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MSPs: Finding The Right Tech Talent Is Still 'The No. 1 Challenge'

The IT skills gap has created a shortage in tech talent during a time of high demand, which has become taxing for many MSPs looking to deepen their technical bench, solution providers say.

Technology is rapidly evolving and with that, so are customers' IT requirements. As technology demands shift, managed service providers agree that finding the right people and expertise for the job is still one of the biggest obstacles facing the channel today.

"Hiring remains the No. 1 challenge. There's just not enough capable talent," said Alex Brown, CEO of 10th Magnitude, a self-proclaimed born-in-the-cloud MSP.

MSPs growing their businesses by way of adding new services to the portfolio means they must constantly be on the lookout for experienced tech talent. But the gap in next-generation IT skills is creating high demand for top talent that is exceeding supply.

[Related: Study: Cybersecurity Skills Gap To Widen To A Massive 1.8 Million Worker Shortfall By 2022 ]

To battle the hiring and retaining obstacle, 10th Magnitude is going out of its way to ensure it has a collaborative and engaging working environment, and that employees are consistently feeling challenged by new and exciting projects.

"We won't win every battle -- some people just want to go work for Microsoft or Amazon, but many don't want to work for a giant company. They still want the chance to advance, and we offer that opportunity," Brown said. "Our customers are asking us to do some of the most cutting-edge work in the cloud so if you want to be challenged, it’s a great place to be."

Management consulting and research firm Korn Ferry predicts the technology, media, and telecommunications industries may be short more than 1.1 million skilled workers globally by 2020. The shortage in the supply of tech talent coupled with high demand is creating the perfect storm for tech companies large and small who are trying to deepen their benches, said Ethan Millrood, owner and chief marketing officer Springfield, Pa.-based GO2 Tech, a solution provider offering voice, video, and managed IT services.

"Finding the right talent is the hardest thing, no doubt," Millrood said.

GO2 believes that having the right personnel on staff is key in helping the firm not only keep its customers satisfied for life, but it's also helping GO2 increase the number of services it’s offering existing customers.

Partners should never stop recruiting, he said: "You always should try to have people in the hopper, so to speak.”

To retain talent, GO2 sets up key individuals within its organization to act as mentors for those just joining, Millrood said.

"Evolving internal employees saves you from spending too much money up front or taking too much a risk." he said. "And there are some diamonds in the rough out there."

onShore Security, a Chicago-based MSP, switched gears to focus exclusively on security information and event management, managed detection and response, and security operations center services four years ago. Having a singular focus that is communicated regularly to staff is helpful when it comes to creating a culture in which employees can become passionate about what they do, said Stelios Valavanis, CEO of onShore Security, a Chicago-based MSP.

The company is also committed to open source, and that focus attracts a "certain kind of nerd," he said.

"We foster that nerd culture in a bunch of different ways. Our people work together on a lot of cool projects, we let people run whatever operating systems they want on their desktops, and we also have an unlimited budget for educational materials and we do training sessions. There's a lot of technical engagement that's always happening," he said.

Forrester Research predicts that millennials will account for nearly three-quarters of the U.S. workforce by 2020. In 2016, millennials became the most sizable generation in the workforce, according to the Pew Research Center. While many industry pundits conflate the IT skills gap with the issue of bringing on millennial-aged employees, 10th Magnitude's Brown thinks that the so-called challenge around hiring and retaining millennial employees is overblown.

"At the end of the day, millennials want what everyone else wants -- they want to enjoy their work, they want to be engaged and do interesting work, and they want to drive value and meaning for their organizations and customers in the same way everyone else does," Brown said.

10th Magnitude regularly rewards all its employees by spending time acknowledging and celebrating successes.

"We have a regular showcase where employees talk about the technology solutions that have been impactful, and that's really meaningful to the staff," Brown said. "You do need to spend time making sure that people you do have are acknowledged for the great work they're doing."

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