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Does legacy technology allow you to attract and retain talent?

By James Milligan, Director of Hays Information Technology

In a world where innovation attracts the best IT talent, how can you make legacy technology equally attractive?

Legacy technology has the potential to create serious challenges for CIOs and IT managers. Currently, it’s proving increasingly difficult to replace professionals who are exceptional at working with these technologies, since many are now reaching the end of their career. Essentially, the technologies aren’t going anywhere but their practitioners are.

Today many IT professionals are eager to continuously upskill to stay ahead of the ever-changing technology curve. As a result, these professionals want to work with the latest technology, not legacy technology. Take the three points below into account and your legacy could be attraction.

1. Education, education, education

A recent Hays report highlighted IT employees’ desire for a variety of training support programmes. There is currently a mismatch between the percentage of employees who want training programmes compared to the percentage of employers who have implemented them.

For example, 80% of IT professionals want third party training, such as training offered by major industry players on their latest technology. Unfortunately only 45% state they receive this. Similarly, 58% want access to formal mentoring, but only 29% state they receive this.

An emphasis on education is vital for firms, reliant on legacy tech to survive. AT&T, for example, has spent $250 million on employee education and professional development programs to retrain and, ultimately, retain its staff in the changing technology landscape.
To attract the very best of the next generation and to ensure your legacy technology can be maintained, you should start a training process very early on.

For example, you could run an internship programme where legacy skills and technology are incorporated into the course, or you could partner with a college or university to jointly develop a curriculum that hones these skills. It’s a win-win situation – you get the array of skills your business needs, and the students get a leg up when applying for a role.

2. Introduce a coding revolution

Integrating existing legacy systems with cutting-edge technology, will offer your staff the opportunity to find innovative solutions to issues that may have hampered your organisation in the past.

For example, semiconductor chip machine manufacturer ASML recently deleted half a million lines of legacy code to make its code base more robust and manageable. The work was done by a team of three pioneering developers.
The example above is an extreme one but ownership on this scale and with such an impact to the business could help in both attracting and retaining the best emerging IT talent.

You could also, encourage staff to provide a better user experience or interface for the front-end applications that still rely on back-end legacy tech. Such an approach will help your IT staff understand the legacy systems your business relies on, while letting them use the latest technologies to improve them. 

3. Highlight the importance of a tailored career path

81% of developers consider career progression to senior level very important. Therefore, you need to ensure that unique goals for your staff are mapped out. This is particularly important for developers who work with legacy code and systems. They may feel, for instance, that because their work is not “cutting edge” then their skill set and future career path will be left behind. When in reality this is not the case.

CIOs must begin to generate excitement and show staff how to drive innovation using legacy tech. Otherwise, you could lose out to start-ups and other organisations seen to be working at the bleeding edge. For some organisations, this will require a cultural shift, while staying true to their roots – and an emphasis on a tailored career path will help you to demonstrate that you take your staff’s future seriously.

For example, for those IT professionals who want to reach the C-suite, ensure that they have a clear roadmap for the future. The Hays survey revealed that 25 per cent of IT professionals want to reach C-suite positions in their careers, higher than the overall average of 21 per cent across other industries.

To find out more, or to discuss your recruitment needs, please contact your local consultant.

About this author

James is Director of Hays IT, Digital Technology and Project Solutions in the UK, Ireland and EMEA. Having joined in 2000, he is responsible for the strategy of Hays’ Project Solutions, IT and Digital Technology businesses, which includes IT contracting, permanent technology recruitment, resource augmentation and statement of work solutions across both the private and public sectors.

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