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MSP Corp Exec: Talent Shortage To Get Worse Before Improving

‘[MSPs] need to automate more and reduce the repetitive tasks that the staff are doing. You can service more customers with less staff but you can also have your experienced people focus on what they’re good at and less on the initial general repetitive tasks,’ says David Papp, chief technology officer for MSP Corp.

As many MSPs deal with hiring shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a growing push to find unique ways to find the right talent, and to retain employees, as more and more demand a great work-life balance.

But David Papp believes the shortage will get worse before it gets better.

“I think we’re not quite caught up,” Papp, the chief technology officer for MSP Corp., told CRN.

MSP Corp. is a Canada-based firm that provides resources, technology and business support to MSPs.

“There’s a ripple effect. Maybe there are more people who have shifted into wanting to get trained and move into the IT industry, but that’s always a two-to-four year lag behind.

“We pushed a really big technology reset button when COVID hit,” he said, adding that the talent shortage could go on for another year or two.

“I do believe that there will be a heavier focus on emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, natural language processing and robotic process automation,” he said. “All of this automation stuff is really going to help us address the problems that we’re running into right now.”

There will be more and more investments in evolving technologies, he said, rather than the workforce.

The workforce will adapt, perhaps become more specialized, but you’re going to see more companies invest in the technologies that they’re buying,” he said. “We’re seeing that in all MSPs.”

[Related: Gartner: 12 Top Strategic Technology Trends For 2022]

The ability for many employees to work from home has changed the game for talent. With remote work, the job possibilities are endless.

Anyone can live where they want to live, in a place where the cost of living may be lower. Another factor is the shortage of new talent coming out of universities.

“The colleges and universities are not pumping out enough people to fulfill these technology support roles,” he said. “Everybody had to catch up with their technology [when the pandemic hit.] They had to be in the cloud. They had to facilitate remote employees. They realize that they had to give remote access.”

It all had to be done overnight. But those technology demands had to be fulfilled by experienced people.

“The other problem I’m noticing is we live our lives linearly, but technology grows exponentially,” he said. “[Technology] is going to continue to evolve at an exponential rate and outpace what we can even keep up with.”

And because technology is evolving so quickly experience in the field is, at times, a hotter commodity than the new talent coming out of college, he said.

“The problem with the new talent is you can’t just throw them in the field,” he said. “You need to onboard them and train them. There is a cost there. And you need them to have an open mind.”

What MSPs are looking for are those who are flexible, can problem solve on their own and can learn new skills.

But don’t count out new talent, he said. Papp works closely with many colleges and stresses to them that they need industry leaders heading curriculum and focusing on evolving technology. They also need to focus on teaching students soft skills.

The MSP industry is particularly interesting, in regards to the talent shortage, because there’s a huge amount of trust that has to be placed on the tech experts.

“They have access to everything,” he said. “You’re giving them access to more resources than the presidents of the company. A technician can see everything…all the files, the payroll. That’s a lot of trust that’s deployed in these technicians.”

Culture is also crucial. There has to be a lot of trust that goes along with employees working from home.

“This is important to people,” he said. “You want to protect your staff and their mental health.”

MSPs must also do a big push off of legacy services and infrastructure that can be moved to the cloud.”

Moving to the cloud, he said, enables everyone to work from home. MSPs can focus on less frontline staff and instead create call centers, chatbots or other AI capabilities to assist customers and some of their needs.

There is a heavy burden on that frontline helpdesk, he said, so taking that weight off and implementing AI features will help MSPs in the long run.

Another aspect is employee retention. Papp said recognizing team members and their successes are extremely important.

“Don’t take your staff for granted and think that they’re stuck in a single position,” he said. “Have open communication and talk to them often.”

In finding talent, while MSPs are encouraged to use job boards, Papp said he has found that MSP Corp, and MSPs they work with, have the most success through referrals.

Referral bonuses are becoming more and more frequent in companies, Papp has seen, with some companies offering hefty sums ranging from $500 to more than $10,000.

“It’s not uncommon for it to be anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000,” he said.

He also said that MSPs have to change the language on their job posts. It’s not just about writing what the job is and listing the tasks the position is required to fulfill but about describing the work environment, the culture and what the potential employee can expect in terms of work/life balance. The optics of your company are also important, such as what your social channels look like and the content you’re putting out.

“These become things that [job seekers] are looking for,” he said. 

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