Will you really have to retire at 50? Not if you’re smart about marketing your experience and your lifestyle

I think I just read one of the most (brutally) honest and practical articles by a guy called Len Kendall, an LA-based marketing executive with a clear penchant for writing. His piece is based on two premises:

  1. The market no longer allows for employing older workers who deserve higher salaries
  2. Technology is killing jobs at a very fast pace that will only continue to accelerate

OK – we all kind of know this.  But where this gets interesting is where the discussion shifts to what he constitutes “expensive” workers.

“Thanks to advancements in technology, jobs are becoming more automated. Assuming that we can eventually automate all basic jobs and allow artificial intelligence to conduct more skilled work, there will only be a need for a small group of educated, experienced, but inexpensive workers.”

So what counts as “expensive” workers?

  • Group A – low-skilled, but still expensive.  Large populations of low-skilled workers (varying in age) who require lots of benefits. Companies will look to replace groups of ten or even hundreds of people with one computer to reduce costs.  This is the premise behind the new HfS Future Workforce Impact Model, where we expect to see a reduction of a third of low-skilled positions over the next five years in the US in IT/BPO services jobs – an even greater proportion that what we anticipate in India.  The cost of healthcare alone in the US can be as high $20,000 per employee per year, not even taking into about wages, payroll tax and other benefits.
  • Group B – medium-skilled 20- to 50-year-olds, still needed to manage people and technology.  These are the mid-career people who have the expertise and experience to manage people and machines. These people command a spectrum of salaries but are willing and able to work efficiently relative to their compensation expectations. They’re still “expensive,” but the ROI remains palatable, since machines cannot run completely independently or manage people…yet.  This is where we anticipate new work and job creation at HfS (7% in the US and 14% in India, for example), as many enterprises need high-energy, “affordable” creative talent that can apply technological change to business model change.
  • Group C – 50+ year olds who are extremely skilled and experienced workers. They can effectively manage people and machines but require very high salaries. Often, due to realities of aging, they cannot operate at same levels of efficiency as Group A or B. This makes them “expensive”. However, as the emergence of digital business models continues apace, this group is moving further and further out of touch with the evolving needs of the business.  Being able to compensate very experienced people at the $250K+ salary level will fast become a fading practice, especially if (and when) we reach an economic downturn.

Group A is under serious threat as our automation impact model suggests, Group B is where we anticipate further job creation, and Group C could likely get completely eliminated – and could happen alarmingly quickly.  As Len points out:

 “During the Industrial Revolution, millions of jobs were eliminated because of machines or development of new products that made others obsolete. The difference between the technological advancements of the industrial revolution versus those of today is that half or more of all future product and service needs won’t be replaced by humans but by computers. Some may argue that we’ll create more jobs to replace those lost, but the last ten years are a clear indication that computation and automation are advancing faster than the invention of new products or industries that require (human) labor”.

As our HfS model has indicated for the services industry, we expect a 7% growth in mid-high skilled job needs in the US, which culminates on a 12% overall decline in IT/BPO services jobs.  So in an industry which has technology and labor skills at its core, automation of low-skilled work is outpacing the growth of medium/high skilled work.

The Bottom Line: Preparing for the future if you’re too “expensive” to be employed

If you’re clinging on to that fat paycheck and can see the writing on the wall in your enterprise, then you need to be smart and get ahead of what could happen to you. There’s nothing more frustrating for me than to see highly-experienced executives coming onto the workplace whose salary demands to support their lifestyles are turning off many potential employers.  What’s more challenging for the Group C-ers is the desire of forward-thinking employers to hire people who can embrace ambiguity and less structured environments in order to drive innovative business models and understand how to act on data more effectively.  This means that executives who’ve been superb at doing specific things in specific ways for many years for one company are likely to be irrelevant to other employers, unless those skills are clearly transferrable, or those specific things provided a real competitive edge to the new employer.  So, while you may not be employable anymore from a cost standpoint, you can certainly make yourself financially viable for future work.

Here are some ideas to add to your future financial viability:

Start developing your marketable skills now that you can sell them in the future.  Smart employers love being able to hire contract talent for specific tasks – especially on an outcomes basis. However, this will mean a willingness to roll up your sleeves to do work tasks you probably have delegated for the least decade or two. For example, you might have very strong communications skills, and could be great at proofing market collateral, sales pitches, white papers, executive blogs etc.  There is good money to be made renting out hour creative writing skills to senior executives, sales heads, CMOs, CEOs etc.  But you need to get your hands dirty and be prepared to do real work again. You may be a very polished presenter –  so many employers’ today, would love to get their Group B-ers trained to deliver better sales presentations.  Moreover, I keep having enterprise clients complain to be how bad service providers are at selling to them – so why not offer up your services to help them improve their selling techniques and “listening” skills etc?  And you’ve likely lived through years of change and staff mentoring, so why not offer yourself up to support change management workshops or reorientation / Design Thinking programs. Use those skills and experience to become a great student teacher!

Avoid burnout and prepare for a new financial structure in your life.  Len does a very admirable job advising people post 50 how to be smarter with their money.  I am not a financial advisor, but I would say that we need to be realistic about our earning potential, as our careers advance. If you want to command serious wages post 50, then you either need to be in a very safe position in your current company, or you need to be smart about how you manage your work/life balance, as you may be working well into your 70s these days. You have a great deal of experience and knowledge to offer, but most companies, today, just don’t want to pay the 300k+/year salaries to enjoy your delights.  And even if you are a great survivor, the chances are your company will find ways to wind down your gargantuan salary over the next 3-5 years – and they will burn you out in the process – it’s going to be miserable. So be realistic, figure out how best to go independent as an expert contributor / consultant, or even stay with your current employer on a part-time status where you can do some extra curricular things to to up your salary if you need the extra money. Many employers increasingly love experienced folks as part-time employees – they get the expertise they really want and feel like they get real value for money from them.

