Published 30 Jan 2024

Managing the Talent Gap

By, Mary Pender, Director of Talent

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As we dive into 2024 the relentless march of technological progress combined with economic green shoots (the year the ‘UK turns a page on the difficult post post-pandemic years ) it should be an exciting opportunity for Data Centres and the talent who work in them…and whilst people are clearly excited about the opportunities this presents for the industry, there remains a nervousness.  

Why so?  In short, to make the most of these opportunities you need the right people, with the right skills in the right places….and that can be a tough balancing act!   These challenges are not new (indeed the permanence of them keeps HR professionals in employment) but there are a couple of topics that I think will be front of mind for talent teams in the data centre community and beyond this year.

Skills Gaps

Despite government efforts we continue to face a digital and technical skills gap in the UK – exacerbated by an ageing workforce in Data Centres.  We know much of the experienced talent will move on to a well-earned retirement in 10-15 years, and building a skilled pipeline is critical – and yet alongside the lack of skills in the population there is also a lack of awareness amongst young people as to the career opportunities on offer in this industry.   

Approaching these inter-linked challenges is key – if we’re to compel young people to choose our industry, we must create a clear and vibrant career opportunity that stands out from the crowd and develops the skills they need. Early Career Development is key to alleviating the skills gap to ensure fresh talent pipelines are available within the business – it’s about building a sustainable talent strategy to ensure we have the people to deliver tomorrow, as well as today.  Hiring talent is only the first step in the process, there is also a duty of care to the local communities to showcase the career options that are available to young people, as well as a need to build the digital infrastructure that will power those future career pathways. 

Addressing the skills gap requires a shift in our hiring mindset.  When people don’t have much experience, we’re hiring for attitude and values– and it’s important that talent strategies are in place to deliver the right development that then enables them to learn and grow; some of this is formal, but mostly it’s learning from experienced colleagues.  But, the flipside of this is a  growing multi-generation workplace, with young people bringing different skills and ideas  and that diversity can deliver a strong, inclusive work environment where we can all learn from each other.  

Outreal (72 × 20in) (72 x 30 in) (72 x 20 in)

Our own focus on early talent saw us introduce a new Graduate programme last year, with 11 fantastic young people entering the business. As they have moved through the process, we’ve worked with them and used their insights to evolve our offering and we’re now applying that learning to our new Apprenticeship programme too. We are already interviewing and will have some new apprentices join our Data Centres in the near future. It’s a noisy market – so we must work hard to showcase why this industry is exciting and the great experience they’ll get from being part of it.

A Great Place to Work

However, having the skills to do the job isn’t just about new talent coming into the market – retaining our experienced hires will also remain key.  Whilst the recruitment market is slowing more broadly, the skills shortage in Data Centres means this market will likely remain hot for talent moves.      

In this climate, its important organisations provide their people with a clear view on what the ‘employee deal’ is – what will they get if they work for you.  The trick with this, though, is that it’s rarely a ‘one size fits all’ approach – and so whilst strong policies, working environments, development opportunities and employee benefits no doubt help – what we really need is leaders having great conversations and understanding what matters to their people, combined with the experience to understand how and when to adapt the approach for an individual (as well as when not to)!  It’s for this reason that in 2024 we’ll be refreshing our leadership development offering, working in partnership with leaders to create a development offering that ensures they have the skills they need to support our people at every stage of their development journey. 

[1] PWC: The Good, the Bad, and the Optimistic: PwC UK economic predictions for 2024

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