Generational diversity – strategies for the ageing workforce

The number of people in the UK employed over the age of 65 has reached the one million mark.

The demographics of the ageing population are astonishing.  Today, the median age (where half the population is older; half younger) of the world population is 28.  By 2050 the median age in Europe will be 47 and 22% of the world population will be over 60.

A report by organisational development experts Talentsmoothie explores the implications of the ageing population for businesses.

‘A new career stage’

In the UK, the number of working pensioners increased by 85% between 1993 and 2011.  Employees now have the right to work beyond statutory retirement age – many of them want to do so, or are forced to do so by economic circumstance.  This ‘extended career’ stage is currently not being managed by employers and the report calls for organisations to focus on proactively managing this career stage – beginning well before statutory retirement age.  65% of organisations participating in the research said they were ‘reactive’ rather than proactive when it comes to discussing retirement with employees.

Similarly, employees are often not keen to raise the issue, fearing that raising their concerns will ‘rock the boat’ and trigger redundancy.

Skills gaps

Over the next ten years, the UK (and many other countries) will experience skills shortages.  Research from a number of sources, including CIPD and McKinsey, predicts skills gaps and a shortage of school- and college-leavers to fill vacancies.

The report describes older employees as a ‘hidden talent pool’.  In the UK organisations such as DIY chain B&Q and building society Nationwide have made a positive effort to employ and keep older workers on board.  The benefits they have reported include reduced employee turnover, improved customer service and increased profitability.  In Japan, Toyota is addressing the ‘knowledge drain’ of retired employees by re-recruiting them to work part-time.

Generational diversity

The oldest Gen-Z youngsters are already 18!  As they begin to join the workforce we will have an increase in the number of ‘five-generation’ workplaces.  Employers need to understand the generational diversity of their customer base and their workforce.  They need to develop policies and working environments that maximise the benefits of multi-generational organisations.

And all of us should overcome our fears of discussing ‘the R-word’ – retirement!

The European internet economy – a manifesto for growth

How can Europe grow its internet-led economy?  The Startup Europe Leaders Club has made 22 recommendations in its new manifesto.

The independent group of leading entrepreneurs has been asked to act as a steering group for European policies on tech-led business growth.  It has now summarised its 22 ideas into a manifesto structured into five themes:

Education and skills

  • More ‘digitally confident’ teachers
  • Instilling children with a passion for entrepreneurship
  • Encourage students to start businesses before they graduate, when they are least risk-averse (this is much more common in the US – 20% of CalTech and Berkeley undergraduates have started their own business)
  • Large companies should offer training programmes to the general public

Access to talent

26% of European employers have difficulty filling roles because of skills gaps and shortages.  The manifesto also describes what constitutes a ‘brain drain’ of entrepreneurs setting up businesses in Silicon Valley rather than Europe  The manifesto recommends:

  • Roll-out of a pan-European startup visa, making it easier for non-EU citizens to start a business and hire non-EU citizens
  • Europe must launch targeted campaigns to reverse the brain drain.

Data policy, privacy, protection

The manifesto cites outdated and inconsistent data regulations across Europe.  It recommends:

  • A unified data protection law
  • Revising the ‘antiquated’ requirement that EU businesses must keep their servers in the same country
  • Opening up government data
  • Encouraging governments to ‘think digital’

Thought leadership

  •  Appoint a Chief Digital Officer in every country of the EU
  • Create a best practices repository
  • Establish a Digital European Forum

The manifesto also considers improving access to capital and other ways to support entrepreneurs.

You can read the manifesto – and sign it if you wish – here.

UK – 750,000 digital workers needed by  2017

Meanwhile, a study by Development Economics (on behalf of O2) reveals the demand for skilled staff in the digital economy.

The report calls for improved collaboration between the private and public sectors and says that government support for digital skills development is vital in providing work opportunities and to stimulate small business.

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Facilitating access to free resources

Academic libraries are moving away from ‘content purchasing’ models to ‘facilitating access to content’.  And an increasing amount of this content is free.

Taylor and Francis has published a white paper exploring the challenges and opportunities faced by the library community of facilitating access to free resources.

