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Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Way to Retrain Old IT Workers? 343

A medium-sized company just hired a new IT manager who wants advice from the Slashdot community about their two remaining IT "gofers": These people have literally been here their entire "careers" and are now near retirement. Quite honestly, they do not have any experience other than reinstalling Windows, binding something to the domain and the occasional driver installation -- and are more than willing to admit this. Given many people are now using Macs and most servers/workstations are running Linux, they have literally lost complete control over the company, with most of these machines sitting around completely unmanaged.

Firing these people is nearly impossible. (They have a lot of goodwill within other departments, and they have quite literally worked there for more than 60 years combined.) So I've been tasked with attempting to retrain these people in the next six months. Given they still have to do work (imaging computers and fixing basic issues), what are the best ways of retraining them into basic network, Windows, Mac, Linux, and "cloud" first-level help desk support?

Monster_user had some suggestions -- for example, "Don't overtrain. Select and target areas where they will be able to provide a strong impact." Any other good advice?

Leave your best answers in the comments. What's the best way to retrain old IT workers?
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Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Way to Retrain Old IT Workers?

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  • For crying out loud (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If two employees haven't been used effectively for the entirety of their careers, whose fault is that -- theirs, or management's? YOU owe THEM for sticking around through decades of shitty leadership.

    • Calling Bullshit (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Ya...I am very skeptical that these people had been there for 30 years each and didn't learn anything except installing drivers and Windows reinstall.

      More likely the Tool that submitting the question has no real clue as to what they do.

      "Reinstalling windows" Does he mean creating standard images that include the latest patches, implement company policies regarding installed software, access rights, etc and then loading that image on new computers and refreshing older computers? Not to mention periodic patch

    • You don't owe them for not trying to advance their career and staying current.

      • I can't believe that he has a couple of windows reboot specialist that have been doing it for over 30 years and haven't learned anything new in that time.

        It's far more likely someone is pushing to let these devices into the network but the business isn't interested in investing into the tools and infrastructure to manage them and these guys are proclaiming ignorance because they don't want to deal with devices they can't manage properly.


    • Did they try to be effective and were ignored? Or where theyu happy to do as little as possible and instead used that time to "foster goodwill" from everyone around them so they would have "cred". These 2 people could be very good about publicly taking credit for all the work that everyone else is doing. They can also be the type that just trashes everyone else when there is a problem starting their trashing with "Let me tell you the real truth about why your computer is not getting replaced."

  • ask them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11, 2017 @07:45AM (#55714853)

    People honest enough to admit their shortcomings, are probably quite able to tell where they can still be a good contribution. This late in the game, they must have ownership of their tasks, or they will hold everybody else up.

    • Re:ask them (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11, 2017 @08:37AM (#55715097)

      Who was managing IT while company transitioned to Linux / MAC?

      Silly to blame workers for doing what they've been told, as they themselves don't have the resources and funds to fix the gaps.

    • Re:ask them (Score:5, Insightful)

      by upuv ( 1201447 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @09:24AM (#55715303) Journal

      Exactly ask them.

      30 years of experience means they actually know a lot more about the business than you might think.

      Granted if they are unwilling to just leap on over the the current hipster computing model then maybe you have to figure something out.

      These guys literally hold the companies legacy in their heads. Move them away from ops type tasks and onto data capture tasks. These people have seen every reason and method of storing legacy data over the years. Pick their brains and use it as input to migrate and obsolete legacy data stores and structures.

      They more than likely also understand the business model over time better than most. Yeah they may be a horrible pain in the ass to talk to. But for a product manager they probably hold a mountain of info.

    • Re:ask them (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ranton ( 36917 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @10:01AM (#55715501)

      People honest enough to admit their shortcomings, are probably quite able to tell where they can still be a good contribution. This late in the game, they must have ownership of their tasks, or they will hold everybody else up.

      This. Identify the current workload within your IT department and any staffing deficiencies you have in completing that workload (skill gaps and/or not enough people with certain skills). Provide this information to these workers and work with them to develop a training plan. Maybe they just need a few books and a couple weeks of instructor led classes. Maybe they just need to work closely with other IT workers who have this knowledge for a while.

