The “Great Resignation,” as pundits have dubbed it, has been a hot topic as of late. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed many people out of jobs that, upon further reflection, they didn’t much like anyway, while others were shaken out of work-related ennui by the global disruption. Fortune reports that the quit rate has hit an all-time high, and many (but not all) labor sectors are complaining of a workforce shortage.
For MSPs, though, this mass workforce migration simply exacerbates a problem that existed before the pandemic: there simply aren’t enough qualified workers in the technology sector to fill all of the jobs. That presents a challenge for MSPs that find themselves short-handed and an opportunity to help meet the needs of small and medium-sized businesses struggling to hire IT staff.
On the client side, MSPs can help customers via centralized management tools and automation, significantly relieving pressure on those firms and increasing business for the MSP.
Internally, though, MSPs still need qualified staff to sell those solutions and manage and monitor them once deployed. The challenge is MSPs are competing for a shrinking pool of qualified candidates, and the channel is notoriously competitive. Most MSPs can’t afford a bidding war just to meet minimum staffing levels, so what are some ways to improve their chances of hiring the right employees and then keeping them?
Know yourself. Before launching a hiring campaign, MSPs should define their core values and outline what makes them different from other competitors and organizations. For example, why would someone want to work for you? Make sure that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, as well—otherwise, even if you hire someone, you may not be able to keep them if the job winds up not being quite what they thought it was.
Define what you are looking for in an employee. For each position, think about what you’re really looking for in an ideal candidate—not just their technical qualifications, but other skills as well. Ask recent hires why they opted to take a position with your firm (their answers may surprise you).
Spread the word. Job sites are a good start but leverage social media (especially LinkedIn) and get your staff involved in reaching out to other professionals. Make sure the job description is defined and described in a way that would make sense to the type of employees you’re seeking.
Expand the scope of your hiring search. The IT sector has always had a problem with a lack of diversity, not just when gauged by traditional measures like the relatively small number of women and minorities in the field. There’s also a sameness in education and work experience. Part of that, of course, has to do with the specific technical requirements of some of these positions.
But MSPs can branch out beyond their own school and work networks. Search for candidates from different universities or employees with more diverse work experience. There are soft skills and new perspectives for sales and even security positions that can help address client needs beyond just technical expertise.
Offer training and professional development. This can help MSPs in two critical ways. First, existing staff can be incentivized to expand their own skill sets and grow within your company. If they can see a path toward advancement internally, they will be less likely to be poached. New hires, meanwhile, may find an MSP more attractive if they see an opportunity to improve themselves. According to Harvard Business Review, many people quitting jobs over the past two years did so precisely because they felt stuck in their current careers. Plus, customers benefit since your staff can do a better job of meeting their evolving needs.
Consider outsourcing the candidate search. MSPs, like their customers, have limited time and resources. If the hiring process has become overwhelming or disappointing, it may be time to call in a staffing agency, headhunter or other assistance.
Implement an internship program. MSPs can develop a deep bench of potential candidates by hiring interns. This is a relatively low-risk way of evaluating new graduates and potentially expanding your network—even if you don’t hire that specific intern, they may lead you to a potential hire from their school or another firm. Reach out to local schools to develop an internship pipeline as well.
Try to retain staff. The IT sector struggled with hiring even before the pandemic, so brushing off the lessons learned from it would be foolhardy. Besides the standard pay/benefits package, consider professional development opportunities (as discussed above), flexibility and work/life balance. Many assumptions about how we work were upended over the past two years, and MSPs should take that into account when defining their open positions.
While the hiring crisis may be transitory in some sectors, IT will likely continue to face staffing issues over the longer term. For MSPs trying to grow, following the best practices above can help them find and keep the employees they need to succeed.