In an Industry that thrives on selling IT labor at the cheapest possible price, older workers are often be seen as liability. Labor margins for experienced people in IT offshoring are generally low and thus, there is natural inclination to sell ‘more what really sells’ – cheapest and lowest skilled resources. While, it may lead to delivery issues in the projects and often client dis-satisfaction, most of the outsourcers consider it as small price to pay versus making genuine effort to add value to the clients.

The way IT outsourcing industry has grown over the years, rules of the game are well entrenched in terms of outsourcing pyramid. Most of the clients take it as the given and often see Off-shoring as Cost-lever instead of Value-lever. After-all, it is low-hanging fruit for an IT outsources as well. It is way cheaper to get bloke straight off the engineering institute and make him billable at minimal effort, than getting experienced person from market.

With  Digital economy in the fray, this model is sure to face some troubles as clients prefer to get resources who add more value rather than simply somebody available at lowest cost possible.

Does it change things overnight ? Absolutely, not. There will still be some clients as well as outsourcers who will do ‘more of the same’, till they are surprised by sudden changes as Digital economy hits inflection point.

How do ‘Old Men’ in IT cope up with this change ?

Recent HBR article   refers to the research done about discrimination with Older workers in Healthcare Industry in Europe. It fits perfectly into IT outsourcing in India at this moment.

It talks of stereotypes prevalent with Organizations as below.

  • Older workers are generally seen as less motivated.
  • They are less willing to engage in training and career development programs.
  • They are more resistant to change, not as trusting.
  • They are more likely to have health problems that affect their work, and more vulnerable to work-family conflicts.

When discussed with old workers about how they perceive these stereotypes and organizational support received (or lack of),

First, and perhaps unsurprisingly, late career employees said their knowledge and experiences increased over time. Far from being a compensation for declining fluid intelligence, interviewees saw their knowledge and experience as facilitating higher levels of cognitive functioning, stability, good people and team skills, and the ability to influence others. Furthermore, all these benefits were seen as significant contributors to superior work performance by older workers.

However, older workers noted a lack of employer recognition of what they can offer. These most commonly related to hiring and promotion decisions, as well as the perception of a lack of respect in the workplace.

Most interviewees mentioned no difficulties to learn new skills and often training themselves (formally or informally) anyways. It is given that older workers add much more value to IT clients and often are key drivers in client satisfaction.

What does it mean for IT Outsourcers ? 

Today’s millennials are not just hanging on to job till retirement. They want to make the difference and add value to whatever activities they choose. Organizations need to provide avenues to these workers to add value and be RESPECTed at the workplace.

Here are the nine themes research suggests to better engage older workers.

  • Meaningful and stimulating work
  • Contributing to one’s own work design
  • Socializing with colleagues
  • Equal access to formal and informal learning
  • Transferring knowledge to younger colleagues
  • Constructive feedback from line managers
  • Formal and informal demonstrations of respect by the organization and co-workers
  • Flexible work options that facilitate healthy work-life balance
  • Competitive compensation and benefits packages

As IT Industry matures, outsourcers have to figure out better way to engage older workers. Days of ‘cheapest possible’ are slowly dis-appearing for good and clients are getting value-focused.

Who is going to help you make this transition successfully – experienced people who have weathered first wave of IT outsourcing and continue to add value to clients everyday. All they need is the little bit of RESPECT.

*Next time you wonder why most people do not respond to ‘Employee Engagement Surveys’, you know the answer already. 😉