      But please don't start training them on anything until you have a good idea what your company needs. Don't train them on AWS if you already have a resident expert who handles all those tickets. Don't train them on Mac driver updates if the OS handles them well enough there are only a few tickets per month. Find where you currently have trouble handling support tickets and train them on that.

    • I came here to post exactly the same thing, and you worded it even more clearly than I would have. Since I don't have mod points I'll just add another voice in support of your idea...

      I kind of think the original question was a bit demeaning.

  • People Skills (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11, 2017 @07:46AM (#55714859)

    Sounds like they are well liked and have excellent people skills. Use that. 1st level help desk, training new employees, vendor contact, IT intranet, etc.

    • Re:People Skills (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11, 2017 @08:42AM (#55715119)

      IT people who don't tightly control what people do and can solve 99% of the problems that ordinary users have with their PCs? No wonder they're well liked.

    • by Cesare Ferrari ( 667973 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @08:52AM (#55715159) Homepage

      It sounds like they have loads of experience, but not practical skills for your current setup. Realistically if you were to train them to update their skills they would be just the same as any new (and potentially cheap) hire that you make - this isn't getting the best out of them.

      No, what you want to do is take advantage of their experience. I'd be looking to shift their role, and only you can know what slots you have open, or where they may be able to contribute most. If they know everyone, then liasing between departments, IT and the users for example, may be good. They have probably got management skills which are under-utilised, and they will certainly be able to provide mentoring to new and inexperienced team members.

      I'd start by talking your thinking through with them (individually) explaining the potential they have, and sounding out what they think they would like to do. You may find they have ideas which you haven't considered. If they want training up, then that is an option, but this is unlikely to be the best for the business.

      • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @09:58AM (#55715481) Journal
        If they're only a few years away from retirement, then they absolutely should be spending that time in training, but not the way that the original question was posed. You should hire people who understand the technologies that you're using and have the old guys train them to understand the business needs. They sound as if they're too valuable to waste for the few years that you still have them.
  • Behind the shades (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Look, it's very unlikely that senior admin staff has not bothered following the evolution of the IT hardware of its own company. Because, how can you actually do your job if it does not happen?

    Maybe you have another situation on your hand, such as a team of people who were working on something else and have been relocated to admin. They're probably not super happy about it, too.

    Then your job is probably not to retrain them (IT staff can train itself), but to remotivate them, if that is actually possible. Ho

    • by bickerdyke ( 670000 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @09:07AM (#55715223)

      Look, it's very unlikely that senior admin staff has not bothered following the evolution of the IT hardware of its own company. Because, how can you actually do your job if it does not happen?

      Well I can see how this could happen: You only have that much time for self training. And either you use it to deepen your knowledge in an existing technology or learn technology hype of the day from scratch.

  • Values (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bongo ( 13261 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @08:00AM (#55714923)

    A thing with people that's often overlooked is that different people have different values. The main ones are

    traditional authoritarian
    individualistic achiever
    egalitarian community
    and systemic integrative [1]

    For example, the traditional mindset is happy so long as there is a hierarchy which is dictating what needs doing, with a sense of loyalty and appreciation. So change for change's sake is not welcome, but change in the context of stability and loyalty, can be welcome. The core point is, safety and loyalty and conforming to the norms.

    Whereas, the individualistic achiever is happier being able to do independently driven, the typical "modern thinker", the self-made man, etc. Here you might be more concerned with, asking people what do they want? Where do they want to go with this job? What are their interested? What do they personally want to develop? And then just letting them get on with developing any opportunity which appeals to them and which is useful for the company.

    The egalitarian community type is motivated somewhat differently to the first two. This is anti-hierarchy and is looking more for meaning and purpose in the job. This person want to work for a charity which is devoted to a good humanitarian cause. They have a need for personal meaning and a sense of being equally valued as everyone else. Their own voice matters. The group is important, and so it is about helping people to voice their own experience and do so in a way which helps them relate to the group more, in a more meaningful way.

