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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.

For retirees who prefer to stick with the technologies they worked on during their careers, they too will have consulting opportunities, said Engates. Many companies still depend on older systems -- and the skills required to maintain them -- to run their businesses.

"It's interesting how we have a handful of really important systems that have held on," he said. "The mainframe tends to be the one we all point to but I'm sure there's others out there. We hear about applications that still run on what we call legacy from our standpoint, like an old Windows NT server or an old 1995 machine."

While these companies are wed to legacy systems, they don't want to deal with the economic and labor issues tied to maintaining older technologies. Instead, they'll outsource upkeep to consultants, who may land lucrative contracts if there is enough market demand for their skills.

"It's probably going to be cost prohibitive or just so hard to find that one guy that knows that technology who's willing to work on one or two legacy systems," Engates said."Your demand goes way up if you're a consultant that's managing hundreds of mainframes. They're still out there."

Modernizing systems
At companies that have modernized their systems as technology evolved, retirement may not be as much of an issue since employees learned new skills when the IT changed, avoiding the challenge of transferring knowledge between staffers.

"You need to be proactive on optimizing your ecosystem," said Verizon Enterprise Solutions CIO Ajay Waghray. "And that forces the retirement of multiple processes and systems that tend to have created that long living complexity that creates all the challenges."

Last year Waghray retired approximately 160 systems and has so far retired 60 in 2103.

"Even before this whole cloud orientation became a buzz we were already applying those techniques to stay lean and agile," he said.

Verizon is also proactive in maintaining "a pretty good [employee] progression map, particularly in managerial roles," helping the company plan for future employment needs, some of which maybe caused by retirement, Waghray said.

"We tend to know if we have a certain group of people that we have a need for, be it retiring or otherwise," he said.

To fill employment needs, Verizon uses mentoring programs, college recruiting, telecommuting, job sharing and part-time positions.

As for the possibility of retired employees returning as consultants, the demand isn't there now at Verizon.

"I haven't really heard the need to say will you come back," Waghray said. "We might have that in the future but we've not seen that."

Re-assigning skills
At Intel<, which is in the early stages of exploring the impact of employee retirements, flexibility extends to helping workers take positions outside the company at nonprofits.


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