Older is better when finding work: study

Unemployed older IT workers are slightly more likely to find a new role sooner than their younger colleagues, and are as likely to resume full-time work at equal or better pay, according to a recent study released by Thomson DBM.

These findings, among others, set the technology industry apart from industries such as chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and financial services. Although globalization, competition and corporate restructuring will affect the livelihoods of all workers within these fields.

Steve Connor, a senior consultant at Thomson DBM in Toronto, said the results of the study reflect a world picture. The high-tech sample included 2,733 individuals from 31 countries participating in DBM’s career transition programs, with 66 per cent of participants being male.

Typical respondents had just entered their forties, had been with their previous employer for four years, and were probably executives, managers or professionals. Eighty-three per cent of those studied found themselves in the job market as the result of an organizational change, merger or acquisition, reduction in workforce or downsizing.

Connor was surprised that in the IT sector, individuals over the age of 50 fared so well in finding new positions.

“IT bucks the trend of all other industries in terms of individuals who are 50-plus being slightly more likely than younger individuals to find another full-time job.” Connor said it really baffled him.

IT also stands out in terms of company tenure. Other industries see an average tenure of nine years, whereas organizations within the tech sector tend to hold on to employees for an average of four years.

“That’s a radical turnover compared to other industries,” Connor said, suggesting that this factor could contribute to companies wanting to hire older workers. It is possible that organizations want to balance this high turnover rate with older workers who are more likely to be looking for career stability, he said.

Michael Gauvreau, manager of staffing at IBM Canada Ltd. in Markham, Ont., said his organization is open to hiring older IT professionals because they come to the position with a depth of experience.

“From an IT standpoint, older workers don’t just come with knowledge, but with discipline and an understanding of what it means to do things like project management or solution delivery and be very solid in support,” he said.

As the general population gets older, Connor sees the IT sector as a perfect place for experimenting with what he called the “third age” based on the results of this study.

“It’s going to be a challenge for HR departments and managers to strike a balance between the sparks and the burning coals – you want to have growth and creativity and risk, but also stability. Many IT workers are interested in the third age of their careers and don’t want to be condemned to a ghetto in Tuscon. They still want to be players, and if the IT sector is receptive to hiring over 50, it could be a terrific laboratory for this concept. I would never have expected IT to lead in this area,” he said.

not looking for change

According to the study, 47 per cent of transitioning IT workers considered and chose a position in a different industry, compared to the general population, where 72 per cent changed industry. Those in IT who did switch industries moved into consulting, public administration or government and financial services.

“IT workers tend to stay where they are, much more than other sectors,” Connor said.

Only 10 per cent of transitioning IT workers chose to go the route of self-employment; the percentage among the general population is around 16 per cent. According to Connor, those choosing self-employment are likely victims of the economic downturn.

“These are people who in some cases have been downsized two or three times in a short period of time and who are tired of the roller coaster. They are looking to control their own fate,” Connor said.

Conner said the study’s results are indicative of things to come for the technology sector.

“It sounds mindless, but IT is not going away. It’s taken a hit, but if you think in terms of a mutation, it’s going to turn into something that’s probably richer, more well-founded and much stronger than it was before,” he said.

“Of course there are variables in the situation, but my own sense in reading the markets is that I think there are hot opportunities waiting in IT – security for one,” he said.