    So that's three main "values" and there is one more crucial point: people's values change over decades. So you might find that, people who were happy in the same job doing the same standard thing for 30 years -- which would suit them if they were traditional authoritarian ie. they valued stability and being told what to do -- may by now be in the achiever value or the egalitarian value, simply because as individuals, they grew as people and now have new needs.

    So part of retraining isn't just swapping out one set of work tasks for another -- that may be done perfectly well, yet kinda fail -- because as a person one may now wish for a different kind of expression of values in their work, and in their training.

    Another way to out this is that as people grow they tend to become more complex and have more complex aspirations.

    Actually my reason for writing this is that the article description suggests that the "problem" is how to deal with people who seem stuck in old patterns and unable to change... so I thought it worth mentioning that the people may have indeed changed... they have become more complex individuals, but the work itself hadn't changed... so the opportunity here is to tap into whatever new complexities these individuals may now be capable of. Older may well mean wiser.

  • I would not attempt to train them yourself. Because now, their success or failure is yours. Just find a good training vendor, and run them through it.

    • Yup. Find a local community college that offers basic IT classes aimed at passing the CompTIA certs like A+, Network+, etc.

  • I'm probably going to get downvoted for this, but why the need to retain these people? If what you're saying is accurate these people are almost useless in the current IT environment for the simple reason that they've refused to update their skills. What value does people like this provide the organization?

    If they're also required to maintain some legacy system or have knowledge about company IT systems that hasn't been properly documented I could understand the compulsive need to retain them. However as
    • Buy them out? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bromoseltzer ( 23292 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @09:14AM (#55715255) Homepage Journal

      If they are close to retirement, the easiest and friendliest course might be to give them a buyout -- early retirement with a substantial bonus and a gold watch. Company politics may be against that, but you could make the case to management that they would be ahead over the next few years if they take this course, considering the new (and yes cheaper) talent that would replace them.

    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @09:28AM (#55715323)

      I am at this age. There are skills in demand which I've not invested time and training in, and which it would take me years to become comfortable enough to contribute in any notable way. (.NET, anyone?) This is partly due to age: I'm not as adept at learning new skills with enthusiasm as I was decades ago. It's also partly due to a great deal of crystallized knowledge of other systems that have different structure, and requirements. So I don't take leadership on bringing in those newer technologies.

      In the position of those staff, I'd appreciate your speaking to _me_, not just to Slashdot. Do they want to retrain? Does it excite them? If they're accustomed to "Adding Windows users" and other rote tasks, are they interested in learning PowerShell to automate their old tasks? If the company is large, can they learn PXE activation for Linux style deployments? With their experience, can they learn security or firewall management work?

      • >I am at this age. There are skills in demand which I've not invested time and training in, and which it would take me years to become comfortable enough to contribute in any notable way.

        I've become an expert twice now and then had to retrain. I'm only now getting back to 'pretty damn competent' in my third specialization, and it looks like I'm going to get re-categorized again.

        A lot of people in management simply have no idea that jobs in IT aren't generic. You're a 'computer tech' and thus anything fr

    • by Tomahawk ( 1343 )

      Because he's a nice manager who cares about his employees. He sees that they are close to retirement and wants them to be able to retain employment in the company to see their retirement. With, what, 30 years each in the company, they aren't going to be able to do much in another company. So he's trying to do something to help them.

      People at any age can be trained and reskilled, so he's asking for some advice. Again, so that he can help these people who work for him.

      Honestly, he's a good manager. It's

    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      Every worked for a large bureaucracy? The job can be more that 50% paperwork. Given these guys have goodwill from their customers, chances are they're quite skilled in the "how the system actually works" part of the job.

      It's not all about technical skills. It may not even be mostly about technical skills. Why would you want to lose that?

