There are few certainties in life. Michael Godkewitsch said taxes and death are two of them, but before death comes the challenge.
Godkewitsch, workplace Psychologist for Lamon+Stuart+Michaels Consulting Inc., a people consulting firm, spoke about late career choices for IT professionals at Informatics 2000 in Toronto.
“Don’t worry,” Godkewitsch said. “Just before death there is a whole bunch of time that we live and try to survive. We’ve got to fill this time.”
Godkewitsch conducted a survey with Paul Kennedy, a former IT professional, to find out what IT people think about work, careers and their lives.
Godkewitsch said the first generation to spend their full career in IT are approaching retirement age, and the demand for certain IT skills is still exceeding supply. He also said there is a broad array of work/life options that are open for late-career people.
“We all come to the end of our careers. We all wind up dead. The trick is (knowing) what you’re going to do between then and now,” Godkewitsch said. “That’s essential.”
The results are in
“We used the Internet as the channel [for the questions],” Godkewitsch said. “We sought an IT population, and 209 CIPS (Canadian Information Processing Society) members responded.”
The survey sample was self-selected, and there were no clear control groups. It was a Canadian survey that consisted of a few retirees and many people in their forties.
Godkewitsch found that in the category “Work situation” the most interesting aspect was the answers took the form of roles.
“People perceive themselves in roles. It’s not a description of what they actually do,” he said.
Godkewitsch found that over 80 per cent of those people had changed roles over their careers. “This means that IT people are very versatile,” he said. “There was a very large number of people that expressed that career progress in IT/IS is actually very different from that in other professions.”
Seventy-three per cent have always been in systems work but 80 per cent have switched specific roles during their careers.
Godkewitsch explained that the vast majority of those surveyed had different views of what retirement meant to them.
According to the survey, 44 per cent said it meant gradually working less time, but still getting paid for it; 18 per cent said it meant starting something completely new; and 17 per cent had no idea.
“By our present legislation, all of them are wrong (about retirement). There is no such thing. By today’s standards and practises, 14 per cent were right,” Godkewitsch said.
That 14 per cent said retirement meant stopping paid work entirely and abruptly.
Other questions on the survey dealt with how people are preparing for the cessation of work, what successful retirement means, what consulting after retirement is, what post-retirement skills they will lack, and what is most and least important over the course of their career.
Eighty-one per cent said they are contributing to RRSPs. Twelve per cent said successful retirement means not retiring at all. Consulting after retirement is doing more interesting things to 34 per cent of those surveyed, while 25 per cent felt they would lack the energy. Eighty-one per cent said during the course of their career, it is most important to find the job interesting, and 65 per cent said power is less important.
DEALING WITH THE BOSS
Godkewitsch said people answered the question “What does retirement mean to you” with answers that were 100 per cent different from what is actually available.
“They’re stupid for wanting something that is not available,” he said. “It’s stupid from the employer for not having available what the people want.”
Godkewitsch said he has heard a lot of mantras in the business world, pointing especially to the value statements posted in the hallways of offices.
“I have a collection of between 160 and 170 value statements. They’re not identical but there are a couple of themes in there. There’s a theme of competitiveness, cost effectiveness, customer satisfaction. A very big theme is ‘Our People,'” Godkewitsch said. “‘Our people are our most important asset.’ You and I know that our people are not our most important asset. Our most important is our credit rating.”
APPLYING THE RESULTS
According to Godkewitsch, the survey proved IS and IT people needed more interaction skills. He added that the first aspects is dealing with other people and the second dealing with oneself.
Godkewitsch finds nothing sillier than retiring at the top of your game. “It’s okay to do that in professional sports because you get creamed if you keep playing,” he said. “Retiring people when they are at their highest level of responsibility and their biggest earning is very stupid.”
Employers should prepare employees for eventual retirement through seminars about career self management and financial planning, by sponsoring self-assessment of personal competencies needed for successful retirement, keeping the employees loyal so that human resources will elect to stay after retirement, and revamp the employment contract to allow more flexibility for part-time or work-at-home employment.