How much free content is out there?

  • In May 2013 Google indexed 45 billion web pages
  • Between 1993 and 2009 the number of OA articles increased ten-fold; the number of OA journals increased from 740 to 4,769
  • By December 2012, the Directory of Open Access Journals listed 8000+ titles
  • According to the Registry of Open Access Repositories there are over 3300 OA repositories

91% of librarians surveyed by Taylor and Francis ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that free resources add value to the research process.  However, discovering and facilitating access to such sources can be a challenge:

  • Lack of metrics and evidence to demonstrate the value of free content
  • Lack of metadata and the challenge of identifying access and reuse rights
  • Concerns over permanence of OA sources


  • Librarians need to educate institutions that their role goes beyond purchasing content
  • Work needs to be done to prove return on investment for time spent enhancing the discoverability of free content
  • Work needs to be done on the development and adoption of metadata standards
  • There should be increased collaboration between librarians and users to select content
  • Librarians should continue their focus on improving institutional information literacy
  • There should be more comprehensive indexing of quality free resources by discovery systems

Taylor and Francis held one focus group in the UK and one in the US. In addition they conducted in-depth telephone interviews; desk research and an online survey with over 500 responses.

The White Paper is available here.


The psychology of sharing

If we understand what drives people to share content online, then we can appeal to their motivations to connect our content with others.

The New York Times Customer Insight Group has collaborated with Latitude Research to gather insights into what drives people to share content online.  It describes six personas and explores ways to appeal to them.

“I share to enrich the lives of those around me”

The research shows that the very act of sharing helps people to process information – 73% say sharing helps them process information more deeply and thoughtfully.  However, the vast majority (94%) are careful about information overload – they report that they “consider carefully” how useful the information will be to those they wish to share it with.

Other reasons for sharing:

  • To support issues or causes (84%)
  • To stay connected (78%)
  • To connect with others with shared interests (73%)
  • To feel more involved with the world (69%)
  • To give others a better idea about what matters to them (68%)

Sharing personas

  • Altruists – reliable, thoughtful and connected sharers
  • Careerists – sharers of business interests and ideas exchanges
  • Hipsters – creative sharers who see sharing as ‘part of who they are’
  • Boomerangs – provocative sharers of [often controversial] content
  • Connectors – planners and sharers who bring others together
  • Selectives – careful, informative and selective sharers of content

If you want your content to be shared by others, some rules are relevant irrespective of the personas of your target audience.  Keep your message simple, embrace a sense of urgency and show a sense of humour.  Above all remember that ‘being shared’ is just the beginning - remaining engaged is the most important aspect of all.

Download the research.

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Tablets and TV – media consumption in the home

The average UK household now owns more than three types of internet-enabled devices and tablet ownership has more than doubled in the last year.  Over 50% of adults in the UK now own a smartphone.  These trends are impacting how the population consumes and interacts with digital media.

Ofcom, the UK’s communications industries regulator, has released its latest Communications Market Report, providing a snapshot of changing media behaviour in UK households.

Tablet devices

  • 24% of households now own a tablet computer.
  • 95% use it at least once a week; two thirds use it every day
  • 9% of households own more than one tablet device
  • Half of tablet owners say “they couldn’t live without them”
  • A third of them use their tablets as their main way of connecting to the internet
  • Half of tablet users have downloaded one or more TV apps

Changes in TV viewing

The growth of tablet ownership is driving the trend of ‘second screening’:

  • 22% of households with a tablet use it to watch different content in the same room all or most of the time
  • More adults are watching TV on their main set than a decade ago (91% up from 88% in 2002)
  • 53% of UK adults are ‘media multi-tasking’ while watching TV
  • 25% are ‘media meshing’ while watching TV – this includes texting about what they are watching; tweeting or using apps to communicate directly with programmes
  • 49% are using devices to undertake unrelated tasks while watching TV – anything from online shopping to social networking
  • The number of TVs per household is in decline – but the screens are getting bigger

Teens texting less

  • 84% of 16-24 year olds use at least one form of web-based communication (email; instant messaging; social media) every week
  • 80% of them are texting at least every week
  • Social networking is now the most popular form of web-based communication

The report also covers growth rates in superfast broadband; household spend on media and communications; radio and TV industry revenues and online shopping.

