There has been an ever-increasing skills gap within the IT industry in recent years. The latest studies suggest that by the end of this year, there will be a 3.5-million-person shortage of IT professionals. The growing gap will have significant implications for all businesses as IT continues to impact our lives.
There is a growing focus on the skills gap and how to address the issue and attract new skilled IT professionals for the future. We recently came across an article by Inbay discussing the current issues within the industry and proposing some ways in which MSPs can directly act to help reduce the skills gap. We believe in working collaboratively for the benefit of everyone and wanted to contribute our own ideas to the conversation.
With 4 offices worldwide and employing over 50 of the best IT professionals, White Label IT is at the forefront of the IT industry. We work hard to prepare for a better future for everyone and have compiled a checklist of ways MSPs and industry professionals can attract new talent and reduce the skills gap.
Continuous learning and development opportunities for current employees
Reducing the skills gap within the industry should start with existing IT professionals. Technology moves fast, so ensuring current employees receive training and have the opportunity to develop new skills is essential.
By implementing practices that encourage current employees to continually learn, MSPs can strengthen their existing services and ensure they are ready to meet future challenges.
Here are some things to consider to nurture and develop current employees.
– Do you have starter contracts for new members of staff?
– Do you have a technical roadmap for people to use, including qualifications such as A+ and N+?
Making clearly defined roadmaps to explain different qualifications, the required study and practices, as well as the likely timeframes, can help motivate and inspire employees to achieve official qualifications. By providing people with a technical roadmap, they can be confident of the following steps, ask any necessary questions and will have clear goals to work towards.
A roadmap should also show which qualifications are prerequisites to further qualifications. The roadmap should also show how additional qualifications could impact and improve future career paths so employees are fully informed of the benefits and practicalities of learning new skills.
– Do you have a culture of sharing knowledge and celebrating when people discover new things?
Training and learning don’t have to be formal. While official qualifications are helpful, ensuring your employees feel comfortable talking to each other, sharing knowledge and discussing problems to find solutions collaboratively can help spread knowledge across the business.
In addition, finding ways to recognise and celebrate when someone increases their knowledge is as important as celebrating successes. IT companies with cultures promoting sharing of knowledge and discoveries will minimise the skills gap without hiring someone new.
– Do you have regular check-in meetings with clearly set targets in a system where both parties can add feedback and discussion points?
Learning is often not linear, and as technology develops and employees grow and develop new skills, they may need to adapt their targets. Setting frequent meetings to discuss new skills, identify knowledge gaps and plan for new qualifications is crucial to keeping people motivated and prevents stagnation.
A combination of formal meetings and informal conversations will promote a culture of sharing skills and opening conversations to maintain a culture in which employees are continually seeking to improve and discuss educational opportunities.
Collaborate with educational institutions and professional associations to attract and develop new talent with the necessary IT skills.
Addressing the industry-wide IT skills gap will only be effective if MSPs and IT support companies are working with institutions and companies at the forefront of technological advancements. Collaborating with industry experts and other associations can provide additional opportunities and funding to encourage learning and identify gaps.
– CompTIA is a great organisation which holds many events to help people get into the workplace in IT
Non-profit educational institutions like CompTIA issue professional certifications and hold talks and events to combat the skills gap. MSPs that support organisations like CompTIA gain direct access to leading research and the latest knowledge. It is beneficial for existing employees and the MSP’s immediate clients and can attract new talent who want to work with MSPs that encourage learning.
Furthermore, the skills gap is an industry-wide issue. Supporting training and certification organisations is an investment in the future of IT. At White Label IT, we believe in increasing the entire industry’s overall skill level and service for a better future for everyone.
– Do you host any events with local colleges or give talks to promote your company as ‘being the place to be?’
Working to reduce the IT skills gap will only be effective if future workers are included in the conversation. Involve the next generation in the education process to attract new talent from an earlier age and inspire young minds. After all, the problems of the future will be solved by them!
Many schools, colleges and public learning organisations are thrilled to work with IT support companies to help pass on knowledge. In addition, hosting events and workshops can help boost your company’s image and reputation and get your name out there.
– Do you spend money on learning resources and elect internal champions to lead the courses/learning?
Learning is an investment and can be transformative for individuals and the business as a whole. MSPs that are serious about committing to learning should allocate funding to increasing company knowledge.
At White Label IT, we believe in allowing employees to take the lead and engage fully in their own learning. Supporting staff members to lead learning experiences can help create a stronger team and lets people choose how and when they learn.
– Do you carry out personality assessments or reviews on natural strengths and weaknesses (i.e., Briggs Myers) and use this to tailor role allocation?
Not everyone learns and processes information in the same way. Getting to know your employee’s personalities can help you tailor learning experiences to suit them for the best results. Online personality tests can help you work out who needs additional support, who requires more practical experiences and where someone’s strengths lie.
This helps you provide the best opportunities for everyone and shows your staff that you are interested in their personal development. This will inspire their trust and promote a healthy work culture and positive atmosphere for more effective and efficient work.
– Do you provide or offer any leadership or management courses for your management staff to learn how to delegate and coach effectively, i.e., SLII?
The skills gap in IT doesn’t just relate to the technical solutions offered by MSPs. We believe offering other types of coaching and learning experiences, such as leadership, time management, delegation, coaching, and teamwork, is equally important.
