• Over 80% of Tech workers feel under pressure to retire at state pension age
  • As a result, almost half (49%) of all techies plan to retire early – more than in professional services, finance or sales
  • This means a large proportion of the industry’s senior talent may leave the workforce by 2020 as baby boomers near retirement
  • But more flexible working hours and changing to mentor roles could help persuade Tech employees to stay in the sector longer 
  • The talent shortage in the IT & Technology sector is set to worsen significantly, as the baby boomer generation nears retirement and feels pressured to leave the workforce early, according to new research from specialist recruiter Randstad Technologies. 

Nearly half (49%) of all tech workers plan to retire early, which is set to cause a massive disruption as senior talent could leave the workforce en masse. This is far more than the average across the UK (35%) with more Tech workers planning to leave before state pension age than those working in finance, professional services or sales.

A report outlines that by 2022 the number of people in the workforce aged 50 to state pension age will have risen by 3.7 million to 13.8 million and the number aged 16-49 will have reduced by 700,000.[1]  As these older, and often more senior, workers reach state pension age and exit the workforce, their departure will worsen the current severe skills shortage – which is already holding back the Tech sector.

Feeling that “they won’t be wanted in the workforce when older” is the key driver behind Tech workers’ accelerated retirement plans. Of those Tech workers planning to retire early, eight-in-ten (78%) cited this reason as their motivation, with the remaining 12% expecting to retire early because they are worried about age discrimination in their sector.

The reason behind this exodus is a pervasive societal pressure for older employees to leave the workforce at state pension age – and Technology specialists feel this tension more acutely than most. Randstad Technologies’ research found that more than four-fifths (83%) of Tech employees report feeling this pressure, compared to 75% of typical workers across all sectors in the UK. In addition, 36% of employees in the Technology sector say this pressure is ‘significant’, while only 14% say they don’t feel any pressure.

Ruth Jacobs, managing director of Randstad Technologies, comments:  “The Tech industry is facing an expansive experience exodus. The early retirement of the baby-boomers generation could lead to a serious skill shortage in the sector. This generation helped build the technology sector in the 1980s with pioneers like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates leading the way. Companies need this experience if the sector is going to continue to expand. There’s already fierce fighting for talent as it is, and early retirements will make it even harder to find the right people for the right jobs.” 

Retaining tech talent through flexible working hours.

Randstad Technologies’ research also looked at what helps persuade workers to stay in the workforce for longer. In order to improve the retention of older workers in the Tech sector, employers need to allow their more senior staff to have flexible working hours to help them fit their career around potential pressures like caring for a loved ones and health issues. This was the most important factor for 43% of workers in the sector. Crucially, these initiatives need to be better publicised to help change the perception of older Tech workers.

Another major change that could help persuade Tech workers to stay in the sector was changing of role of older workers to become mentors to more junior staff, allowing them to share their experience (41%). Younger employees could also see the benefits of having guidance of older staff, who’ve had amassed considerable experience of the industry.

Introducing retraining schemes so that older workers can learn to use the latest technology will also be important in persuading older staff to stay in the sector, with 34% saying it would be the best change employers could implement. This was a more important factor for other Tech staff than the rest of the UK where the average was 28%. This shows the importance of understanding the latest developments in such a rapidly changing industry.

Shaking up societal attitudes to retirement also has a role to play. Research from academic Christopher Barrington-Leigh shows that people who stay working past 55, and those who have chosen to delay retirement to stay longer in the workforce, report rising job satisfaction levels.[2] 

Ruth Jacobs, managing director of Randstad Technologies, continues: “To avoid the impending Tech talent shortage employers need to make sure that their company’s working hours fit with the demands placed more senior staff. Having the option to work around other responsibilities like caring for a loved one or treating any health issues would be a big benefit to older workers. As an increasing amount of work in the Tech sector can now be done via the cloud, these changes should be easier to introduce. While some Tech firms may already have some form of flexible working, it’s important to make sure older workers know these schemes are available.

In an industry which is constantly evolving, provide support to help older workers adapt to the latest developments is vital if employers want to maximise the benefit of their experience. Helping senior employees to learn the latest coding languages or understanding the newest piece of software will have significant benefits for the whole company. In a sector which is often unfairly thought of as ageist, encouraging older workers to stay in their jobs longer could even enhance the entire industry’s reputation.”

Employees working in the Silicon Gorge cluster in the South West are better prepared than most to deal with the ageing workforce, but seven in ten (72%) Bristolians still say there is a pressure to leave the workforce at state retirement age and over a third (35%) plan to retire early.

Chris Sheard, sales manager at Randstad Technologies, concludes: “The Silicon Gorge Cluster is the driving force behind the South West’s growth. But the region’s economy could soon hit the brakes if the senior Tech workforce all retire en mass. The South West already has a high number of retirees and a shrinking workforce, an older population will place this under further pressure. However, giving Tech employees in the South West more flexible hours and helping them to retraining in the latest software will encourage techies to stay on longer.”

Perception gap through the ages.

Generally, it’s the older workers in every industry across the U.K. who feel most strongly that they are being pushed from the workforce. Four in ten employees (42%) who starting working before 1975 said they would retire early because they feel “like they won’t be wanted in the workforce when older” – a much more significant proportion than any other age group. Only 27% of workers who joined the workforce between 1975 and 1984 reported the same feelings, 28% between 1985 and 1994, 26% between 1995 and 2004 and just 26% after 2005.