Colocation Data Center Providers Discuss Growth-driven Talent Acquisition and Retention Challenges

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The colocation industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the last several years, and that robust growth is forecasted to continue. In fact, 451 Research predicts that the operational square footage of the global colocation and wholesale sector will grow at a healthy 7% CAGR through the year 2020.

With all that extra square footage, so too comes the challenge of properly staffing and overseeing operations, according to a global group of colocation providers that met at a recent International Colocation Club roundtable session in London, England. In addition to covering key industry trends (watch these Colo Club event videos Opening Address from Schneider Electric and Interxion and CBRE’s Key Market Dynamics), the group also shared thoughts around one of their biggest concerns – talent acquisition and retention. According to the colo providers who attended, the current talent shortage could negatively impact the speed of business growth. Yet, the situation is far from hopeless, as some creative solutions bubbled up during the discussion.

Colocation Data Center Talent Trends

The roundtable group consisted of colo representatives from a mix of both large and small global organizations, some of which were expanding their footprint in emerging economies. During discussions, they quickly identified the primary challenges within the areas of talent acquisition, retention and employee development:

  • Poaching – The issue of having their people “under siege” from competitors was prevalent across the globe but was especially intense in emerging markets. In those markets, “everyone knows everyone else” and retaining experienced employees is turning out to be difficult.
  • Retention Across Functions – The retention issue involved not only the technicians responsible for running the data center, but also sales people (who know the “language” of the industry and understand how to sell the business) as well as facility staff.
  • Employee Development – Approaches for training new employees in new geographies also proved to be time consuming and costly. In most cases, experts are being flown-in from distant locations to train local staff, sometimes for weeks at a time. Participants also shared that it was very difficult to find people who had both technical expertise and extensive knowledge of the local marketplace. For many colos, bringing in a staff of expats is proving not to be the optimal long-term solution.

Given the commonality of talent acquisition and retention issues, one would think that a possible solution would be for the colo organizations to pool their efforts into setting up some formal industrial marketing and training programs to help quickly develop the talent pool. However, most considered their training programs both proprietary, and, in several cases, even a source of competitive advantage. So, many are not willing to begin sharing their “secret sauce” with their perceived competitors in the geography.

Attract Top Talent to Fill Your Colocation Data Center Jobs with these Creative Ideas

Several possible solutions to the talent acquisition and retention dilemma were proposed and considered. One was to reinvigorate the network of traditional “feeder groups” coming out of colleges and universities, so that millennials entering the workforce were more aware of job and career opportunities within the colo industry.

Another talent sourcing idea was to secure candidates from completely outside of the data center industry. Specifically, a few roundtable participants are seeking talent from industries that support mission critical applications (e.g., military, oil industry, airline industry). This attempt at recruiting new out-of-industry talent is referred to as “cross skilling.” Cross skilling helps colos recruit candidates with mission critical core competencies who can then be quickly trained on data center specifics.

Finally, it also became apparent that many of the colos, especially those with a presence in the emerging economies, relied heavily on vendors with data center experience like Schneider Electric to train their employees. In these instances, colos will rely on key partners to round out their training offering with in-depth product and troubleshooting resources.

If you work for a colo organization, are you experiencing the same talent acquisition and retention challenges as our roundtable participants? Join the conversation by adding a comment below. In future blogs, I will continue to share insights based on my ongoing discussions with data center customers and partners and the relevant industry “buzz” I am hearing.

Speaking of “buzz”, don’t forget to watch these Colo Club event videos Interxion and CBRE’s Key Market Dynamics or view the Opening Address from the International Colocation Club below. Also, be on the look out for future presentations with colocation market insights soon.


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