    • by rjune ( 123157 )

      I reread the original posting and I don't see where it says that they have refused to update their skills. From the posting, "Quite honestly, they do not have any experience other than reinstalling Windows, binding something to the domain and the occasional driver installation -- and are more than willing to admit this." The posting also states, "Given they still have to do work (imaging computers and fixing basic issues)..." it seems they are providing value to the organization. You also made a statemen

  • old? Old? OLD? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Seriously, what did the company do during the last 10 years? No training?
    I'm 65 and have skills with Linux, OpenBSD and OSX. I can set up nameservers and mailservers with OpenBSD and Linux. I have also been trained on industrial aircondition and installing fibreoptics. All due to industrial training and personal training.
    What is up with that company management? Why have incentives for employees to learn and widen their skills been dropped years ago? Have the employees already been branded as "old" when they

  • by niks42 ( 768188 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @08:10AM (#55714987)
    What I would do is to give them a machine, park it on their desks and get them to install Linux on it. Tell them you want them to install and configure something that will be of use to you running on Linux. There must be something your department is missing that is sorely needed that they can get going, and at the same time pick up some skills in configuring Linux and installing software, patching, maintaining, backing up, monitoring etc. It's important that you don't give them artificial problems to solve - it needs to be real, and useful if they get it working well so there is real payback for this investment in time. Perhaps a web service like a CMDB, or a knowledge base - install Apache, Samba etc.

    Perhaps there is a production service that you want monitored; they could install Zabbix as a service, and then get them to install the agents on servers, produce the dashboard, monitor it daily and identify and fix issues that are shown up.

    Perhaps you need a backup service for all of your desktop machines. Get them to install Amanda as a backup server. Install a tape drive, create a backup regimen.

    Get them to install some virtualisation software - build a test model of a production service with the same software levels where you can test changes &c.

    AND get them to document everything, coz when they go you will want them to hand it over to someone else as an easily maintained service. If it sticks, and they get enthused, then let them do some simple changes on the production services, and so on. If the only cost to you is to move some existing machine that isn't being used elsewhere, and all of the software is free as in beer, what harm could it do? Give them two machines each, get them to set up clustering, HA, PostGreSQL running in an active/active configuration .. or let them use their imaginations.
    • by niks42 ( 768188 )
      The other one I have successfully used elsewhere is an Asterisk VoIP server. Cisco phones are cheap on auction sites; use the existing network, set up SIP on the phones, or install Zoiper (other SIP clients are available) on peoples mobile phones so they register automatically when they come in the building .. It's very different set of skills, but help is available for setting up Asterisk on Linux and could be a step in the right direction for your company if you're not VoIP already. Getting a small depart
    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )


      You might have to be prepared to 'manage' them a little though. They might not want to get outside their box. They are probably concerned about their careers given the re-org and might be reluctant to do something they could *fail* at.

      If they respond with "but I don't know how to do that" be prepared to both tell them "That's alright you have time to figure it out, try somethings blow it away if it does not work and start over.." and to give them that time.

  • Not too many years ago, IT was associated with anything related to software/programming. I was working at a highly-specialised engineering consultancy closely related to software and they were referring to themselves as an IT business. In fact, I have been using that term to describe my activity (basically programming) until relatively recently. Now, IT whatever seems to be exclusively associated with not-too-specialised staff whose work is somehow related to computers?!

    A so relevant, but-completely-arbitr
    • Actuality it is the other way around. The IT department was specifically the low level grunts that installed and re-installed Windows. IT didn't refer to everything involving a computer including actual software development until the late 90s or so.
      • Actuality it is the other way around.

        As per my personal experience, IT workers rarely refer to programmers nowadays. For example, in job-search sites you usually have developers/programmers/engineers and IT staff as separated categories. But this might also depend on countries, companies and even people; perhaps, I have got a partial impression which might not be applicable everywhere. In any case, your reference to software development after the 90s isn't completely incompatible with my original post; I was working at that other company in th

  • by l0n3s0m3phr34k ( 2613107 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @08:15AM (#55715007)
    "basic network, Windows, Mac, Linux, and "cloud" first-level help desk support" is pretty wide and vague. Specifically, what kind of issues are they unable to address? First step would be to go over all the help desk tickets and see just what tickets come up most often that these employees need to be able to address. Then, start pinning down how to fix these issues under each OS, writing up comprehensive knowledge base articles as you go along. Use this as an opportunity to implement an actual knowledge base system, that can be used and expanded on by all your IT people.

