IT departments may be facing one of their biggest threats ever. It is not a virus, a hacker or a never ending expansion. It is the aging workforce. Yes, IT is graying and it is starting to show.
As the baby boomer generation ages, so does the IT workforce. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in four workers will be 55 or older by 2016. This comes at a time when higher income baby boomers are retiring early or changing to “quality of life” jobs such as education and nonprofit groups.
Why does this pose a threat to IT departments? According to the Computing Research Association computer science enrollments dropped 14% each year between 2004 and 2006. Fewer college students are choosing IT for their career path. Companies can expect to face more competition for a decreasing IT workforce at a time when many already have problems filling key positions with quality talent.
Surveys indicate most HR departments have not taken these facts into consideration and are facing a shortage of skilled IT workers in the near future. HR managers revealed that only 12% say they consider knowledge retention a high priority, even though they expect 20% of their workforce to retire in the next 10 years.
The graying of IT could have a profound impact on your company should HR and IT departments continue to ignore the facts. Here are some ideas you should consider to address this issue.
- Identify key IT positions and consult with your HR department on their plans to address the aging IT workforce.
- IT departments should start mentor programs to transfer knowledge from older workers to younger ones. If not, the knowledge will walk out the door when these workers retire.
- Create attractive incentives for older workers to remain with the company. Consider adding more vacation time so they can enjoy life while you retain the benefits of their knowledge.
- To recruit the best IT college graduates lure them with incentive packages such as help with student loans or continuing education.
- Rather than just filling positions, look for new hires with long-term potential that possess both IT skills and management skills.