So focus on your lifestyle a bit more – how can you early $150K a year for the next 20 years and enjoy your life, than giving yourself a heart attack trying to survive the next few years of disruptive hell and our legacy business attempt to drag themselves out of the Dark Ages?  The business world is changing and that fat salaried job for life is really fast slipping away… so be realistic, become a student again if you have to!

(Cross-posted @ Horses for Sources)

Next Book: Silicon Collar


My new book is nearing the end of the editing process and is headed to the design agency. It should be released by middle of September.

Here’s a synopsis:

“Never before have people had such a broad choice of occupations – and the opportunity to try on so many employment hats over the course of a career. Never before have so many technologies converged that are making jobs safer, smarter, speedier, more interesting and more compelling.

And yet… while it should be a Golden Era for the workplace, there is extreme pessimism in many quarters about dystopian futures due to the supposed job-killing impact of an array of automation technologies: robots, drones, autonomous vehicles, white collar bots, 3-D printing, and many more.

Meanwhile, the job economy is dysfunctional, with millions of unfilled employment vacancies combined with a restless, fearful, even angry workforce.

Tackling this complex weave of forces, Mirchandani blends several distinct voices in this book – the innovation enthusiast, the industrial historian, and the policy analyst. Assembling a vast collection of voices, examples, and perspectives , he catalogs in detail over 50 jobs that are being transformed by technologies – spanning the gamut from handsomely compensated basketball players to much more modest garbage collectors.

He next turns historian and looks at automation over decades – in the grocery industry, in the automobile industry, in public accounting, in the US Postal Service among other sectors. He finds “evolution, not revolution” and uses that to confront the pessimism about jobs coming out of academia and politicians.

With his analyst hat he looks at how employers, regulators, unions, and workers have all confused the labor economy. He concludes we should not be worried about machines. We should be far more worried about man-made damage.

The end result is an optimistic read on the changing nature of work, a celebration of outstanding workers, and the machines which are making them even better.”

As with previous books, I will excerpting from the book on this and the New Florence blogs over the next several weeks.

Several readers told me they liked the format of my last book. They found it ideal for a cross-country or cross-ocean plane ride. This book is similarly fast paced. Hope you enjoy, but more importantly, I hope it helps you offset the doom and gloom that surrounds us.

(Cross-posted @ Deal Architect)

#CXOTALK Cisco’s Chief Privacy Officer: Marketing, personalization, and trust

Michelle Dennedy, Chief Privacy Officer, Cisco Systems

Michelle Dennedy, Chief Privacy Officer, Cisco Systems

The related topics of privacy and security are among the most important in technology today.

For marketers, the balance between personalization and privacy is delicate. Too much personalization and the audience feels you are stalking them and being creepy; not enough, and personalization goes away. It’s a challenging conundrum with no easy answers.

To address these questions and talk about broader policy, I invited Cisco Systems’ Chief Privacy Officer, Michelle Dennedy, to be a guest on CXOTALK. Michelle is one of the preeminent experts on privacy engineering. Her book, The Privacy Engineer’s Manifesto, is an important text on the topic and she travels widely giving talks on this topic.

Watch our conversation in the video below and read a complete transcript.


Here is an edited transcript of the portion of our discussion on marketing, personalization, and privacy.

What are the privacy and ethical boundaries that marketers should consider?

Marketing executives want more information for personalization, but I use the first date analogy.

Before a first date, we can Google the person, call their neighbors, call their bosses, follow them around town, and present things based on extensive surveillance. But, you won’t get date number two, because guess what? It’s super creepy.

The online world isn’t all that different. There are times when I simply want to look at shoes because I’m trying in the back of my head to work on a difficult business problem. I don’t want you in my face following me around the net with those shoes. I don’t want you personalizing and sending me shoes I’ve already purchased, which drives me nuts.

Personalization is critical, and this is why privacy engineering is profitable, as well as necessary from a compliance perspective. This is where I’m focusing at Cisco today. My team is looking at business models that are enhanced by having a grip on the complexity of human information. For example, knowing that a person is coming down that purchasing funnel, or entering into a sister type of business. Air flight and rental cars have been a great analogy from the early days of the federated identity discussion.

The key is understanding:

  • Who owns what?
  • Who can deliver on what?
  • When is the perfect moment to join all those information streams?

And, importantly for your compliance efforts in light of the latest European legislation, how do you dis-join sections of that information appropriately, so you don’t lose the whole customer when they opt out of a subscription mailing from you.

Think hard about the components of a relationship, and consider how to lift and separate and curate them.

What about trust and platforms?

Facebook is such an interesting example. Myspace was king until a young girl went to meet someone online she didn’t know. It turned out that he was a murderous rapist. Suddenly Myspace was no longer this cool music sharing platform., but a dangerous place where you don’t know anyone.

At that perfect psychological moment, in comes this nice, clean-cut boy from Harvard, and the only people who can get on the platform are nice, clean-cut people from Harvard, and then from the London School of Economics and then Stanford.

The interesting thing to me economically is how did they beat out Myspace, Homestead, At Home? All these names that many people probably don’t even remember. It was the authentication piece that won the day.

What’s the relationship between trust, privacy, personalization, and customer loyalty?

Privacy and trust absolutely are married to each other and only exist over time. The question of personalization is so important. Don’t be afraid to take a little time. Don’t be afraid to build a true human relationship and to respect that with tools. You know, loyalty cards that treat their loyalty guests with meal deals, those things are sticky.

Join CXOTALK for conversations on leadership, innovation, and digital disruption. See the complete schedule at

(Cross-posted @ ZDNet | Beyond IT Failure)