    My guess is tasks like updating network settings, adding printers, and troubleshooting permissions / domain credentials would be the major issues your helpdesk encounters. Make your knowledge base very specific, copy-n-paste type of instructions (especially if dealing with the command line). Utilize the fact that your Macs are somewhat POSIX compliant, so much of the training for Mac and Linux can be dual-use at least for "under the hood" items like I outlined.

    You'll need some type of lab too, with machines that mimic your environment for them to train on. As for "the cloud", your vendor should be able to provide training for this. Since these people also know many other people in the org, leverage that as well. You should probably form a cross-sectional "advisory board" (borrowing from ITIL) that includes some users too to see what issues they commonly have that need to be addressed.
  • by MrDozR ( 1476411 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @08:21AM (#55715031)
    We had a not too similar situation when we decommissioned our old COBOL system. The developers were of more mature years (50+), but instead of just letting them go, they were moved into more of a BA role. They have a lot of domain knowledge built up from years of working on a monolithic system, it transferred quite well to doing business analysis and converting it into specs for devs on the new tech. They also had better people skills than green devs, which is rather important when trying to understand WTF the business wants or means
  • There isn't (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zifn4b ( 1040588 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @08:23AM (#55715043)
    If you are a Journeyman in the field of IT, people don't train and update your knowledge, you do it for yourself. People who are good at this trade are also good at educating themselves and learning in general. People who aren't good at it might get a little better with training but they were probably not very good to begin with.
    • by malkavian ( 9512 )

      So, you honestly think the other professions out there spend their own time learning completely new things on their own time? If a company wants continuity of service, and an effective IT, then they need to have training plans, with time and budget allocated to keeping staff current in the necessary technologies. OTherwise staff end up effectively doing work for free, and paying for it themselves. That works very nicely for a corporate bottom line, but is terrible for working for said corporation and act

  • by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @08:30AM (#55715071)

    1) The company has to admit (some) responsibility for allowing this to happen. Why were these people not given training long ago when things started to shift? If they refused, why weren't they dealt with appropriately? Management done screwed up.

    2) Get approval to terminate their employment if necessary. Otherwise, you may was well put a few reclining chairs in the lounge and ask them to nap through their shifts until retirement.

    3) Give them a computer that meets the new standard, and give them standard tasks that the organization generally performs on that platform. Let them keep their old computer so they can google for help.

    4) Give them a generous schedule to get the standard tasks completed. I'd start with "Spend a week on the new computer to familiarize yourself with the interface. Type up a report, fill out a spreadsheet, produce a presentation, browse the Internet, save your work on our cloud storage." Simplified versions of whatever the average user does, excluding any extremely specialized applications.

    5) Give them standard IT tasks that you need performed on that platform. I'd give them a box and say, "Get this on the network". If they already know how to join something to a Windows domain, they already know a lot more than your summary suggests... or they're untrainable.

    6) Give them a generous schedule to get the standard IT tasks completed. Don't hesitate to allow them to be mentored by whoever is doing this kind of work right now.

    7) The tough bit - fire anyone who doesn't put in a decent effort.

    Honestly, Mac and Linux aren't impossibly difficult to handle, but it is imposing when you have all sorts of MS-based assumptions about how things work and suddenly none of those assumptions apply. 'Cloud' is just a buzzword that for most purposes simply means you don't have physical control of the servers.

    This is more about familiarization than training from scratch.

    • 1) The company has to admit (some) responsibility for allowing this to happen. Why were these people not given training long ago when things started to shift? If they refused, why weren't they dealt with appropriately? Management done screwed up.

      My guess: They were the only ones able to keep the old systems running while they were phased out and taking them away from that for some training would have crashed some mission critical, but legacy production systems.

      • If all they can do is install Windows, drivers, and join a domain... they're the IT equivalent of a standard screwdriver and could have been replaced by any non-stupid high school grad looking to land their first IT job. Even by accident they should have picked up some specialized knowledge beyond that after an average of 30 years employment each.

        Speaking of that experience... 30 years? While Windows 3.11 for Workgroups came out in 1992... it seems unlikely you could start there and have no skills today,

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      #1 is the best thing in this entire set of comments.

