Win The War For IT Talent

Michael Anderson
written by Michael Anderson posted on February 5, 2022

How 365 Technologies Can Help Your Firm Win the War for IT Talent

Among the most prominent challenges that CIOs face in 2022 is the war for talent. While this is not a new challenge (having significantly influenced Canadian immigration, education, and economic policies for decades), it continues to grow in severity and scope. Business and consumer dependence on technology has already necessitated federal reforms to ensure Canada remained competitive internationally before 2020. However, the pandemic has made the talent shortage a more acute pain point for IT firms than ever before.

365 Technologies Can Help Your Firm Win the War for IT Talent

Why Is There an IT Talent Shortage in Canada?

What’s driving the talent shortage? Historical – but no less relevant – reasons include a shortfall in Canadian IT college graduates, skills mismatches between available jobs and local talent, and an aging national workforce. But the pandemic has added new dimensions to the severity of the problem. Public health measures, such as lockdowns and closures, accelerated the demand for digital goods and services, as well as employer adoption of remote and hybrid-working operations. The surge in online activity, especially digital financial transactions, further emboldened criminals, who sought to leverage vulnerabilities in hastily established online business and consumer networks.

Alongside most working professionals, IT staff endured the physical and mental health strains of the pandemic. Whether they contracted COVID or not, many still faced severely increased professional workloads and personal responsibilities while grappling with social isolation, and in some cases, grief. Burnout has led many older workers to retire or switch careers, while other workers, old and young, have sought greener pastures.

In the wake of these factors, many employers have begun increasing wages and other incentives to attract and retain talent. It is, in many ways, a worker’s market. Employees, including IT workers, have boldly sought new opportunities, whether for professional advancement, better work-life balance, or higher wages and benefits. Indeed, employees seeking the ladder are now often not only seeking higher wages for self-serving reasons but also out of need. Canada’s inflation rate is now 4.8% – a 30-year high that takes a bite out of any retention bonuses or wage increases.

In Canada, labour shortages exist across industries and regions. But while many industries may see their respective workforce shortages ease as vaccination rates tick higher, supply chain challenges become unsnarled, inflation flattens, and consumer confidence rebounds, the same does not likely hold for IT. The structural problems that impaired the talent pipeline pre-pandemic remain. And the demand for IT talent will likely remain at elevated levels post-pandemic. Many businesses and organizations have established permanent remote or hybrid-work operations, while many consumers have grown accustomed to increased online professional and personal activity levels. And cybercrime continues to grow exponentially to exploit weaknesses arising from this new normal.

How IT Firms Are Addressing the Labor Shortage

Attracting new workers and retaining current employees with higher wages and better benefits is one strategy some IT firms are pursuing. However, everyone eventually runs up against budget limits. Small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) can’t hope to compete with large corporations on wage inducements alone. Moreover, recruits who take a job just for the money aren’t likely to stay long-term.

In practice, many CIOs have been outsourcing some or all of their infrastructure management work to managed service providers (MSPs). Strategically outsourcing this work allows some CIOs to increase the productivity of existing staff and fill existing gaps. In some cases where one or more key employees leave, CIOs are sourcing their work through MSPs, avoiding the need to rehire.

IT departments are often staffed with professionals with deep knowledge of their employer’s business practices and line-of-business applications. Effective CIOs realize that these staff should be tasked with strategic technology activities that drive revenue, leveraging emerging technologies to gain competitive advantage and increase operational efficiency, and comprehensive and proactive cybersecurity management, among other priorities that advance the organization.

Utilizing these staff to handle helpdesk functions, infrastructure management, and maintenance is a waste of time and money. Moreover, IT staff who find their time consumed with lower-level functions invariably report higher job dissatisfaction, stress, and burnout. In turn, these organizations endure higher levels of turnover, as employees seek more challenging and fulfilling work.

With an MSP, CIOs can reorient in-house talent towards more rewarding projects. It can also greatly improve the efficiency of a firm’s IT functions. They no longer have generalists struggling to field basic user questions while testing the organization’s cyber defences. And no longer do they have to deal with complaints about an “unresponsive” IT department from internal stakeholders. By outsourcing foundational operational functions, CIOs can free up in-house staff while offering a higher quality of support service to the rest of the organization.

