MSPs: How to recruit techs in a difficult market

Paul Green Content, Leadership & management

If you’ve tried to recruit a technician recently, you’ll know it’s a complete nightmare out there. 

Of course it’s not just MSPs that are struggling when it comes to recruitment. There’s been a huge shift in the way many of us see work since Covid-19 struck. 

Confronted with their own mortality, a record number of people have quit their jobs in order to reprioritise their lives over the office. 

On top of that, Covid has of course increased our reliance on digital (and the need to maintain it) faster than anyone can keep up with. In the world of tech, this has created a talent shortage ‘perfect storm’.

And your MSP is caught slap bang in the middle of it.

The good news is, there are things you can do to help weather that storm. And it starts with answering a question.

Why would they want to come and work for you?

I see MSP recruitment issues like MSP marketing issues. And just as in good marketing, you should look at things not from your point of view, but from the prospect's point of view. In this case, that’s from the technician’s viewpoint.

The skills shortage has turned an employer’s market into an employee’s market. No longer are skilled applicants queuing out the door for us to cherry pick from. The power pendulum has swung firmly into the skilled tech’s court, and they can basically pick and choose where they go. 

So, from now on, ask not what your tech can do for you, but what you can do for your tech. This is my top 3;

1) Pay them more 

Ok, let’s get the most painful one out of the way first. When you're hiring technicians, this is not one of those areas where you want to be cheap or try and get away with paying a little bit less. In reality, you need to be paying more than your competitors.

What if you were the MSP in town that paid more than anyone else? That might be $1,000, $2,000, even $3,000 more. This is also an investment in long-term staff retention, so it’s worth digging deep for. 

And remember, the most valuable thing you have is your time. So spending more on salaries is well worth it compared to spending time on a never ending cycle of recruitment drives rather than more important things like growing your business/your family.

2) Develop them more

While being well-rewarded financially is a high consideration for people, it’s not the only one, particularly post-pandemic. What if you were the MSP that trained your staff more? That invested more into them? That coached them more? So, regardless of the size of your business, technicians are clamouring to come to work for you because you invest in them as much as they invest in you

Try and have an example ready to present to prospective techs of someone within your business who’s a) stayed long-term and b) is going from strength to strength. Many potential employees want evidence that you’re a leader worth being loyal to - and that they won’t be stuck in the same position five years down the line. 

Once you do bag a tech, this will also keep their heads from being turned by greener pastures a few months down the line, as staff retention can be just as much of a nightmare as recruitment.

3) Listen to them more

People’s eyes have been opened to flexible working, and they’re never going to be closed again. So, the kind of skilled people you want to hire expect to be listened to when it comes to negotiating their working conditions. Not only this, but they want to know that - wherever they’re putting in their hours - they’re going to be happy.

Can they work flexibly/from home when they need to? Will they be able to complete tickets uninterrupted? Will they get regular one-to-ones with you, their boss/work parent? Are you the kind of boss that lets your team pick one nightmare client a year to ditch? That has a plan for the Christmas party? Will they feel part of something by coming to work for you?

I’m not telling you to offer up the moon if you can’t deliver- because you don’t want your newest recruit ending up disappointed and jumping ship, putting you back to square one.

But it’s inescapable that people are putting more emphasis on maintaining work-life balance than ever before, so reviewing the working environment you provide could be what tips the balance when it comes to bagging the right tech over your competitors.

The long-term recruitment secret

There’s nothing worse than finding yourself with a staffing crisis and having to start from scratch looking for people, once again shifting your attention away from the business and putting more and more pressure on your remaining team (which will only lead to more recruitment issues when they get fed up do the off).

Long-term, the real recruitment secret is to build yourself up a pipeline of technicians, so that you have a whole bunch of people who could come to work for you long before you've got a vacancy. 

The simplest way to achieve this is to reach out to people on LinkedIn. Go and talk to technicians who work for other big companies around you. Say to them, “Hey, we haven't got any jobs right now, but you know what? In the coming months, we're likely to have some vacancies. Would you like to meet for a coffee or a beer right now and have a discussion about maybe coming to work for us one day?”

When you get to that beer/coffee, make sure you listen to them. Find out about their current and previous jobs, and tell them how you can do better on the things their other employers haven’t done so well.

Wouldn't it be awesome if the day that you have a vacancy, you have five or six techs that you can just WhatsApp and say, ‘About those vacancies I said we’d have coming up…’. It may be a storm right now, but clearer skies are on the horizon.  

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