You can download the report here.


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Twitter: from communication to content

In 2010, Twitter positioned itself as “a network powered by people … around the world… that lets you share and discover what’s happening now”.  By 2012 this had shifted to “a real-time information network that connects you to the latest stories, ideas, opinions…” and advises users to “follow the conversations” and states you don’t have to tweet to gain value from Twitter.

A study of 2500 non-commercial Twitter users sets out to discover how they are using Twitter and what motivates them to share content in an attempt to predict how Twitter will continue to evolve.  The authors (Olivier Toubia, Columbia Business School and Andrew T. Stephen, University of Pittsburgh) selected users at random and increased the number of their followers by using synthetic accounts.  They noticed that as the number of followers increased, account holders would increase the number of times they posted.  However this activity would slow down once a certain number of followers was reached.  They conclude that the profile of Twitter itself will continue to evolve from a communications vehicle to a content delivery vehicle.


  • Fewer ‘everyday’ people – the authors predict a slowdown of activity from ‘normal’ users and a continued increase in commercial and celebrity activity.
  • Twitter will shift from a communications vehicle to a content delivery vehicle
  • The value non-commercial users get from Twitter will shift away from the production of content to the consumption of [commercial] content
  • First are likely to derive more value from Twitter by using it as a media channel to broadcast content to consumers rather than as a viral marketing platform

Originally published in Marketing Science, Intrinsic versus Image-Related Motivations in Social Media: Why do People Contribute to Twitter? was written by Olivier Toubia, Columbia Business School and Andrew T. Stephen, University of Pittsburgh. Download the full report.

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Measuring the digital economy

Research suggests the government is seriously underestimating the size of the UK’s digital economy.

A report by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) commissioned by Google sets out to establish the true size of the UK’s digital economy.  The UK government has been using industry classification codes (SICs) to estimate that there are approximately 120,000 digital economy companies in the UK.  However, the NIESR research suggests that this figure is far too conservative.  Its own lowest estimate is 270,000.making digital businesses 14.4% of the total number of businesses in the UK (the government estimates 10%).

The report calls for improved measurement of the UK’s digital economy.  By switching from SIC-based models to measures derived from big data, the country could gain a richer picture of the digital economy.  Using this type of data for example would show that the digital economy’s share of jobs in the UK is 11%, not the 5% currently stated by government measures.  Other interesting findings derived from this type of rich analysis include the fact that the digital economy is not made up mostly of start-ups but that companies in this area have roughly the same average age as other companies.  Digital economy companies employ more people on average than other companies and are reporting faster growth rates.


The challenge of measuring aspects of the digital economy is being addressed by the EU, which in May 2013 announced it is launching a project to measure the size of Europe’s ‘app economy’.  According to David Dean of The Boston Consulting Group (speaking at a European Internet Forum dinner) Europe is already a winner in the digital economy.  He estimates that Europe’s internet economy will be worth 1 trillion Euros by 2016.

However some European countries are lagging behind and there are several countries catching up on Europe as digital economies, including Mexico, South Africa and Indonesia.

Social login and sharing

Recent research from Janrain explored trends in the use of social login (where users can register and log in to websites using their social network identity) and showed that Facebook is the most popular choice with 46% of the total share.

Gigya has now added to this research, analysing data from its clients for Q2 2013 to review how the landscape of social login and sharing is evolving.  Key findings from Gigya:

Social login preferences

  • Facebook leads the way with 52% of total preferred social logins
  • Google+ is in a clear second place with 24%
  • Yahoo is in third place with 17%
  • Twitter has 4%; LinkedIn = 1%

For online retail sites, Facebook is a clear leader with 79% followed by Google+ with 12% (Gigya expects Google’s percentage to increase with the growth of Google Wallet.

Social sharing preferences

For Gigya’s clients, Facebook leads the way when it comes to social content sharing with 50%.  However, both Twitter (24%) and Pinterest (16%) are significant players here.  Indeed, when it comes to social sharing in ecommerce, Pinterest (41%) has taken top spot away from Facebook (27%).  Google+ is way down the table – behind LinkedIn – with only 2% of social sharing activity.


