Bye-Bye Baby Boomers: Should A CIO Be Worried?

by drjim on August 12, 2009

The Baby Boomers Are Getting Ready To Leave IT...

The Baby Boomers Are Getting Ready To Leave IT...

The very first baby boomer was born on January 1st, 1946. Soon after that a LOT more baby boomers were born. This generation of workers is just now reaching retirement age en-mass. With the possibility of having a large group of experienced workers leave the workforce all at once, should CIOs be worried?

Defining The Problem

Every IT department has staff turn-over issues. We all hate to lose experienced IT professionals. What makes the pending retirement of the baby boomers such a big deal is that if they all leave at the same time, CIOs will be left with a knowledge gap.

The number of people entering retirement age (ages 65-74) will increase by 80% between 2006-2016. Something that compounds this problem is that the employees in the prime of their careers (ages 25-54) will only increase by roughly 2.4%. This sure looks like CIOs are going to be facing a big issue

A Dose Of Reality

Before you get too alarmed, realize that not everyone is panicking at this point in time. It turns out that the U.S. workforce will be growing (in absolute numbers) over the next few decades. At the same time, in IT productivity improvements have resulted in the elimination of the need for many types of IT workers.

It’s entirely possible that the big issue that CIOs are going to be facing going forward will not be the lack of workers, but rather the lack of workers with the right types of talents. Experts believe that companies have not been making the investments in their workers that are needed to create the needed workers of tomorrow.

What’s A CIO To Do?

Staffing planning is something that CIOs should be doing anyway. With the arrival of the baby boomer’s retirement age this task has now become even more critical. What should a CIO be doing? Tasks include:

  • Projecting the labor supply that you will be needing
  • Determine the cost/benefit of retaining specific people.

Instead of spending too much time looking at the average age of your overall IT department, CIOs should be doing some deeper diving. CIOs should run reports to get the average age within a set of specific IT roles or geographic areas.

Final Thoughts

The challenge of large-scale retirements by baby boomers should cause every CIO a moment of pause. However, with more investigation they may find, like Dow Chemical did, that many baby boomers put off having children until later and only now are facing steep college bills. This means that there probably won’t be any mass exodus. However, CIOs need to start to start spending time preparing for the future.

Taking the time to research the ages of their IT staff who are handling different tasks and creating staffing plans for dealing with these challenges is a critical CIO task. CIOs who take the initiative and start planning for the future will help their companies to grow quicker, move faster, and do more.

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Just imagine this scenario: you’ve just been made CIO of your firm when all of a sudden one of your competitors suffers a massive data loss because of outside hackers. Your CEO storms into your brand-new office and demands to know what you are doing to secure your firm’s data. What would you say?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Art August 30, 2009 at 9:00 pm

This is a problem facing almost any skilled industry. I used to work (years ago) as a union electrician. In the slow years in the early 2000’s, the union in my area wanted to offer early retirement to the older electricians in order to “free up” more jobs for younger men. At the same time, the state of California (where I was working) decided to require all journeymen working for contractors to become licensed after passing a test. The carrot of the early retirement and the stick of having to study for and pass a test- existing journeymen were not “grandfathered” prodded many to exit the skilled workforce prematurely. The loss of talent and experience was a shame and had only a very short term affect on the availablity of work. Were I still working in that profession, and I were offered an early retirement, I doubt I would have taken it. Any shortage of experienced, skilled workers would make my continued availability far more valuable to my employer (bonus time!) and would give me confidence that downturns such as are now occuring (2008-9) would be more survivable with savings and pensions that had been further bolstered by the additional years of work. If CIO’s or any othe managers are worried about retention, instead of panicking they should consider creative retention programs with financial value to entice the real talent to stay or to come back. They’ll stay, or come back if it’s worthwhile to them.

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Dr. Jim Anderson August 30, 2009 at 10:40 pm

Art: what you say is so true. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen retirement packages offered only to discover that the folks who took them were the ones who really knew how things worked! Most firms end up hiring some / all of them back for big $ and their bottom lines end up taking the hit…

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Roseann Rehrer April 22, 2010 at 12:33 am

Thank you for all of the great tips! I’ll have to come back soon for more!

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Brett Rudolph August 29, 2011 at 5:25 am

I like to visit your site a couple times a week for new readings. I was wondering if you have any other topics you write about?

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Dr. Jim Anderson September 2, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Brett: I sure do write on other topics! Look over on the right-hand side of the blog postings and way down at the bottom you’ll see the “Accidental Successful CIO Blog Roll”. I write each of those blogs…

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