Top News Stories for the Week of NOVEMBER 29, 2023
Weekly top 5 signals of change you need to know about to future proof your small business
- Retirement or Not?
Summary: As a giant portion of our population reaches retirement age, how can it not have an impact on business? Let’s take a look at some of the issues – and possible solutions related to retirement:
- From 2015 to 2050, “the proportion of the world’s population over 60 will nearly double from 12% to 22%”. Pair that with low birth rates and we have a serious problem fast approaching. One solution – encourage, retain and/or actively hire workers 55 and older, as they have many years of experience and research shows that multigenerational workforces are “more productive and experience lower turnover.”
- Vermont gives us an early example of this aging trend, as over 20% “of Vermonters are 65 or older, and more than 35 percent are over 54.” While this is no surprise, as we know the age of everyone once they’re born and can track the trends, the lack of immigration and a “brain drain” has made it even worse in Vermont. This is forcing employers in the state to be more creative with finding employees, including developing new training programs, hiring more people with disabilities, promoting from within, and convincing retirees to come back to work. Affordable housing, increased immigration and automation are also in the mix.
- It’s not just Gen X raising kids and Gen-Z techies that like working remote. Older Millennials and Boomers like it too. And the return-to-office mandates from some employers are pushing those 50+ to decide to retire. Many of them would stick around if they could work remotely.
- The average retirement age has moved up from 57 in 1991 to 62 in 2023, as we all live longer and define ourselves by our jobs in many cases. It is not an easy decision for many, and some stick around longer than they should (cough, cough, U.S. Congress).
- Meanwhile, ambitious Gen-Zers are investing their pennies (thanks to all the new investment apps that make it easy) – with the hope of being able to retire early (aka FIRE = financial independence retire early)
My take: A diverse workforce is good for employees and good for the bottom line, so consider recruiting older employees or retaining them and having them help train or mentor your newer/younger employees. The concept of retirement (big party, pension plan, gold watch) is rapidly fading away, and with it, the motivation to retire. We are going to see a huge shift in the way we all work – with more remote options, more automation, more flexible hours and new ways to educate, recruit and retain employees of all ages. Be open to all of this as you work to grow your small business.
Summary: Speaking of workforces with age-diversity, a few stories regarding other diversity issues in the workforce also popped up recently.
- The U.S. military “has spent decades making a concerted push to become more reflective of the diverse nation it defends.” Yet, among Marine fighter pilots, the number of Black pilots is 5 out of 580, less than 1%. A recent study concludes that “the service’s leaders underestimate what’s required for African Americans to overcome certain obstacles that can stymie the prospects of otherwise qualified individuals.”
- Women appear to also be facing obstacles in U.S. government jobs, as a recent Wall Street Journal report uncovered serious issues at the FDIC. “Employees say sexual harassment, misogyny pervade federal agency tasked with ensuring stability of nation’s banks, driving women to leave.” This includes invitations to strip clubs, encouragement to drink to excess, and sexting from male supervisors. What are they middle schoolers? And that doesn’t even get into the lack of promotions among the women who stuck out that unfriendly environment. It was suggested that women should “use sex to get ahead at the FDIC.”
- How is that continuing in a time where women get better grades in high school, attend college at higher rates, and graduate at higher rates than men? Apparently “millions of boys and men don’t understand how or where they fit anymore, and their reaction is to generally disconnect”, leading to lower rates of employment and higher rates of binge drinking and suicide.
- A proposed class-action lawsuit against news organization Gannett “claims the country’s largest newspaper publisher “discriminated against non-minorities” to achieve diversity goals.” This is part of a “wave of litigation aimed at racial considerations in the workplace” following the Supreme Court ruling that “struck down affirmative action in college admissions.” Side note: Gannett’s staff “is nearly 70 percent White and 57 percent male” but it has increased the number of director level employees who are people of color from 2.3% to “more than 16 percent” in the past year.
My take: I can’t possibly recommend any solutions to our current situation relating to diversity (or anti-diversity??). But I can tell you that these stories are a sign that something is going on. I aim to remain optimistic that we will figure out a way to support and recognize the value of a diverse workforce (including age groups). The first step is looking beyond your own personal (and typically un-diverse) connections when finding new hires.
- Layoff and Job Trends
Summary: Are more layoffs coming for Big Tech (and big biz in general)? What’s going on with the big companies that could have an impact on your small business and the pool of available hires?
- “Amazon’s Alexa business is laying off ‘several hundred’ employees, including those on its recently launched artificial general intelligence team.”
- Jack Dorsey, CEO of Block (parent company of Square and others), is “reducing headcount by about 10% over the coming months” and moving forward “should an employee be found to not be meeting expectations, they can be fired or let go immediately, without having to wait for formal feedback during a review cycle, or put on a performance improvement plan.”
- More cuts are expected from large firms, and typically these cuts are based on “which departments it would make sense to reduce based on how much they cost and how critical they are” and “not at all related to performance”.
- Meanwhile, “turnover has declined so steeply at some larger employers that companies now find themselves over budget on certain teams” forcing them to consider whether to cut additional staff.
- Don’t feel too bad for all these laid off tech workers, though. “The government is welcoming laid-off tech workers with open arms” which can help add “a talent pool of highly skilled professionals” to the federal government ranks.
