Consulting before retirement

Anew survey shows that the move
from full-time work to full-time
retirement will be a gradual one for many technology executives. Nearly
half (46 percent) of chief information
officers (CIOs) say they are likely to consider consulting or project work as a
way to transition to retirement. This
national poll includes responses from
more than 1,400 CIOs from a sample of
U.S. companies with 100 or more
employees and was developed by Robert
Half Technology, a leading provider of
information technology professionals on
a project and full-time basis.

“Retirement for baby boomer IT professionals does not mean leaving the work
force entirely,” says Heidi Higgins, branch
manager for Robert Half Technology in
Columbus. “The bridge to retirement for
these IT professionals is consulting work.”

Smart Business spoke with Higgins
about the implications of the impeding
legions of baby boomers moving out of
full-time work, and what the consulting
trend means for both workers and

Is it surprising that CIOs prefer easing into
retirement with consulting work rather than
leaving the work force altogether?

Not at all. According to labor statistics,
up to 64 million baby boomers, or more
than 40 percent of the U.S. labor force,
will be preparing to retire by the end of
the decade. (The oldest baby boomers
are now turning 60 years old).

Based on these numbers, it makes
sense that as our average life expectancy
increases, executives will want to be
engaged in fulfilling projects — more so
than in generations past.

Why would CIOs, or executives in general,
be interested in consulting work?

Consulting work gives these IT professionals the flexibility to work on the
technology projects they find most interesting, with fewer responsibilities, such
as staff management and the politics
often associated with it. The part-time
work allows time to pursue other personal/professional interests that these
busy executives may have put off during
their intense working years because of
time pressures.

Working as a consultant also allows
people to continue to feel productive
and give back to a field in which they
have a lot of experience. It allows them
to play the critical role of mentoring the
next generation of IT professionals.

And I want to mention that it does provide a significant supplemental income,
even working part-time.

What kind of benefits can companies reap
from this trend?

One benefit is the tremendous assistance these partially-retired consultants
can offer to a company to mentor the
next generation of IT workers. This
group requires less training and hand-holding when stepping into a company
for the first time.

Companies are also turning to this
group for help in managing legacy systems — that is, older applications such
as ASP and VB6 applications that were
precursors to dot-net technology.
However, not all companies have the
newer technology and not all entry-level
IT workers know the older applications.
So these semi-retired IT consultants are
a perfect fit for these companies.

Are companies receptive to hiring retired
workers or those nearing retirement?

Yes, because there are tangible benefits
to hiring seasoned IT workers to a firm
such as those mentioned. In fact, many
companies are now offering incentives to
attract these professionals — and offering perks that are advantageous to these
workers, such as flexible work arrangements, telecommuting and work/life balance programs.

How can companies find qualified retired IT
workers for consulting?

They can look inside their own company for CIOs or IT directors who are
approaching retirement age and suggest
doing consulting work with the company
upon retirement. Another option is to
contact a staffing company that specializes in placing high-quality, experienced
IT consultants.

HEIDI HIGGINS is the branch manager for Robert Half
International in Columbus (, a leading provider of
technology professionals for initiatives ranging from web development and multiplatform systems integration to network engineering and technical support. Reach her at (614) 854-0020 or
[email protected].