As I look at the opportunities and challenges facing our team in the coming year, I have a couple of things to share with you. Some of them might echo with what you’re facing, as well. Each year since 2008 we’ve had a company-wide theme and this year is no exception. We chose ‘Streamlined, Standardized, Bullet Proof,’ one of Chris’s mantras for the last few years as we rolled out our Azure hosting environment and moved our long-time Hosted Exchange offering to Microsoft 365. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, this is truly a foundational shift in technology, so we’re not surprised to see other IT companies resisting the changes, and still others ‘dabbling’ but not taking advantage of the power of automation, security enhancements, and integrations.
One of the discussions I hear across industries is the tight labor market. Across our clients and in our own IT industry, talent is difficult to find, and when you do, it’s more expensive than ever. Before the pandemic, the IT industry was at about 2% unemployment at a time when business IT needs were growing exponentially; now it’s worse! Even clients who are Union signatory find it difficult to hire, even through the union hall. I’ll bet you have similar stories.
Typical ideas from experts include things like ‘golden handcuffs’ to incentivize team members to stay on board. We’ve seen this work and we’ve seen it backfire. There are books, trainings, and LinkedIn feeds that tell you how to retain staff, yet we’re all struggling. During an exit interview at Syscon, I’ve been told how blessed they felt for working at Syscon; hope I know how hard they worked for us, giving us their best; but they just want to try something different—kind words to hear, but still an exit.
In IT, the typical length of employment is 18 months. We’ve had many team members stay well beyond this, some shorter, and some right on the mark. One of our team members asked how we were going to get people to stay longer than our industry trend. As we continued the discussion, I suggested a different line of thought—rather than focusing on how to change an industry trend, what if we re-focused our efforts on building processes and systems that worked in alignment with the 18-month expectation?
We’ve always been heavy on documentation and have the many years of notes and details to prove it! We were early adopters of automation tools and platforms. One example was our managed services platform which was very new technology when we signed up in 2007. These automation tools allowed us to streamline our computer support, push critical updates sooner and with less client interruption, and reduce regular maintenance time. Back in the late 1990’s, we were very focused on writing custom integration software that pulled important and complex reports to cut down on tedious data reporting, pulling data directly from the source, automatically and accurately. Our electronic time collection journey started in 2015, saving a great deal of time in the field and office while increasing accuracy. In this example, we are leveraging the power of the Cloud, taking advantage of the explosion of personal devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) services.
This continued focus will allow us to provide excellent customer service to our clients through answering our phones ‘live’ and having techs available to take requests during the regular workday, while maintaining and securing the systems we host for our clients. With streamlined, standardized, and bullet proof systems, we can provide consistent experiences and more quickly roll out additional resources, update users, maintain existing systems, and incorporate new tools when they meet a need or are stable.
With this history and company-wide focus—documentation, automation, leveraging the Cloud services—we will continue, even re-affirm our focus on automation. So rather than bemoan our industry’s short employment cycle, or coerce team members to stay beyond what they want, we will stay the course and find ways to make all our team members successful, better educated than when they joined us, and when they move on, an amazing contributor to the industry we love and the clients they will serve.—CMW