Retiring Baby Boomers Will Create IT Brain Drain

Companies must develop in younger IT workers the collaborative skills older tech employees use.
As baby boomers begin retiring in 2008, one in five human-resources executives expects a looming shortage of experienced IT talent, according to a new study by Deloitte Consulting.

The survey of 123 HR executives from several industries including health care, retail, technology, and telecom, showed that up to one-third of respondents expect 11% or more of their overall workforces to begin retiring when baby boomers start turning 62 over the next few years.

Fifteen percent to 20% of the surveyed HR executives expect those retirements to create "critical shortages" in IT talent functions within the next five years.

While the survey didn't zoom in on any specific IT skill-set shortages, overall findings indicate that even as younger talent enters the workforce, HR executives expect the brain drain of seasoned IT talent--who also have deep on-the-job industry and company knowledge--to potentially have a negative impact on their organizations.

When the baby boomers begin to leave the workforce, "a lot of talent is going away," says Jeff Alderton, principal and national leader of technology, media, and telecommunications for Deloitte Consulting's human-capital practice.

The pending exodus of boomers will create a loss of professionals with developed social and networking skills that are key to IT organizations' delivering products and solutions that reflect a solid understanding of client and users needs, he says.

While companies will also face losses of other talent besides IT, the "transient" and "highly volatile" nature of the IT workforce in recent years will also complicate a pending tech skill shortage, Alderton says.

To avoid having younger workers "reinvent the wheel" when older, seasoned workers leave, companies need to better "capture the characteristics and attributes" that contributed to the success of older IT workers so that those traits can be passed on to and "applied to the newer workforce," he says.

Companies can help tackle this problem, Alderton says, by encouraging "social connections," teamwork, collaboration, and networking within their organizations.

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