      Over the years, I'd wager most of these employees have done a fair amount of effort in self-retraining for new and emerging technologies. If you never learned anything new at all, you'd be obsolete in six months.

      IMHO, the emerging challenge is "what to invest time into"? You can make a substantial argument that for a broad part of the business world, on-premise IT is slowly evaporating and moving to cloud-based services, managed by someone else, up to an

  • by James McP ( 3700 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @08:31AM (#55715077)

    It sounds like they still have responsibilities that need done.
    If they quit/retire/fired you have a hole. How do you address that hole?

    Cross training, right? So do that.
    Train the "old Mac" or "old Linux" IT to do their tasks and vice versa.

    Don't discount the ability to build IT good will; that is a skillsets and resource you don't want to squander. Even if their tech responsibilities are down to pushing the imager button and rebooting PCs and checking cables, odds are they have mastered the art of keeping your users happy.

  • Ageism again (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Max_W ( 812974 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @08:43AM (#55715127)
    "Old IT Workers". It is one more stereotype. There are weak "Young IT Workers" too.

    For example, one may think that workers in advance age miss work due to illness more often than young workers. It is a stereotype too. The research shows the opposite.

    It is due to such managers we have got cute baby-face puppets at about any office and counter who do not have a clue, who do not have any real life experience. And as a result the production goes away from Europe and the US.

    I would start with the retraining course "Prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person's age" for this IT manager.
    • Re:Ageism again (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @09:05AM (#55715205)

      Older workers are generally more familiar with their rights and more willing to stand up for them. Of course, we should be condemning management for taking advantage of the naÃve youth, but instead we blame the old people for wanting their half of the contract honored.

      Younger workers are generally more likely to miss Fridays and Mondays due to 'illness' - either skipping out to start the weekend early or coming back late because they're hung over. And in fact younger workers are more likely to come in hung over on Thursdays, too.

      Older workers are less likely to be enthusiastic about new tasks, because in addition to just generally not wanting to put in extra effort on something they may not like, they also have spent a lot of time getting good at what they already know.

      Younger workers are often more willing to throw their own time into a project they are enthusiastic about. This is because they haven't discovered life balance yet, and because they have fewer responsibilities (or haven't learned to respect what responsibilities they have). Again, this is a case where we should condemn management for taking advantage of the youth, not condemn older workers for not wanting to be taken advantage of.

      • by Max_W ( 812974 )
        I personally know a man close to 70 who runs the marathon, 26.2 miles or 42.2 km, for less than 3 hours. Two hours faster than me.

        The same for science and technologies. A talent and discipline could be young and could be of advanced age.
        • "Remember that age and treachery will always triumph over youth and ability".

          I've had some difficulty finding the original source, but the saying is one I've used at work when explaining to younger people why they're having difficulty outperforming an older person like me.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by tirk ( 655692 )
            I believe the quote you are looking for is this one: "Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance." -- David Mamet
  • Would it really be more difficult to ask them on how and which training they need to be useful? Do they want to re-image machines until they're ready to retire? Or would they like to make some final impact, leaving a legacy by bringing something new to the company?

    And do you need someone to re-image hard drives?

    If we're talking about a few years left - why not offer some attractive part-time retirement? You will still have someone ready to do work while whatever tech they know is not completly phased out ye

  • I'd have them take an offsite week-long class on managing the systems you currently have. It's a good way to get some focus on learning the new system, and in my experience it's also a good way to keep somebody a little fresher at work - change is good, but sometimes you need a BIG change for a short period to get it kickstarted. Once they've been introduced in-depth to the new system, they can use google and stackoverflow to fill in details later, just like the rest of us do.
  • by MoarSauce123 ( 3641185 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @09:04AM (#55715203)
    Talk to them. They should be aware that things have changed and they likely will tell you what they would do if they had to make department decisions. Just because they are older and supposedly stuck in yesteryear does not mean they are dumb and clueless. Training in specific areas is one good option as is finding them other tasks within the company. Maybe they had enough of helpdesk service and rather want to be more involved on the production side of things. Looking for QA? UX design? Report design? Tech writing? Something else? Make it easy for them to find a new purpose within the company.
    By all means, don't fire them. They obviously did not get the attention and training years ago when the changes came into play. Should they have been more proactive? Maybe, but it could well be that prior management discouraged such engagement and ran with a "do as I say" culture. In any case, if they are just a few years away from retirement and generally have a good standing within the company let them come in and do whatever they think they can do. The perceived issue will go away in the near future, no reason to sour your relationship with folks long term.
  • Use their expertise (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @09:07AM (#55715217)

