Home Is a Data Center Staffing Crisis Looming?

Is a Data Center Staffing Crisis Looming?

The prophesied great migration to the cloud is often seen as a career killer for data center workers as storage and infrastructure requirements are consolidated into the hands of a few IaaS providers. In the past we’ve looked at the impact of cloud migrations on IT jobs in general, though not data center related positions in particular. However, Gartner analyst David J. Cappuccio thinks there could be a looming data center staffing crisis.

Cappuccio points out that it’s become harder to retain skilled IT workers. We’ve covered studies showing high levels of dissatisfaction in technology workers in the past, and it appears that nearly about 36% of IT workers are looking for a new job. This may get worse as prospects for technology workers continue to improve at faster rate than the overall economy.

The problem may be compounded by that ever-present staffing threat: the looming retirement of the Boomers. “In North America we can expect an average of 10,000 people reaching retirement age, every day, for the next 19 years,” points out Cappuccio. Of course, many Boomers will postpone retirement as long as possible. But that’s still a very large pool of potentially retiring workers.

Another problem is driven by skill sets required in virtualized environments. IT departments will need employees with broader skills in the future. “Traditionally a storage manager had end-to-end responsibility for capacity, throughput, performance and availability,” writes Cappuccio. “But when virtual infrastructures are using SAN’s, and Fiber Channel is running over Ethernet, who has responsibility for the overall storage environment; the network team, storage team, virtualization team, or server team?” According to Cappuccio, the answer is “all of the above.”

This last problem may actually contribute to the first. For years companies have been demanding more and more skills from individual IT workers, often forcing IT workers to foot the bill for their own education and put in many additional hours for self-training on new technologies. And as positions with laundry lists of requirements go unfilled existing staff are left to pick up the slack. These high expectations can lead to burnout.

Cappuccio encourages managers to foster employees that have not only deep skills in a particular area but have an understanding of the relationships between converging technologies. “The most effective IT people are always looking for new things to learn, and, in many cases, the most interesting areas are in the unknown, not the known areas,” writes Cappuccio. “Enabling this learning – even incenting it – is a critical success factor as we move toward fully virtualized environments.”

This is all well and good, but it doesn’t address the fundamental problem employees have with learning new skills: finding the time to learn new skills while also getting their existing jobs done.

Cappuccio writes that “The days of job security and company loyalty as motivating factors are long gone.” Years of outsourcing and layoffs have killed these incentives for workers. Cappuccio hopes that the challenges of learning new things will be enough to keep key staff. I agree that the opportunity to learn new skills and apply them to real-world projects is a real incentive in and of itself. But companies need to be willing to invest in employees to prove that that they actually want to keep their employees around beyond the next fiscal quarter. And one of the resources managers need to give employees is the most valuable resource of all: time.

See also: How to Improve IT Worker Morale

Photo by The Planet

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