MSP SUCCESS RIDES ON keeping customer environments trouble-free by proactively monitoring, securing, and updating them. The better MSPs get at doing this, the stickier—and presumably more profitable—their customer relationships become. None of that can happen without a good technical staff.
Yet some MSP owners “just can’t seem to hire anyone to do all the things only they know how to do,” says Dave Cava, a former MSP and co-owner of Encore Strategic, a coaching and recruiting consultancy. This means they get stuck working in the business instead of on it. Other owners tolerate mediocrity and unreliability because it’s hard to replace techs. “Either of these things can really hinder an MSP from growing and maturing.”
Finding and then managing technical talent in the best of times is no easy task. Now, with the acute labor shortage of the last couple of years, it’s gotten even trickier. To keep their valued technicians motivated and loyal, MSPs must strike a balance between compensation, quality of life, and career advancement opportunities.
Stay Attuned to Staff Needs
The competition for tech talent is not a new problem. “The workforce shortage has only accentuated dynamics that have been true for a long time,” notes Cava. “It was always hard to find highly qualified, skilled engineers. Now it’s almost impossible.”
While overall unemployment rates have dipped below 4% in the past two years, CompTIA estimates the rate in IT is closer to 2%. As a result, techs have employment options aplenty and can often achieve higher salaries by jumping to companies desperate for talent.
“Our top performers could quit today and line up five interviews for next week. Of those five, they would likely get three offers and two would likely be at higher pay,” says Oli Thordarson, IT channel veteran and CEO of Alvaka Networks, an MSP in Irvine, Calif. “In a tight market we must be much more sensitive to the needs of the staff. A company should always be sensitive, but in a market such as the current one, a company must be acutely sensitive.”
Thordarson believes that “a simple sense of respect, listening, and teamwork within the work environment goes a long way.” To motivate technicians, he adheres to the message in Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us that most people want three things:
- Mastery – to be challenged and get better
- Autonomy – to have some control in decision making
- Purpose – to contribute globally to the welfare of people while working to improve the lives of the clients
Lisa Shorr, co-owner of MSP Secure Future Tech Solutions, based in Warwick, R.I., agrees that it’s important for leaders to listen to the staff’s ideas and concerns, and show empathy with their unique needs. A trained image consultant, Shorr says that Secure Future Tech Solutions emphasizes ongoing professional development training. “I want well-rounded experts on my team,” she adds. Many MSPs emphasize their technical strengths to clients, which is important, she says, but so is training on soft skills and communication.