IT companies looking to prepare for the future would do well to ensure employees are well-rounded and have business skills, not just technical ones.
Foster a positive and supportive work culture that promotes work-life balance, mental health, and well-being to avoid burnout and improve productivity
Part of the requirements for tackling the skills gap within the IT industry is ensuring the industry is a good place to work. As businesses become more reliant on technology, IT professionals can quickly become overworked, burnt out and stressed.
MSPs that take the time to provide a healthy work environment will be able to attract and retain skilled professionals. There’s no point in training people if they choose to leave due to poor working conditions.
– How do you encourage people to share their problems?
One of the most important steps to maintaining a positive and healthy work environment is to give employees a space to provide feedback, share issues and talk about anything that is bothering them. This may be an online space; it could be anonymous, it could be frequent meetings, or just rewarding employees for honesty.
People who feel comfortable talking about problems will generally solve them before they get any bigger. This means less stress and greater collaboration within the company. Allowing employees to share problems and help each as needed prevents people from becoming overwhelmed.
– Are new starters given REAL support, i.e., a mentor, check-ins, or even someone to have lunch with?
It is imperative to focus on new starters. People joining a company or a new team often face increased stress as they try to fit in, master their daily work and bond with colleagues.
Establishing official channels for support and letting new employees know whom to go to and that mistakes and problems will not result in discipline can make transitioning easier.
Implement technologies that streamline and automate IT processes to reduce the burden on staff and maximise efficiency.
Learning opportunities and increasing skills depend on staff having the time and mental capacity to take on something new. Learning can be overwhelming and overworked staff will not want to add to their to-do list. Implementing automated processes and working with teams to create opportunities is important if you want to encourage learning.
Furthermore, emphasising learning as a way to streamline tasks and improve efficiency can motivate people to develop the skills necessary to make their roles more manageable over time.
– Do you encourage people to always ask why?
Allowing your team to ask why learning a particular skill is important and beneficial helps people connect with the company’s future. This means staff members can take an active role in why something is important and how it should be done. At White Label IT, we encourage curiosity so our team understands the purpose behind the learning, making it more engaging.
– Do you encourage people to think outside the box and apply theoretical knowledge in practical situations?
We’ve already discussed how the skills gap relates to business skills, as well as technical ones, but many companies overlook the importance of letting people try new ways of doing things. Using presentations, meetings, and internal communications to remind employees to think outside the box can result in innovative solutions.
While official learning is essential, the practical application of skills is as important, and new ways of doing things require new ways of thinking.
– Do you force people to attend webinars on new technology and partake in new ideas?
While mandated training does mean people will show up, you can’t guarantee they will listen or retain ideas unless they want to. Unless a qualification is necessary, making training optional but rewarded will likely increase participation and ensure information is retained and put into practice.
– Do you have a place where people can share their ideas anonymously?
Learning can be intimidating and often involves making silly mistakes and suggestions that others may or may not support. If possible, provide a space for people to ask questions and voice ideas anonymously to remove any embarrassment from the learning process. This allows people to ask to cover the basics again and will increase the chances of people actually increasing their knowledge.
– Do you have a process for bringing “mistakes or failures” to the table in a positive, supportive way and a feedback loop to implement any necessary changes?
Just as anonymous places to ask questions and share ideas are important, it is also crucial to openly discuss mistakes and failures. This process can be anonymous, but allowing for transparency to communicate what went wrong, why and how we can all do better in the future will help prevent the same mistake from being repeated.
Knowledge sharing: a key strategy to mitigate the IT skills gap
Technology is continually evolving, so learning also needs to be continuous. Furthermore, the industry skills gap will eventually affect all MSPs and support companies, clients, and any company reliant on IT.
Embracing the fact that sharing skills and working with competitors will benefit everyone in the long run, is crucial to preventing the skills gap from increasing.
– Do you share what you know with not only your team but other IT companies?
The skills gap affects the entire IT industry, and although one MSP may not be struggling, isolating and protecting knowledge will impact the future. Companies should openly celebrate and discuss achievements and promote knowledge sharing across the business.
This can help attract new talent who want to work in an industry-leading MSP and will additionally help protect the entire industry against decreasing skills. Community forums, online conferences and other collaborative events are perfect for both sharing and gaining access to knowledge with other companies.
– Do you publicly celebrate what you’re doing, showing you’re an exciting workplace?
Aside from adding to the growing knowledge pool, companies that openly share experiences and learning are more likely to attract new talent. Promoting successes, sharing opportunities and celebrating employees can make an MSP an exciting prospect for talented people seeking work.
Maintaining a solid online presence on LinkedIn, social media, and a website is an effective way to reach new talent.
Dedicated to closing the IT skills gap
While there is currently a skills gap within the IT industry, we are confident that between us, we can address the issues for a better future for everyone. At White Label IT, we take active steps to pass on knowledge and place learning and development at the forefront of what we do.
Not only does this mean we are at the cutting edge of the industry, but it allows us to help other MSPs provide better services. In turn, this raises the standard of the entire industry, reducing the skills gap and making our lives easier. Addressing the skills gap and attracting new people into IT is vital for a brighter future.