Oct 31 2006

Retiree Replacement

How to deal with an aging public-sector workforce.

California CIO Clark Kelso is worried. About 46 percent of state government employees are 47 years old or older and will be eligible to retire in the next three years. Finding a way to compete with the private sector for talent is at the top of Kelso’s to-do list.

Across the nation, 42 percent of state and local government employees are over the age of 45 and will be reaching retirement age in the near future. With the enhanced ability of state employees to take early retirement, state and local agencies fear a pending talent crisis.

“California faces the prospect of performing a growing amount of work with a declining number of employees,” Kelso says, adding that the state “is aggressively planning for the impact of this trend.”

The state’s Information Technology Council recently developed the California State Information Technology Strategic Plan, which guides the acquisition, management and use of technology in the executive branch of state government for a five-year period (2005-2009). A key goal is to engage in succession planning, which includes building a comprehensive training program.

Kelso is also convening a workgroup representing a cross-section of the state’s IT and human resources (HR) community and business stakeholders, to develop a succession plan for the IT workforce.

“The state is reassessing its workforce strategies for information technology and we plan, over the next three years, to compete with private and other public sector employers in hiring and retaining a qualified IT workforce,” Kelso says. “We’re looking at the entire picture — compensation, classifications, testing, training, recruitment and succession planning.”

The workgroup will identify the likely attrition of employees in IT job classifications in the next three to five years and the skills gap of current and potential workers. It will develop a plan for replacing retiring employees and will identify resources state departments can use to complete their workforce and succession planning efforts.

Later this year, Kelso, working with the Department of Personnel Administration and the State Personnel Board, will develop a workforce and succession framework and plan for an IT workforce that can be used by different departments.


Michigan, where the average age of state employees is 45, is addressing this issue with innovative IT retention and acquisition programs. The state’s IT managers are encouraged to develop staffing plans that address the pending talent shortage. The Department of Information Technology has a college recruitment program that identifies promising students and presents an early case for a civil service career.

“We encourage IT employees to be proactive and responsible for their own careers, and we give them the resources they need,” says Kurt Weiss, public information officer for the Department of Information Technology. Each employee has an individual development program that includes dollars available for training or professional development.

The state’s Office of Great Workplace Development conducts workshops for department leaders on managing succession planning dynamics. Other educational programs help state executives understand the unique qualities of the employees they will recruit and manage.

Michigan’s Department of Civil Service recently released its succession and workforce planning model, which gives each HR director a list of the employees — and their positions — who are eligible to leave in the next five years.

Many state agencies have mentoring programs. Some encourage active retiree involvement, maintaining contact with them through newsletters, meetings and volunteer work.

How states address the constraints of a tightening labor pool will affect their long-term success, says Mark McManus, vice president of technology research for Computer Economics, an IT advisory firm in Irvine, Calif. “States need to follow through on efforts to increase pay for IT workers and implement an array of training programs to boost recruitment and retention efforts,” he says. “Without planning, they will severely jeopardize their ability to compete for fresh talent in the IT arena.”

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