- Even with those options, “AI is going to force millions of workers to train for new jobs”, something that the US is not especially skilled at doing. One thing to consider: “AI won’t take your job. It’s somebody using AI that will take your job.” So maybe keep up on what’s going on in the world of AI with Five for the Future! ?
- Whether hiring is up or layoffs are up right now really depends on the industry you’re in. The Hustle shares a table from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing the top occupations expected to grow in the next ten years. The top five are (1) home health aides, (2) software developers, (3) restaurant cooks, (4) stockers and order fillers and (5) registered nurses.
- And the World Economic Forum has also shared their list of fastest growing vs. fastest declining jobs. The top 5 growing jobs are (1) AI and Machine Learning Specialists, (2) Sustainability Specialists, (3) Business Intelligence Analysts, (4) Information Security Analysts, and (5) Fintech Engineers. The top 5 declining jobs are (1) bank tellers and related clerks, (2) postal service clerks, (3) cashiers and ticket clerks, (4) data entry clerks, and (5) administrative and executive secretaries. Note that out of the 10 declining jobs 7 of them are “clerks” of some sort. And out of the 10 growing jobs, 4 of them are “specialists” and 3 are “analysts”.
My take: Layoffs work very differently for small businesses from my experience. First, the owner takes a cut in pay. Then sometimes the employees will do the same so that no one has to get laid off. No matter the job, every layoff is personal because you know every employee personally. And as far as growing or shrinking job titles – consider your business and the services you deliver. Are they on the list of services that are growing or shrinking? Have you embraced AI yet? Make sure your business is future-proof, not just the job titles. When in doubt, just change all the job titles to “analyst” and away from “clerk” and that will surely do the trick!
- Data Privacy
Summary: We all spend much of our time online these days, but how careful are you to protect your privacy and that of your business and employees from cybercriminals?
- “Cybercriminals held hostage this week a New York unit of the world’s largest bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, disrupting trading in U.S. Treasurys. The impact was relatively minor, market participants said, but the fear wasn’t.”
- “A raft of companies is trying to sell the idea that ‘emotion artificial intelligence’ can pick up on subtle facial movements that we aren’t even aware we’re making, use those minuscule twitches to determine what we’re feeling, and then turn those private feelings into quantifiable data.” Even though it’s not clear that EAI works, “that isn’t stopping companies from using EAI to spy on their employees, determine how they feel, and identify who should be hired and who should be fired.”
- Fast Company shared some key insights from a recent book “Your Face Belongs to Us: A Secretive Startup’s Quest to End Privacy as We Know It” (not dystopian at all!). One insight: “The world of personal information is about to reorganize itself around our biometric information” including your face and your voice. More specifically, “it is going to be trivial to identify somebody as they walk through the world”, including “who our friends are, where we live, our credit rating, and what we are willing to spend in a given year.”
- Somewhat related – Amazon One was introduced this summer – a “palm recognition service for identification, payment, and loyalty membership” that is already being implemented at some Whole Foods stores and Starbucks locations. It’s also been introduced at Lumen Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks, so fans can “get their food and drinks during a timeout as quickly as possible.” Will we trade privacy for convenience? Apparently so.
My take: Do you care if everyone who works with and for you knows everything about you? It sometimes feels as if we are fast approaching a world like that, where your credit score along with your social media ranking/# friends is another data point for all to know. Pretty sure that was at least one if not more episodes of Black Mirror! Not to mention a science fiction book or two I’ve read.
- What does happiness cost?
Summary: How much money would make you happy? The answer might be different for a business owner than for an employee, but apparently the answer is ALSO different by generations. A recent survey “found that the average person needs $1.2 million in the bank to be happy” and that millennials would like a $525,000 annual salary to be happy, while Gen Z only wants $128k and Gen X wants $130k to be happy. What’s with those millennials??
In their support, “many studies have found a link between income and happiness, both in terms of day-to-day mood and longer-term life satisfaction. Having more money would help many people afford necessities, and on average, richer people report being happier.” Another study asked how much of a pay raise was needed to be happy, and everyone wanted just a little more than they made. Your salary is $65,000 a year, then you’d like $95,000 to be happy. Current salary is $250,o00? Then you’d like $350,000 to be happy. On average, “Americans said that to be happy, they would need almost a 50% raise”, as compared to the expected average pay raise for 2024 of 3.9%.
Perhaps that is why so many people are unhappy at work? They haven’t seen their 50% raise? Interviews with employees show that people are more unhappy, stressed and disengaged than ever lately. The main sources of discontent “range from inflation, which is erasing much of recent pay gains, to the still-unsettled nature of the workday” with remote and hybrid work being figured out still post-pandemic.
My take: It seems highly unlikely that anyone will get a 50% raise anytime soon – but you know who has the best potential to increase earnings? Futures-focused small business owners who pay attention to trends in the world around them and take advantage of them! Way to go!
How bold are your promises to your customers? I bet this story has them all beat!
Over 100 cabins on a “Life at Seat Cruises” business have been reserved for a three year cruise. These customers have sold their homes and their belongings in anticipation of a three year voyage that was initially supposed to start on November 1, then November 11, then November 30. But on November 17, the cruise company told them all that the cruise was off. Not only that, but the company actually has NO SHIP! Apparently, they couldn’t afford to buy the ship and outfit it but didn’t want to admit it. The company says they are “extremely sorry for the inconvenience.” Wow!
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