    Old workers in mid/large companies have one incredibly useful superpower: They know people and their quirks, and they know processes better than SAP and process managers combined (especially how those processes really run, not just what's on paper) and more importantly, they know how to bypass them. They know how to cut the red tape and who to talk to to get on the fastpass for resources. They can sit down with some other old fart in another department, have a cup of coffee and get a "free" test machine for you, they know the people who know where hardware is being hoarded that isn't used (and can be put to good use). And so on.

    We had one such "old guy" in our team. His knowledge was dated and we mostly needed him for the ancient servers that we just couldn't turn off yet but aside of that, he was incredibly valuable whenever we needed something and couldn't go the formal way (or when we didn't have the time to wait for official channels to clear). When he retired, we lost our main source for "free" hardware, quick access and useful "connections" to other departments. He was also very useful in deadlocked meetings where he could take someone he knew personally from another department aside, ask for the real reason why they're stalling (or give him the hint why we have to) and they could hash out an "informal" solution together that both sides can work with. Saved us literally weeks of pointless meetings.

    Yes, such people are poison and bane for process managers, but they're a boon for your department, especially if you're drowning in bureaucracy.

    • > When he retired, we lost our main source for "free" hardware, quick access and useful "connections" to other departments.

      This happens with layoffs, as well. It happened to _me_, decades ago, and several departments banded together to demand I be brought back.

  • Talk to them. Explain the situation. Ask them if there are any areas they are interested in. Give them options and allow them to choose.

  • Why is this even a question?

  • It seems this question pops up every couple of months. Does the answer really change that often?
  • If they've been in the industry that long, they at least know command prompts and batch files. Seems like those skills can most easily be transferred to Linux or Mac CLI and scripting rather than anything else.

    Anywhere else you can map analogs from Windows to the systems and applications that actually need support would be good candidates..

    • This, Yes.

      I started with a 'Turbo XT' clone in 1983, 12MHZ, 640K, 20MB HD, MS-DOS 2.11, CGA, and dual 5 1/4 floppies. Command line was it. The first upgrade was a Hayes Smartmodem 2400. Windows and all that came later, with bus mice and such. BTW, that PC cost as much as the one I would be able to use today, $1200, and all any of these two machines would have in common is the price. And the command line.

      I learned command line, batching, and Basic with that. It was 1994 before I bought a copy of The Internet []

  • You mean you don't just take them out behind the barn and shoot them?

  • You need to do at least three things.
    First, you need to provide them with direction. They need assurance that they need to know specific skills and that the time spent learning won't be wasted.
    Second, they need the time to learn. Perhaps set aside a week or so for classes or self learning. Something structured would give better results.
    Third, they need the materials, be it machines, books, or classes. For vendor specific skills vendor provided class may be the best choice.

    It seems strange that the com
  • My company actually hires older people with a background in IT, because we do a lot of "management consulting". People who have been around a long time have seen the good and bad of business decisions. I don't know if the personalities you are dealing with would do well in those types of roles, but think about their potential in doing:

    - business process documentation and optimization
    - corporate standards development
    - new product/service development
    - agile project management for small initiatives
    - etc


  • I can't imagine not learning new stuff as it comes out.

    I have however been employed as a temp between good jobs at places like power plants and government facilities and met people who've done tech jobs while not actually knowing how to do them. Turns out the government prizes people who can follow written instructions from actual techs but not understand them.

