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What is a skills gap? According to Gary Beach, best-selling author of "The U.S. Technology Skills Gap" and former publisher at CIO Magazine, a skills gap exists when a company is no longer able to execute its strategies or grow its revenue because it cannot hire and retain the talent needed.

Recently, Gary joined Continuum partner and President of Greystone Technology Group, Peter Melby, on a webinar to discuss how MSPs can effectively avoid this gap by hiring, retaining and growing top IT talent. Here are some of the main takeaways! 

To download the full on-demand webinar, click here. 

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

According to The World Economic Forum, the global economy has recently entered the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The First kicked off in the eighteenth century with steam-powered mechanical production, the Second followed in the nineteenth century with electricity-enabled mass production and the Third characterized the twentieth century with information-technology-automated production. But now, we're on the brink of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, one believed to merge the physical and cyber worlds. Automated driving, the Internet of Things and drones are a few byproducts of this revolution. 

How will this impact the U.S. labor market? As more labor becomes automated through the use of apps and connected devices, talent will be the most important determinant of production. In order to avoid the IT skills gap, business owners and managers will have to continuously adapt to changing conditions and invest in employee talent growth. 

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Is the Gap Real?

Many economists who look at the Bureau of Labor statistics claim there is no data to support the existence of a skills gap in IT. However, when attendees of the webinar were asked how long, on average, it takes their companies to fill an open IT position, only a quarter of the audience reported that hires are made in fewer than 50 days. In fact, 50 percent of attendees reported that hires take 50-100 days and 8 percent reported an average wait time of more than 100 days. How would you respond?

Additionally, CompTIA and Burning Glass Technologies claim that there are currently 593,500 IT jobs in the United States that have remained open for 90 days or longer. That equates to 50,000,000 days of lost IT productivity each quarter.

Where does the shortage of IT talent fall on the spectrum of "most worrisome issues" in IT management? The Society for Information Management's 2017 IT trends report speaks for itself. See below.

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Why is This Happening?

One of the reasons for the growing concern over the IT skills gap is due to the fact that Millenials now make up the highest percentage of employees in the United States labor force. Unlike Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, Millenials are far less likely to remain with a single company throughout their career. In fact, according to a report by Deloitte, 66 percent of Millenials that currently work for your company expect to leave before 2020. Additionally, 13 percent expect to leave within the next six months. Employee turnover of any kind slows productivity, thus reducing profitability. Considering that this newer generation comprises the majority share of the work force, MSPs need to find a better way of engaging with Millennials.  

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How Can You Overcome the Gap?

Six years ago, Peter Melby, Continuum partner and President of Greystone Technology Group, was offered $1 million for his MSP. The buyer wanted to transform Greystone into the best place to work in Denver, CO. "Well, I can do that myself," thought Peter. His company was growing fast and he had recently hired a technician named David who was the PERFECT employee. David was the kind of employee that Peter trusted and knew would facilitate Greystone's continued growth. With this in mind, Peter decided to turn down the offer. Two days later, David quit. 

This came as a huge shock for Peter, forcing him to reevaluate everything. During the hiring process, hiring managers made sure to check off all of the boxes they felt contributed to making a work environment "great," helping Greystone recruit more talent. This checklist included a competitive compensation, healthy work-life balance and ability to make decisions. But as it turned out, hiring talent wasn't the problem they had to worry about - keeping it, however, was. In fact, all of these check box items that won David over factored into his decision to leave.

As Peter learned, conditions change. There was a massive disconnect between Greystone's management and staff. He had gone from feeling like he was running a company with an enticing corporate culture, to having no competitive advantage at all in his market. To regain control, Peter asked his employees what it was that they valued and looked for in a work place.

What he found is that people want autonomy. They want to be able to make decisions and exercise their intelligence. They also want really clear directions. Wait, what? Peter came to the conclusion that his staff – and Millennials in particular – wanted the thrill without the danger. In the webinar, Peter likened this balance to an amusement park thrill ride. People want the rush of potentially dropping off a cliff with the assurance that they are actually safe. Businesses need to foster an environment where people can experience the thrill of entrepreneurialism and ownership, all while being completely protected.

Since recognizing and acknowledging this, Peter has gone on to achieve immense growth for his MSP business, surpassing the projected annual revenue of the proposed acquisition and averaging 40 percent annual growth. To help MSPs, he shared five actionable tips and their desired outcomes when successfully implemented.

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And if your issue is in hiring top talent, you need people to want to come work for you. Think of amusement park lines. You need to get your name out there and show people why you're the top choice for employment. Again, Peter provided some tips on how to make this happen. 

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Peter's story shows how one MSP has been able to overcome the skills gap that Gary Beach proved clearly exists in the IT workforce today. For many, this may seem like a lot of work and something that they simply don't have the time for. However, if the goal is to grow and expand, you have to develop a talent strategy. Download the full webinar below for more insight!