Older employees valued in fast-paced IT world

Their experience is well-regarded and sought-after, industry figures say

Paul Hellyer, human resources manager at IBM New Zealand, says the needs of older employees are addressed as part of the company’s workplace flexibility policy.

“IBM has a long history of providing flexible working arrangements for all employees,” Hellyer says.

“These arrangements include everything from part-time work, to flexible hours and work locations, to compressed working weeks, or sometimes a combination of these options.

“Employees, including those approaching retirement, can negotiate with their managers to come up with flexible working arrangements that suit both the company and the employee,” he says.

Slowing down a bit before retirement can be beneficial, Hellyer says.

“Flexible work arrangements can help retiring employees make a smoother transition to a different way of living and working after IBM,” he says.

“For talented, high-performing, highly-engaged employees, the idea of stopping work overnight is a very daunting, and not particularly attractive, prospect.

“For many, a more appealing scenario involves slowing down more gradually, often starting with a transition to part-time work, perhaps coupled with reduced responsibility.”

This is a win-win for IBM, Hellyer says.

“The employee has time to ease into a new lifestyle and get used to a change in pace and, at the same time, IBM continues to benefit from their skills and valuable organisational knowledge.

“It also ensures plenty of time to make succession plans and ensure a smooth transition for both the employee and our company.”

Recent examples of phased retirement, he says, include a long-serving manager in IBM’s Auckland office who recently moved to a four-day week.

“This allowed him to slow down and begin his transition to a new lifestlyle.”

Another example is an engineer who “was ready to retire after many years with IBM”.

The engineer’s retirement “was going to leave a significant gap, because he had a lot of valuable knowledge that could not easily be replaced”.

The answer was an arrangement whereby he is available to IBM on a casual basis when required.

“There are certain times of the year when he isn’t available, due to his new lifestyle, but the rest of the time we can continue to tap his unique skills and knowledge by being able to offer him the flexibility he really wants”, Hellyer says.

Recruitment firms spoken to by Computerworld say age discrimination isn’t an issue in the industry, with older employees valued for their experience.

Scott Groombridge, general manager of IT project personnel recruiter Sead, says there is scant evidence of age discrimination in the part of the industry his firm serves.

“We haven’t witnessed any issues – placing people is much more about the skills and personality of the person and the team fit,” he says.

“As people get older they generally pick up more skills and experience, which often promotes them to higher or more technical roles, so there is a natural fit going on – the more senior roles are often filled by the more experienced people.

“So there is a natural progression and a natural place for people as they move along their careers,” Groombridge says.

“The ‘fit’ of a role is important and clients do strive to match this in terms of experience and personality,” he says.

AbsoluteIT director Grant Burley says that in 15 years of recruitment, “I have never seen age discrimination – it always comes down to skills and the ability to do the job”.

While the IT recruitment market has slowed in recent times, “there’s still a skills shortage in the more challenging roles and the more experience you have, the more you have to offer an employer”, Burley says.

AbsoluteIT is seeing plenty of “experienced, seasoned professionals applying for project manager, CIO and IT manager jobs”, he says.

“They have lots of experience to offer and employers recognise that.”

As an example, he says, AbsoluteIT recently placed a 60-year-old in an IT management role.

“He had a ton of experience and the management team at the client regarded him as someone with a phenomenal amount of relationship skills, and other skills”.

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