In a separate study (by Power Formula) the growth and impact of LinkedIn as a networking tool is considered.  Key findings:

  • 15% of users pay for the enhanced LinkedIn service; 85% use the free service
  • Group membership – 35% of LinkedIn users are members of 1-9 groups – but an astonishing 2% had no idea that LinkedIn offered groups
  • 52% of people used LinkedIn for between 0 and 2 hours every week

How are people using LinkedIn?

  • Researching people and companies (76%)
  • Reconnecting with business associates/colleagues (70%)
  • Build new networking relationships (45%)
  • Increase face to face networking effectiveness (41%)

Most helpful LinkedIn features

  • Who’s viewed your profile? (71%)
  • People you may know (65%)
  • Groups (61%)
  • Direct messaging (49%)
  • Advanced people search (47%)
  • Searching for companies (46%)

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Mobile users: data vs minutes

Data allowances are now more important that voice minutes.

Over 1600 respondents to a uSwitch survey in the UK reported what their priorities were when they last negotiated a mobile contract – and what will be their priorities next time.

  • 43% of respondents say that data allowances will be the most important feature of their next mobile contract (up from 35%)
  • 41% say voice minute allowances will be the most important feature (down from 47%)

Other interesting findings show how mobile usage patterns are changing:

  • 26% of respondents talk for less than 30 minutes per month.
  • 23% are using the web more than five hours a month
  • Only 9% are using voice for more than five hours a month

Respondents also nominated the most important functions on their phones and were asked what they couldn’t do without:

  • 54% said radio/music
  • Apps were nominated by 33.5%
  • 29.1% said email, closely followed by web browsing (26.8%)
  • 20.7% said camera
  • 24.5% said they needed every function on their phones

Meanwhile, Pew Internet has been researching the increased ownership of smartphones in the US.  56% of Americans now possess a smartphone, with the proportion increasing to 81% of 25-34 year-olds.

The global percentage of smartphone penetration amongst mobile users is expected to reach just under 33% and will reach 50% by 2017.   The first six countries to exceed this 50% rate were Australia, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, the UK and the US.  France, Germany, Italy and Spain are expected to cross the 50% line in 2014, meaning that the whole of Western Europe will have exceeded 50% penetration.  This upward trend of smartphone ownership will impact on the demand for increased data allowances.

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Flexible working arrangements and the talent pool

New technologies and working practices should mean that many people can work at a time, and from a location, of their choosing.  But what is the real picture?

Catalyst has been conducting a longitudinal study of ‘high potential’ graduates of leading business schools in Asia, Canada, Europe and the US.  The study sets out to assess career values, goals and expectations and to explore strategies for managing work and family life.

Its latest report explores flexible work arrangements (FWA) and sets out to discover how these arrangements impact the careers of men and women.

Flexible work arrangements include:

  • Compressed work weeks
  • Flexible start and finish times
  • Flexitime
  • Job sharing
  • Reduced time/part time working
  • Telecommuting

The report finds that 81% of respondents are currently working for an organisation that offers some form of FWA, with little difference between organisational type or size.

Key findings

The report finds a correlation between high career aspirations and access to FWAs: 90% of the ‘high potentials’ who had access to FWAs said they aspired to senior executive level roles.  This number drops to 77% in workplaces with no flexible working arrangements.  The gap is even wider for female respondents.  Women in these workplaces were much more likely to ‘downsize’ their career aspirations.

  • At least half of respondents stated that FWAs are very or extremely important.  Women were more likely to say this.
  • Women were more likely to report using telecommuting frequently or very frequently (39%) than men (29%)

The report concludes that ‘face time’, where employees are seen to be working, is still important in many organisations.

Maximising the talent pool

Offering flexible working to employees allows organisations to maximise the talent pool amongst its employees.  Both men and women are more likely to aspire to top roles within organisations that do offer flexible working.  If organisations want to be employers of choice for top talent then they should strive to develop a culture that trusts employees to deliver, irrespective of the amount of ‘face-time’ they put in.

More information.

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