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CIOs Should Prepare Now For Boomers Retirement, Says Report

Assessing current staff skills and anticipating future needs is imperative, as the IT industry prepares for its first wave of employees hitting retirement age.
CIOs need to get skills assessment programs going in their organizations now in order to deal with impending shortages of tech talent in the years to come.

Sounds logical, but it's not as easy as it seems, says Phil Murphy, a Forrester Research principal analyst and co-author of the new report "Skills Assessment, a 21st Century Imperative for CIOs."

That's because CIOs spend a lot of their time and energy putting out fires and dealing with nearer term issues, such as current IT projects and budgets, so thinking ahead to future skills needs isn't necessarily on their radar screens.

But with declining numbers of younger people entering the tech field and more baby boomer techies nearing retirement, it's important to get an assessment of the skills an IT staff has today and will need to develop for the future, he says.

Because the IT industry is young -- only about 40 years old -- it hasn't yet experienced a full generation of employees retiring, he says. "Assessments haven't mattered much because they haven't had to deal with [massive retirements] much yet," Murphy says.

For older IT workers getting ready to retire, it's not so much the hands-on tech skills, like Cobol and other legacy programming -- that will go sorely missing, it's the depth of skills combined with company, industry, and business experience that will create holes in IT organizations, he says.

"It's the combined knowledge that will be in shortage," he says. CIOs should pressure their human resources departments to help develop a skills assessment program now, he says. And that doesn't necessarily mean having to reinvent the wheel, he says. Many HR departments already keep a database with a list of job candidates and their skills, he says.

Also, skills data can be gleaned from employee's annual reviews, he says.

"Those are good places to start" to identify the skills that are important to the organization now, as well as those that need to be developed further, he says. Murphy recommends that HR work closely with the IT organization to develop the list of skills that are needed now, in the near term, and in the future -- and help devise career development and succession planning programs to help fill any projected skills gaps.

"Coming up with a list of 10 top skills that you need or else you'll die is a good way to get started," he says.