What impact will technology have on the ageing workforce?

With an ageing population comes an ageing workforce, and according to HelpAge, by the year 2050 one in five people will be over 60.

In some industries, like call centres, an ageing workforce will not impact the service provided by employees. However, industries like manufacturing, utilities, and other physically demanding or dangerous jobs will struggle as the workforce gets older.

The concern for the ageing workforce in the utilities industry is so high, even, that IDC and Gartner reported it as among the top challenges in that sector.

So what are the key business issues with an ageing workforce? The main challenges include knowledge loss, a dip in productivity, and a disparate relationship with customers.

The physical aspects of the job will also suffer, since elderly workers will be unable to complete the physically demanding parts of the job, like climbing up telephone poles, for example.

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An ageing workforce may pose challenges to the manufacturing and utilities industry, but embracing technology in the workplace can help to reduce these pressures.
Here are five technologies that can reduce the strain of an ageing workforce.

1. Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) seems to be everywhere lately, and the manufacturing and utilities industries are no different. By using an IoT-enabled devices to stream two-way communication between workers – one younger worker and one with years of experience – knowledge can be shared and spread across the workforce.

Consequently, engineers with years of experience can share information without being onsite, allowing them to share their experience and train younger staff members.

By using the IoT to share knowledge between older and younger employees while onsite, employees are also facilitating communication among coworkers and allowing real-time business functionality to flourish.

2. Machine learning

Machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence, is able to process huge amounts of data to make smart business decisions.

By using this in the workforce, there is a reduced need to rely on the experience of employees, both young and old, since machine learning can automatically delegate employees to specific locations.

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Machine learning can also automatically rearrange the schedules of engineers in the case of unforeseen changes, ensuring that the most experienced engineers are sent to the correct destinations.

In short, machine learning can hold information on employees’ past jobs and behaviours and make informed decisions to optimise the service provided by engineers.

3. Mobility

As ClickSoftware’s recent survey found, customers are expecting an ‘uberised’ level of service, and expect faster responses from engineers – which older engineers may struggle with.

Senior technicians ore often taken out of the field to supervise younger employees, once again removing more experienced engineers from onsite locations.

By enhancing the mobility of technicians, whether through autonomous vehicles or route optimisation technology, supervisors and older works can still provide supervisory and coaching support, while still remaining engaged in the field.

4. Analytics

Analytics can also be used in the workplace to reduce the skills gap between older and younger workers by prioritising training and promotions for employees.

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When younger members of staff reach a certain level of experience they can consequently achieve a promotion, while less experienced staff can be offered the correct training to progress their career.

However, analytics can also be used to help the business when older members of staff leave the organisation, ensuring optimal succession planning. Employers can therefore make better business decisions based on the data and analysis that is provided by analytics.

5. Gamification

Using gamification technology in the workplace is a new way to engage the workforce, including the manufacturing and utilities industries. Gamification technology is able to track the skills of engineers, allowing employees to earn experience points and celebrate training milestones.

This therefore, encourages desirable behaviours in the workplace, and ensures that employers are making informed training decisions and assigning the correct employees to the required jobs.

Gamification can therefore reduce the pressure of an ageing workforce by tracking the training of all employees, specifically younger engineers.

Employers can consequently access the skills gap in their organisation and ensure that they are working to reduce the gap between older and younger workers.

>See also: The next generation of programmers: Singapore’s digital skills drive

However, an ageing workforce isn’t all doom and gloom, especially since changing demographics can lead to positive industry outcomes.

First and foremost, an ageing workforce brings change management that allows younger (and newer) field service workers to grasp emerging technology and use it from the outset of their careers.

Typically, older workers are less adaptive to new technologies than their younger colleagues. However, in a world that is expecting faster and better service, employees of all ages can come together to provide the best of both worlds for their customers.


Sourced by Alec Berry of ClickSoftware

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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