The ‘Silver Tsunami’ of seasoned talent leaving the workforce has been steadily progressing for about 30 years. Service organizations have known it’s coming for years now, but recruitment and knowledge transfer haven’t kept pace. On top of this, Covid-19 amplified the problem by accelerating the timeline for which older field service technicians were planning to retire.
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.
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 and 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.
A human problem can’t be solved by technology alone
While 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 as sifting through vast quantities of contextual information to place humans in the right position.
Reshaping the world of work
But the Silver Tsunami—or Grey Resignation—doesn’t need to spell disaster for the industry. Baby Boomers are actually reshaping 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 to 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 in 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.
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 new workforce.