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With worker retirements looming, IT starts to prepare for a workforce exodus

Fred O'Connor | Aug. 22, 2013
With 10,000 U.S. baby boomers turning 65 every day until 2030, the IT industry is among those that must plan how its workforce will be impacted when these employees eventually retire.

With 10,000 U.S. baby boomers turning 65 every day until 2030, the IT industry is among those that must plan how its workforce will be impacted when these employees eventually retire.

While the tech industry emphasizes the new, legacy system skills are still valued since some companies run critical systems on dated technologies. Even when firms migrate to current IT, workers with older skills are needed to help with the transition and IT professionals who love their industry may want to keeping working after 65, but not necessarily full time.

Companies keen on retaining veteran workers, and their knowledge, are initiating retirement conversations early to increase the likelihood that these employees will stay on in some capacity after they stop working full time, said Matthew Ripaldi, senior vice president at IT staffing firm Modis.

Businesses need to develop a structured plan that explains to employees "how do we retain you because you're so valuable but at the same time give you the flexibility you need," he said.

This flexibility can take the form of contract work, which allows employees to stay engaged with IT while allowing them to create their schedule, Ripaldi said.

"The thing about technologists is they love what they do," he said. "They're constantly driven by newer technologies. So that means that they want to stay involved somehow. They just may not want to stay involved full time."

The contractor ratio, already high in tech, will continue to increase as companies allow retiring staff to work part-time hours or hire them for short-term projects, said Ripaldi. Mentoring programs will also expand as these contractors impart legacy system information to younger employees who will be expected to link the new technologies they use to the older applications they're learning.

"If there's an upgrade, if there is a new technology, it will be more effective if they understand how the legacy technology works and how their end users were using it," he said.

Time for transitions
The benefits of new technologies may drive companies to phase out legacy systems and replace them with modern platforms, another situation where retirees could serve as consultants to help with the transition, said John Engates, CTO of cloud hosting company Rackspace.

"For some of these baby boomer retirees there maybe an opportunity to start their own consultancy in helping companies get off these older systems and modernize."

Transitioning from legacy platforms to the cloud, for instance, requires "a whole chain of people, some of who really know the legacy, some who know the modern and people in the middle to help with this transformation," he said.

 

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