Further, many CIOs find that MSPs can provide a higher quality of infrastructure management and compliance support than they can provide in-house. MSPs draw on deep experience working with multiple clients, platforms, and vendors. To handle core functions more efficiently, they can leverage this depth of experience, economies of scale, and substantial vendor networks.

For example, a small business is looking to migrate from Google Workspace to Microsoft 365 for daily business-wide usage, with two on-prem backups, one on-site and one off-site. In-house IT staff will need to be trained in and become familiar with the new platform to deploy, manage, and support it. However, an MSP will likely have conducted dozens of these deployments in multiple environments and can likely do so more quickly and effectively. They also likely have clients operating in this environment and have experience handling related helpdesk inquiries. By leveraging an MSP for deployment, the IT staff can focus on unlocking 365 functions to improve internal business processes, assessing other IT tools that can help drive revenue, and tackling cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

Moreover, many who service clients in industries with significant regulations can tackle compliance requirements more quickly and thoroughly than in-house staff. An MSP that counts nine hospitals among its clients will help you navigate your data obligations under PIPEDA (and various other provincial laws) more efficiently than your in-house counsel and IT team. Compliance, while fundamental, does not grow a business. Empowered in-house staff do. Successful CIOs recognize compliance as another burden that can be lifted from the backs of their IT personnel, freeing them to drive revenue.

The Talent War and Cybersecurity

While IT departments search for developers, network engineers, and analysts to fulfill various functions, there is perhaps no area where effective CIOs are looking for more talent than cybersecurity. Businesses and organizations of all sizes and sectors continue to face ransomware attacks with varying degrees of readiness. Unfortunately, despite several cases making international headlines, many firms remain woefully unprepared for what at this point is an eventuality.

Many CIOs are considering substantial hiring in this area. While this may be a good option for larger firms, often SMBs can benefit from hiring fewer but dedicated in-house cybersecurity staff and partnering with an MSP that also provides security services. As with core infrastructure management and support services, MSPs leverage their experience working with multiple clients, vendors, and platforms to provide security solutions that are usually far more advanced than MSPs can provide themselves.

Moreover, MSPs can provide round-the-clock monitoring, real-time threat assessment, and incidence response. To do so with in-house staff is a costly proposition. And building a robust in-house cybersecurity shop also requires in-house staff to handle not only advanced cybersecurity planning, testing, threat assessment and response, but also numerous mundane security tasks.

CIOs should not rely on MSPs to provide the equivalent of set-it-and-forget-it security services. Qualified and experienced in-house personnel are recommended. And in the wake of the Colonial Pipeline attack, it became evident that one of that company’s weaknesses at the time was the lack of a dedicated cybersecurity manager. Effective CIOs themselves cannot and should not try to manage this function directly on top of their broader responsibilities. They must hire dedicated cybersecurity personnel who can manage and supervise dedicated in-house security personnel who work to plan and implement security practices organization-wide while working with MSPs who provide both basic but time-consuming and advanced security services.

How You Can Effectively Navigate the War for Talent

Working with an MSP can help your firm navigate the war for IT talent. CIOs and business leaders can avoid costly and time-consuming bidding wars for talented employees. You can retain staff by reducing mundane tasks and providing them with more satisfying projects. And you can avoid expensive recruitment and rehiring when staff leave or retire. The money you save from having a lower full-time staff complement can be reinvested in the technology resources you need to drive your organization forward.

You can accomplish these things while improving IT support, infrastructure, and cybersecurity. By collaborating with a qualified MSP, you’re gaining practical technology insights and real-world experience culled from their work with dozens and, in some cases, hundreds of clients. Because of their extensive work, you don’t have to waste time with a lot of trial and error for new deployments or upgrades. You’ll have export support working for you.

If you’re struggling to scale your IT workforce up, we can help. 365 Technologies provides expert support, infrastructure management, planning, consulting, and security services to businesses throughout Manitoba, giving them the time and resources they need to grow revenue.

Our experienced staff will work with your team to ensure you have the solutions for your unique business needs when you need them. Contact us today, and let’s discuss how we can help you manage your IT needs.

Thanks to our colleagues at Velocity IT in Dallas for their help with this content.

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