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Casting a wider net to land the right talent

Casting a wider net to land the right talent

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Fay Thompson, VP Human Resources, EMEA, STACK Infrastructure, discusses the areas of focus when recruiting and retaining the correct talent in order to prosper in the data centre industry, as well as the skills involved in operating such a complex facility.

It’s no secret that there is a battle for highly skilled talent in the data centre industry at every stage of design, build and operations.

Getting the right people is a critical consideration as industry growth continues to accelerate and customer expectations increase. The drivers vary slightly between regions – more developed markets have more competition but a deeper pool of talent, fast growing markets have more opportunities than can be met by existing resources but, in essence, the challenges remain the same. To sustain the high levels of growth currently being experienced, it is imperative that organisations focus on attracting, retaining and developing the talent they need to prosper. In my experience there are three main pillars to a successful talent strategy: Create a strong and compelling employer brand; recruit talented people with the relevant experience from inside or outside the industry; and further train, develop and engage current employees.

By far the most effective approach is to attract, engage and retain those with the right skills, attitude and experience. At STACK we have invested in proactively creating a positive work culture that permeates across every site and every function. We give staff high degrees of autonomy and latitude to enable them to add value and grow. Not only does this help us constantly refine best practice, but creates a can-do culture that people are keen to engage with.

But even with a strong brand and the high retention that these approaches bring, growth means there is always the need to hire new people. Finding the right talent is hard. In 2020 we launched our Critical Infrastructure Technician Apprentice programme in collaboration with industry education and training experts CNet Training (CNet). The purpose of this programme was to fill the skills gap by identifying tradespeople from outside the industry with the right skills – and crucially, attitude and mindset – to be successful as data centre technicians. Taking the decision to train the right people on the specifics of data centres rather than only recruiting those that had prior experience immediately increases the pool of potential candidates. Many have heard the term ‘data centre’ although some do not fully understand the range of trades and skills involved in operating one. For example, we are aware of trained commercial electricians who have simply never considered working in a data centre. Per’s story below is typical.

Per was a partner in an electrical installation company and had 20 years’ experience as a skilled electrician. He was looking for something new to take his career forward but until he saw the opportunity to join the Critical Infrastructure Technician Apprenticeship programme he’d never considered working in a data centre. Now, through a combination of distance learning provided by CNet and on-the-job experience, Per has attained the Certified Data Center Technician Professional (CDCTP) level 4 qualification recognised across the industry, and has a new and exciting career ahead of him.

Advertising in trade media, making outreach to universities and technical colleges and using social media all help to attract candidates like Per. Interestingly, we found that once recruits from a specific trade started the apprenticeship, word of mouth through their own networks brought in more new applications.

Targeting the untapped potential of skilled tradespeople and providing them with specific data centre experience will help the data centre industry recruit outstanding individuals with motivation, attitude and skills to be highly successful. Our efforts at STACK have already raised the profile of the industry as one offering opportunity and interesting roles for a wide range of trades.

But it’s not just skills that count. Hiring those with the right attitude and approach is also key. Following a summer of heatwaves and with ongoing energy crises, the critical nature of data centres has never been more clearly in focus. Recruiting those who have the emotional as well as mental resilience to support critical infrastructure is as important as getting the right skills. To fill these gaps, we have expanded our search to hire people from other mission-critical industries.

The war for talent will continue and is likely to intensify. I believe that the approaches outlined above enables us to find excellent, motivated and dedicated talent to fill the roles we need. STACK has  a purpose-driven, values-based work environment where people from all walks of life can contribute and be recognised, we will always attract and find the people we need to prosper.

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