Managing the IT Skills Gap in Your MSP

According to CompTIA, in a poll of IT and business executives, 74% said that technology plays a critical role in businesses achieving their objectives. That high of a percentage is putting pressure on businesses of all sizes to hire more IT staff. This is causing a shortage of people with the skills required to work in an MSP. Depending on how large the business is, between 44% and 57% of IT and business executives believe the skills gap is growing. This means that, perceived or not, businesses of all sizes are making plans to attract and retain IT talent. So how does an MSP compete?

Eric Anthony, Principal, Customer Experience, SolarWinds MSP
Author: Eric Anthony, Principal, Customer Experience, SolarWinds MSP

First, become an employer people want to work for. This includes many aspects, but the most basic are safety, security, and opportunity. Safety is obvious, but don’t forget—it also has a lot to do with culture. Your internal culture should be (at the least) void of any discrimination, harassment, or other negative behaviors. Security is a two-fold reference to how secure their position is and how stable the company is. Both factors determine how secure they feel their job (and therefore paycheck) is. The third aspect is opportunity. Primarily, this refers to the chance to make more money, but depending on the personality of the individual, it can also take the form of a new title/promotion or further learning/education.

Second, make sure your pay and benefits are in line with the industry. The compensation you provide does not need to exceed industry norms, but it cannot be far below either. Making it too high can also create a negative effect, attracting people who will not fit into your culture. Make sure you are being fair across the board with all your employees, new and existing. Do not make the mistake of leaving a current employee at a certain wage and hiring new ones at a higher rate simply due to supply and demand. Existing employees, just like clients, should be measured on lifetime value. The longer they are with you, the more valuable they are versus new hires.

Third, create an environment for growth. This has double benefits of growing your internal skillsets and creating incentives that retain employees. On one hand, you are reducing the skills gap by increasing the capability of existing staff. On the other, you should retain employees longer when they are given the opportunity to grow, in knowledge and financially, if they stay with your company. The IT industry is changing in technology and scope constantly. Ten years ago, we would never have considered a thermostat as part of the IT infrastructure, but as more everyday devices get added to the list of IoT, it is necessary to learn about other technologies. The successful MSP is one that realizes the technology needs of their clients are changing rapidly, and they need to continuously educate their employees. Many employers are concerned with investing in employees only to see them leave after attaining a certification or certain level of competency. I believe treating employees fairly, providing for their basic needs, and giving them opportunities to grow within your organization greatly reduces their desire to look elsewhere. When it comes to offering certifications or other education, it is important to make sure they are aligned to the business needs—and to a career path within your organization.

The elephant in the room is cybersecurity. Employees with cybersecurity training and experience are being snatched up everywhere. With good reason, employers are going out of their way to attract persons with these skills because of the rise in malicious acts that have significant impact on business operations and revenue. As an MSP, it is critical that your organization possesses these skills in order to properly manage and protect your clients’ networks. Providing existing employees (including yourself) with marketplace certification opportunities can raise the value of your business, and provide a competitive advantage when selling against other providers.

Your clients will assume and require that you, their technology service provider, be equipped with the proper skills to implement, manage, and remediate their infrastructure and security. This means not only do you need to have the skillsets required today, you must have a system in place to continuously acquire the skills necessary to keep up with a quickly changing industry. By providing a safe place to work where employees feel secure in their job and optimistic about their future, you can retain them longer—thus warranting the investment in their growth with minimal worry about them leaving.

Eric Anthony is principal, customer experience at SolarWinds MSP. Read more SolarWinds MSP guest blogs here.