    If they've been there that long and can't do much more than plug in USB mice, which replaced the PS/2 mice, which replaced the RS-232 mice they neve

  • First off, start with having them fill out a skills inventory. Just put together a spreadsheet with every IT skill you can think of with a 1-5 rating and have them fill it out. And ask them to give an honest assessment. That is the first test - to see if they are honest. If they lie and tell you they are an expert at this or that it won't take long to find out. If they fail this first basic test then you give them the shittiest most mundane job you can think of and give up and wait until they retire.

    If they

  • You know what they do with engineers when they turn 40? Take em out back and shoot them.
  • With just a few weeks left in 2017, this thread comes along to take the lead in the 'Arrogant Thread' category.

    What's next? How to turn 'Old IT' employees in to the Soylent Green Committee for Much Re-Education?

  • I wouldn't put the two gentlemen in the same group. While they are both older, they are two different people who have just worked together. They may each want to learn/do different things but based on their workload, family, etc., may not have had the opportunity for additional training. This is something I understand well. Life has a way of making one irrelevant and I am sort of experiencing that now. I work on legacy systems that are in production. My day is filled with stress of keeping old shit working

  • by clovis ( 4684 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @11:30AM (#55716067)

    I doubt the article is about a real company, but let's pretend it is.

    So you have these two guys that don't know anything but Windows desktop support, and now you want to train them to be admins for Linux servers?
    I call bullshit. What is going on here is that you have Windows server and domain admins that don't want to learn Linux, so they're trying to escape that duty by dumping it on the Desktop guys.

    You claim to be a medium size company. Are these two guys clearing their calls and keeping busy for 40+ hours a week or are they sitting on their butts all day? You did not say, but If they're putting in over 40, then adding Linux server support to their jobs means you're being a jerk. The correct thing to do is hire an another admin to manage the servers, or more likely, you need to make your server admins do their jobs.

    The two desktop guys do indeed need to be able to do OSX desktop support, and probably smartphone email integration. You'll have to buy them each a OSX box and a book to learn, practice and troubleshoot.

    Server admin job is a different job than desktop support (except in small business). It is a different mindset for the most part, and it's not a good idea to mix the roles.

  • At 42, I'm pretty much mid-career, and have spent a large amount of effort trying to stay flexible and skilled up. The problem is when you get into environments like the one described. Outside of family businesses, I've never seen private employers who can't fire their workers. But friends of mine work for the state university system and do experience this. The key factor here is that you're not going to get new workers and you have to play the hand you're dealt...and this is where that whole management thi

  • Hire some additional, competent employees to the team. Seeing how out-of-date their own skills are compared to the new-hires' might be the bit of motivation they need to get their own skills up to par. The new folks could even help train the incumbents.
  • This is really a simple economics question. Task them with the functions they know and can do best. Make them own it. While someone else might be able to do those functions better or quicker, the better-trained people are freed up to focus on tasks where they are more productive than the old guys. It doesn't even matter how much people get paid. Productivity increases when you force specialization.
  • What does this word mean, anyway?

    It sounds like it primarily means nearing retirement, which in standard economic theory means that retraining efforts have a narrow window to return value on investment.

    If by "old" you think "mentally slow", that entirely depends on the person in question. It's not a useful generic term.

    I'm surely old, but the only important thing that's changed in my learning capacity is that I no longer like jumping into bleeding edge technologies that are 80% rough edges. Navigating thr

  • These old guys are near retirement. Assuming they do a decent job, they probably have a lots of experience in areas where younger ones don't. It may be something as simple as knowing who to call when a piece of hardware fails, know which software have licenses and how to deal with them, or knowing what the server in the corner of the room does. They may know the tells that something will fail better than anyone else, because they have seen it.

    They should be the trainers, not the trainees.

    I'm saying it from

  • While it is easy to point the finger at these employees for obviously taking the easy road out the situation speaks volumes to the organization that let them skate. Sounds like the entire place has been skating along for quite a while now.

    This is not a "retraining" issue. It is an organizational issue, then entire organization has failed to keep up.

  • You could start by remembering they've been in IT longer than you've been alive so instead of thinking of them like dinosaurs show some fucking respect. Approaching my 50s I've been in IT longer than most of the people I bail out have been alive. If this had been my IT manager he would be told to piss off and sort his own problems out had that been the attitude I felt I was getting.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.