Finding it hard to recruit and retain good IT people? You’re not alone. The IT labour market appears to be in the midst of a perfect storm. We’re seeing many organisations resolving their issues through the selective use of IT managed services. So, what’s causing this storm? Could outsourced IT support put you in calmer waters?
The IT labour market: a perfect storm
The IT labour market is currently affected by a combination of worker scarcity, skills shortages, spiralling salaries, and increased employee expectations.
You’ll know already that there’s an economy-wide labour shortage. Factors such as Brexit and Covid are said to have caused many EU nationals to leave Britain, and this has affected many sectors.
Additionally, there’s some evidence of workers leaving the tech sector, and of younger people being reluctant to enter it. Last year, IT jobs board CWJobs reported that 8% of tech workers were considering leaving the sector. In other research, skills provider Mthree discovered that young people are avoiding or leaving the tech sector owing to poor company culture. Consultancy Finsbury Glover Hering found that the IT sector’s reputation for long hours and inflexibility was discouraging people from entering it.
As well as an overall staff shortage, there’s a widening gap between available and desired skills. The pace of technology change is increasing. The pandemic accelerated the adoption of many technologies that demanded new skills. Organisations increasingly work with ‘evergreen’, cloud-based technologies that are continually being updated. While this provides an always up-to-date environment and avoids the ‘Big Bang’ technology refreshes of old, it also requires administrators to continually update their knowledge – and, in many businesses, those administrators are required to be on top of a lot of different technologies.
Shortages of people and skills tend to be reflected in higher salaries. However, 2022 salary surveys, based on 2021’s reality, present a more nuanced picture – with big increases restricted to certain highly sought-after specialisms. Rising salaries are becoming a reality, fuelled by headlines proclaiming ‘UK tech jobs had the biggest salary increases’ and ‘11% inflation’.
Finally, the pandemic prompted many to reassess what they want from their work and their life. Workers have higher expectations – and if you’re not going to meet them, then a competitive IT labour market makes it very easy to look elsewhere. An annual Computer Weekly / TechTarget survey found that 72% of IT workers now consider that work-life balance is important. IT workers are also becoming more aware of company values, especially around sustainability and climate change, and 61% are keen that their employers’ values are aligned to their own.
How long will IT labour market shortages last?
The storm analogy suggests that this situation will soon pass, but many of the underlying political, economic and social factors appear to be long term. Any government-led initiatives to address labour shortages would take time to have an effect. So, a major recession, reducing the supply-demand inequality and dampening salary expectations, might address it – but that’s not something to wish for. This ‘perfect storm’ could be a new reality.
Perhaps the question to ask is how much longer can you and your team carry on as you are?
Navigating to calmer waters
The selective use of IT managed services could be part of your solution. It can provide you with the resources and skills you may be lacking, relieving pressure on your team, and enabling you to make their roles more appealing, to boost retention.
How to make use of managed services for IT outsourced support and specialisms
Start by considering business-as-usual IT activities that aren’t core to your business. Consider activities such as those that:
- need a lot of resource;
- require skills that are hard to acquire or sustain;
- are important, but which may be getting neglected;
- are unpopular with team members.
User support is typically resource heavy, and increased home working has added to the burden for many IT teams. Additionally, employee-friendly flexible working is extending the hours expected of IT support. Do you need to provide first and second-line support through your own IT team, or would it be better to leverage an external service provider?
There may be some specialist skills that you struggle to maintain in house – highly sought-after skills like security may spring to mind. But don’t ignore those constantly evolving everyday technologies that your organisation has capability in, such as Azure, SharePoint and Microsoft 365, but not at the highest level. Do you have hard-pressed systems and/or multi-system admins that don’t have the time to acquire the level of skill required to optimise your environment? The good news is there are specific managed services available to you that could relieve these pressures.
In under-resourced, under-pressure teams, non-urgent tasks often get neglected. It could be backup, the deployment of patches and updates, or those actions required to control costs in Azure. Specific managed services exist that would ensure that these things are done religiously.
Also consider which activities, such as user support or backup, might be unpopular with the team. Could this work be done by a partner, to make in-house workloads more manageable? Or better still, free up people that understand your business to work on initiatives that can deliver greater value to the business?
How an MSP shields you from IT labour market pressures
You may ask, if there’s a general shortage of skilled IT staff, is outsourcing this really solving the problem or just moving it elsewhere?
With the right IT partner, it is most definitely solving your problem to some degree. Using a managed service provider (MSP) certainly moves some of your recruitment and retention issues into someone else’s court. Why?
MSPs find it easier to recruit. They typically pay well, and the good ones provide staff with ongoing training and development, a greater variety of work, exposure to leading technologies and career progression. This makes them an attractive place to work. Plus, through a combination of excellent processes, robust toolsets and breadth of experience, MSPs achieve efficiencies and productivity gains that should translate into cost benefits/savings for you, the customer.
Is outsourced IT support right for your organisation?
Use of managed IT services can address a resource problem for IT leaders, and it’s a route many are already pursuing. Can it help you? That depends on the specific issues you have, but it’s not hard to explore further. An hour’s conversation with a subject matter expert will quickly tell you enough to know if and how your problem might be addressed.