Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Age Discrimination Considerations in IT Staff Knowledge Transfer

brain.jpgBy Dennis D. McDonald

Back on July 17 I wrote about the potential impact of the pending retirement related “baby boomer brain drain” on IT departments, especially those heavily invested in supporting legacy mainframe systems.

As a followup I asked for research interviews with several CIO’s I know in order to get a better handle on the issue and to find out whether emerging Web 2.0 and social networking and collaboration technologies might be supportive of knowledge transfer to younger staff.

I’ve interviewed two CIO’s so far, one a CIO in a large manufacturing company that is heavily invested in SAP, the other a CIO in a large insurance company that depends on many COBOL and Assembler based legacy mainframe applications. Their views on the topic are both varied and interesting.

I’ll be posting more detailed interview write-ups here shortly. But I thought one common thread from both interviews is worth mentioning. Both executives are very sensitive, partly due to concerns based by their corporate HR departments, to possible accusations of “age discrimination.”

One expressed the concern that attempting to actively document particular systems or procedures in anticipation of a pending retirement might be viewed as an indication that an “age related” layoff or firing is planned. The other had just asked his HR department for information on how many IT department staff would be retiring in the next five years and was warned to “be careful” about pursuing that line of inquiry for reasons similar to those expressed by the first CIO.

I’ll be posting more on these interviews shortly including an interesting discussion of the relevance of blogging and other collaborative tools in development and maintenance of system documentation.

If you have some information, insight, or commentary on this topic, please leave a comment below or email me at


An Insurance Company CIO Talks About the "Baby Boomer IT Brain Drain"

Using Peoplicious to create an "ad hoc" expert group