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Sometimes it can be hard to get people to talk about their issues — other times, it can be hard to keep them quiet. A recent Uptime Institute Network member’s meeting began as an open discussion but was soon dominated by one issue: data center staffing.

The members’ concerns reflect the growing disquiet in the industry. Data centers are struggling to recruit and retain sufficient qualified staff to provide and grow reliable operations. In Uptime Institute’s 2018 annual global survey of data center operators, over half of the respondents reported that they were either having difficulty finding candidates to fill open jobs or were having trouble retaining data center staff.

A tight labor market is exacerbating the issue: job vacancies in the United States hit a record high in December 2018, and the US is not the only country with a robust job-seeker forecast. With a large number of experienced managers set to leave the workforce in the next decade or two, analysts now question whether labor shortages will prove a drag on growth. Data center operators have reported losing staff not only to mission critical industries, such as hospitals and utilities, but also to unexpected enterprises — even fairgrounds. Not to mention competition from hyperscales, which are luring experienced data center staff away with hard to resist salaries.

An aging workforce is of particular concern in the fast-growing IT/data center industry. Almost three-quarters of the respondents to our 2018 survey had more than 15 years of work experience, and more than a third had over 25 years’ experience.

Despite the need for more qualified workers, over half of respondents reported that women comprise less than six percent of their data center design, build or operations staff. But a majority (73 percent) felt that the lack of diversity was not a concern.

This may prove to be complacent. McKinsey’s longitudinal data on over 1,000 companies in 12 countries shows a significant correlation between diversity and business performance. And a large study (over 1,000 firms in 35 countries and 24 industries) recently profiled in the Harvard Business Review clarified two important questions about the impact of gender diversity on business performance: First, intention matters. Gender diversity yields benefits only in those industries that view inclusion as important — this may be an important issue for the data center sector to address. Second, the study distinguished cause and effect: Women weren’t just more attracted to high-performing companies; hiring more women led to better performance.

There are many strategies for attracting and keeping data center staff, but none will be a panacea. Watch for new Uptime Institute initiatives and research in the coming months, available to Uptime Institute Members.

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For more information on Staffing and Skills needed for the data center, and the impact the growing concern is already having on operational execution, join the Uptime Institute Network. Members enjoy a continuous stream of relevant and actionable knowledge from our analysts  and share a wealth of experiences with their peers from some of the largest companies in the world. Membership instills a primary consciousness about operational efficiency and best practices which can be put into action everyday.  For membership information click here.

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