I’m pretty sure that I don’t have to tell CIOs that they have a real problem on their hands. Due to the way that demographics work, there are a lot of skilled IT workers who are just about ready to become eligible to retire. When this happens, all of sudden a great deal of the knowledge that allows the IT department to run smoothly is going to walk out the door. When that happens, the CIO has to have a plan to keep the lights on and the databases up. What will you do?
The Retirement Problem
So the problem is actually pretty simple. IT departments around the world are finding qualified staff harder to attract. Worse, working age populations are shrinking in forty countries, including Russia, France, China, and Spain. In America, Baby Boomer retirements and record-setting low unemployment are making it difficult for many IT departments to attract and keep qualified IT staff.
The person with the CIO job needs to recognize that without a more creative approach to solving workforce needs, increased demand will outstrip the supply of available IT staff supply for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, the problem is not obvious until the person in the CIO position analyzes demographic trends and the resulting staffing implications. If your company has not begun to prepare, then you need to help the executive team understand the problem and develop an enterprise wide roadmap.
CIOs need to begin to address this issue before an increasing talent shortage becomes an existential crisis for the IT department. Make sure IT has its own plan and don’t delay making any required changes. There’s really no downside. Even if a large number of additional people magically joined the labor force, you need to have a very efficient and highly effective IT organization for them to join.
Strategies For Dealing With The Retirement Problem
CIOs need to find ways to exploit self-service. All of those fancy voice activated devices that we can get from Amazon and Google are improving the ability of IT department staff to schedule meetings, arrange travel, and undertake other administrative tasks. These and other tools will expand self-service for the service desk, training, equipment update/repair, and other services. Automation throughout the IT stack is also crucial. While there are fears that increased reliance on artificial intelligence will result in fewer jobs, companies may need to rely on automation and artificial intelligence strategies to evolve their workforce needs as workforce populations change.
CIOs need to realize that their teams can’t do it all. This means that they need to expand the outsourcing that they are doing. Outsourcing IT functions has grown significantly since the mid-1990s, primarily as a way to reduce cost. A smaller available workforce will force companies to consider outsourcing because they cannot fill their open positions. However, outsourcers will face their own staffing challenges and will respond by standardizing their service offerings. Many enterprises, particularly smaller ones, will be forced to redesign their business processes around the offerings that are available. People with disabilities can be excellent hires. Individuals with Asperger’s, for example, are capable of intense focus for long periods of time on highly structured activities. Programming can be an ideal job for blind and visually impaired people.
CIOs need to work to create a supportive culture within their IT department. Multi-dimensional sensitivity is required to manage a diverse workforce. In addition to racial, gender, and age discrimination, training needs to address discrimination based on pregnancy, disability, genetic information, religion, national origin, sexual preference, and political orientation. While the government prohibits discrimination based on most of these, any intolerance makes recruiting more difficult. Millennials will account for nearly half the U.S. workforce by 2020. They value social responsibility, diversity, and inclusion. They embrace cultures with a compelling mission and opportunities to learn and grow. They want administrative tasks minimized, micromanagement discouraged, useless meetings eliminated, and failures to be examined for lessons that can be learned.
What All Of This Means For You
CIOs have a real problem on their hands. Due to a fluke of demographics, a large number of the older workers in IT departments are getting ready to retire all at the same time. What this means is that a great deal of the know-how in the IT department is getting ready to walk out the door. CIOs need to understand that they still have time to create a solution to this problem, but that they need to move quickly before it becomes a real problem for them.
The looming retirement problem is affecting IT departments all over the world. CIOs are going to have to get creative in order to solve this problem. CIOs will also have to work with the rest of the company in order to create a solution that can work company wide. CIOs need to create an IT department that people will want to join in order to make up for the workers that they are going to be losing. In order to make up for a shrinking workforce, CIOs are going to have to take the time to automate more of the IT tasks. Looking outside of the IT department in the form of outsourcing is going to have to become more common. CIOs need to start to consider hiring more people with disabilities who can do IT work. Creating a supportive culture will also become critical so that CIOs can retain the staff that they already have.
Dealing with a workforce that is getting ready to become smaller is not going to be an easy thing for CIOs to do. We need to realize that this is a challenge that will be upon us shortly. The good news is that we do have time to create a plan that will allow us to deal with this situation. If we can get creative and if we are willing to implement flexible solutions, then we’ll be able to find ways to keep the IT department running even after the exodus has happened.
Question For You: Do you think that CIOs should try to get some of the retiring IT workers to come back and work more?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
Just by being the person with the CIO job you change things. Your department looks up to you for guidance in how they are supposed to behave. What a lot of people in the CIO position don’t realize is that within the IT department, all the way down the line of command, people are watching you. If you behave well, then they will behave well. If you behave poorly, then they’ll see it as a green light and they will behave poorly. This can all have some very serious consequences.