The mainframe skills gap is no secret, and its existence shouldn’t be a surprise, either. In the 1990s, new computer science students were turning away from COBOL and Fortran and looking to the future of Python, Java, and Ruby. It didn’t help that many experts were prophesizing the doom of the mainframe—prophecies we can look back on with the benefit of hindsight and declare patently false.

The mainframe remains the most cost-effective and reliable computing platform in existence, and it’s not going anywhere. Processing billions of daily transactions for 70% of the Global 500, Big Iron is behind many of the digital perks of modern society, from credit card transactions and ATM withdrawals to ecommerce purchases and air traffic control. Unfortunately, while it’s clear that mainframes are sticking around, the people who build and maintain them are beginning to vanish.

A study from Forrester Research found that nearly a quarter (23%) of mainframe developers opted to retire between 2013 and 2018. Without a readily available talent pool, 63% of these positions remain vacant. With BMC’s 2019 Mainframe Survey reporting that 37% of the mainframe workforce is between the ages of 50 and 64, it’s clear the existing skills gap will widen to a canyon.

In this time of uncertainty, we still know what mainframers want from their employers

In a survey of developers by Stack Overflow, more than half said being able to work remotely was a top priority. In addition, those who were completely remote or close to it reported the highest rates of job satisfaction. Research from Gallup supports the importance of remote work, illustrating a direct correlation between employee engagement and job flexibility. The most engaged employees can work remotely between 60% and 80% of the time. This flexibility allows workers to minimize distractions and maximize daily productivity without feeling disconnected from their organization.

A 2017 study published in BMC Public Health listed flexible work arrangements as one of the most critical preconditions for employees deciding to work beyond retirement age. As your mainframe workforce approaches 65, consider these benefits:

  • Fostering a greater sense of satisfaction leading to markedly higher retention
  • Reducing the stress of work while gifting mainframers more family time
  • Buying your organization more time to address the skills gap at very little cost

Now, implementing updated workspace policies will take varying degrees of persuasion depending on upper management and department. But your organization will need to solve the skills gap either way—Big Iron won’t be leaving your HQ’s basement in the next half century. To get the most out of your existing workforce and start to solve the mainframe skills gap, all you have to do is let your mainframers go to work—from home.

For more information on the benefits of a remote workforce and software that can help streamline the transition, download our whitepaper on the subject today.