice aspects of their job they dislike. This might manifest itself as days that feel more stressful or decreased levels of optimism.
There are several signs associated with the onset of stress, including fatigue, work inefficiency, job dissatisfaction or avoidance of certain tasks. Occasionally, a person might also experience sleep disturbances or neglect of personal needs. Team leaders should look out for early signs of stress so they can provide additional support.
The chronic stress stage of burnout closely follows the onset of stress, with many of the same symptoms appearing or continuing. However, they are usually more intense and can accompany more physical symptoms.
Chronic exhaustion is a tell-tale sign, as well as stress-induced physical illness, anger and depression. There is usually a marked change in a person’s mental health, with a lack of motivation and stress taking centre stage.
Burnout (Crisis Stage)
Every person has a breaking point, and this is especially true when it comes to stress and burnout. Once a person has been through the chronic stress stage, it’s only a matter of time before they enter the crisis stage.
The signs of burnout are much more physical than the symptoms of the other stages. People experiencing burnout will often feel empty, separated from their life and as though they have lost control. It’s difficult for them to continue with any form of normality, so it’s crucial to seek intervention.
Habitual Stress (Enmeshment)
When someone has experienced burnout and has not sought professional help, they might move into the habitual stress stage. This is when a person has taken on so many burnout symptoms that they have become embedded in their life.
People with habitual burnout may not fully realise they have it and will usually be at greater risk of developing chronic long term illnesses. Employers and managers need to recognise when a person is experiencing professional burnout. This can be particularly difficult if remote work is a large part of your organisation’s culture, so ensure you schedule plenty of video calls and informal catch-ups with your team to look for signs.
How to avoid work from home burnout
With an increase of remote workers and home offices, the lines of the workplace feel more blurred. More people are working long hours because they don’t have a commute, and some are even working weekends because they find it difficult to switch off. A study by TOG recently found that 51% of respondents had been working outside of their typical working hours since lockdown and working from home.
It’s more important than ever to learn coping mechanisms that can help to avoid burnout. Some things you can do to avoid work from home burnout include:
· Create a dedicated working space and ensure you only use this area for work
· Don’t travel around the house with your laptop, as this can make traditionally relaxing spaces feel like working areas
· Take regular breaks
· Structure your day like you would in the office – leave your desk for screen breaks, have lunch away from your desk and finish on time
· Remember to take your annual leave
· Maintain face-to-face contact by popping into the office if you can, meeting colleagues socially, or using a flexible office space
· Connect with your colleagues via video calls – a Lifesize study found that 89% of users said video conferencing with their teams helped them feel more connected
· Ensure you get enough sleep by minimising screen time and social media. You could also do something relaxing before bed like meditation, crafting or reading
· Get fresh air and break up the day by going for a walk at lunchtime
· Ask for help when you need it
· Look out for the symptoms of burnout and put coping mechanisms in place
Burnout could affect anyone at any time, no matter what your role is. Therefore, it’s important to do everything you can to ensure no one in your organisation feels exhausted with work. Establishing a remote work culture is a good place to start as it ensures your home-workers feel as much a part of the team as they did in the office.
NFTs for supply chain management
The non-fungible token (NFT) market has surpassed 40 billion dollars in 2021, with nearly 41 billion dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency sent using smart contracts. This impressive market increase over the last year shows how interest is gathering around NFTs. With applications to various industries, from music to healthcare, it is time to assess how NFTs can benefit manufacturing too. Neil Bellinger, head of EMEA at automation parts supplier EU Automation, dives into the applications and benefits of NFTs for supply chain management.
NFTs are non-replaceable units of data stored on a blockchain. These units are uniquely identifiable, and have been traditionally used as representations of digital assets such as videos, photos, music and digital art. However, their applications extend beyond the world of collectables.
For example, long, extensive and complex paper trails will soon be a thing of the past if companies are to implement NFTs to their supply chain. Instead of an endless paper trail of transactional ownerships and more, NFTs would create a digital footprint or a token ID that would follow that item throughout its lifespan.
To be more specific, NFTs in the supply chain would work by creating a unique identification for each product. This ID would contain all the relevant information stored in the NTF’s metadata. Once this NFT is minted, product documentation is recorded using blockchain, which is updated in real-time. Due to the nature of blockchain, the records assigned to the NFT are unchangeable, reducing and potentially eliminating discrepancies in information between parties.
NFTs’ transparency and immutability can ensure reliable and authentic supply chain data, making them the perfect management tool.
Uses for NFTs in supply chain management
NFTs can be beneficial for supply chain purposes, as many companies are concerned with maintaining trustworthy digital data. NFTs ensure this data cannot be tampered with, making them perfect for supply chain management. NFTs also offer many other benefits, such as reliable traceability, product authentication and certification.
Because NFTs can be assigned to physical, real-world objects, a supply chain manager can use them to track a variety of products and materials. To do this, the supply chain manager only needs to create a digital representation of the physical object on the blockchain to enable the transactions to be safely tracked and stored.
The use of NFTs for traceability purposes allows for a range of useful tracking applications, such as tracking packages from warehouses, recording each new owner, and preventing package losses. NFTs can also be useful in tracking reusable packaging or expensive materials. This could help ensure consumers get the quality goods they ordered instead of cheaper alternatives, and helps prevent the loss of goods during delivery.
Other uses include product origin and authentication records. This allows third parties to easily confirm the product’s origin as well as its ownership history, just like a car logbook, except this record cannot be changed and is digital. The NFTs creator can even design it to send royalties back to the original creator every time the product is resold. The NFT can also be used to control and extend warranty and insurance information. This application is demonstrated by the luxury watch brand Breitling, which introduced NFT passports for their watches.
NFTs can also be used to provide certifications for a product. Nowadays, consumers are becoming increasingly more selective about the products they buy, searching for trusted certifications such as fair trade. This concept can be applied to NFTs by having third-party certifiers for product standards or labour safety requirements that would mint the NFT with the appropriate certification. This would ensure the product is digitally labelled as certified, much like the physical free-range ones seen on eggs.
There are legal aspects to consider with using NFTs and current law does little to protect them due to the infancy of the technology. Copyright protection currently exists separately to NFTs, meaning that NFT creators should be careful when it comes to marketing and advertising them. For example, an NFT could be created to represent a sculptor’s artwork and be sold as a creation of that sculptor even if the artist played no role in making the product or authorise the use of images.
Similar issues could occur when using NFTs in manufacturing. For example, an NFT could be created to represent a components design without the designer being aware or authorising the use of his designs. NFTs are known to have a common issue with plagiarism, fakes and spam, with more than 80 per cent of NFTs minted for free on OpenSea’s platform being reported for these issues.
However, there are ways to lessen counterfeit risks. Some platforms use manual verification to solve counterfeit issues, for example, OpenSea requires all people submitting NFTs for minting to provide information such as name, email, selection of works, social network presence, and more, in an effort to authenticate the person’s identity.
Although NFTs are a newer concept with kinks that still need working out, they show increasing potential across a variety of industries and are proving to be a more effective way of identifying and tracking items and information. With the growth of industry 4.0 and a push to make manufacturing more modern, NFTs are certainly a useful innovation to apply to a business.