Succession planning isn't the only problem businesses must grapple with as legions of retiring baby boomers prepare to clock off from work for the last time over the next 10 years. The hole they leave in the workforce will require corporate IT departments to dramatically reshape computer systems as employers scramble to fill the gap.
The biggest change coming for the technologists who police access to mission-critical information systems is the loosening up of airtight security procedures they have introduced over the past five years.
Employers must make the shift if they are to support an increasingly mobile workforce that will split its time between the home and office while working a number of part-time jobs, said demographer and McCrindle Research principal, Mark McCrindle.
"We're about to see the largest wave of retirements ever," he said. "By 2020, 40 per cent of the business leaders in small and medium enterprises will have reached retirement age."
That will open up gaps in the workforce that there simply are not enough people to fill, requiring businesses to rethink how they recruit, use and retain employees, Mr McCrindle said.
The changing expectations of younger workers will also heavily affect the way people work and how public and private sector organisations provide the technology needed for employees to get their jobs done. "Work/life balance is not so much on top of the wish list, it's beyond that. It's a must have," Mr McCrindle said.
That means employers will have to adjust to the demands of employees who want to work in the office some days and from home on others. Many staff will also hold down multiple jobs requiring greater flexibility from their bosses.
S2 Intelligence managing director Bruce McCabe said this meant that businesses needed to radically rethink their corporate computer systems, doing away with stalwart technologies such as desktop computers to make way for iPhones and other mobile platforms.
Software programs will reside on central servers that are accessed remotely and employees will be responsible for providing their own computers and managing them to ensure corporate information systems remain secure.
"It's a big transition and it will take several years, but we will get there very quickly," said Dr McCabe, who along with Mr McCrindle and researchers from the CSIRO and University of Melbourne will present their views of the coming decade to business leaders in early May as part of the Future Forum 2008.
According to Dr McCabe, the biggest change for businesses is that they will have to cede some of their control over security, something that flies in the face of recent efforts to completely lock down the laptop and desktop computers most workers use today.
But in return, businesses will be able to push some computing costs back onto staff.
Workers, particularly younger staff who lobby hard for greater flexibility in employment, including more opportunities to work from home, will also need to submit to more vigorous monitoring of their productivity in return for the increased freedom, Mr McCrindle said.
"If you want less time on the job then you're going to have to deliver greater returns per hour," he said.
© Fairfax Business Media
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