The ‘Great Resignation’

Author Dr. Terri Simpkin, Portman Partners Associate

The ‘Great Resignation’ More bad news, or an opportunity in disguise?

There’s a lot of talk about the global workforce and the movement of people within it. But, while the issue of skills, labour and talent shortages have been an almost perpetual topic of angst-ridden discussion in the digital infrastructure sector for many years, the last two years have brought the issue under even greater scrutiny.

Pre-pandemic root causes of labour shortages, skills mismatches, and employee turnover were known, yet there was little serious resolve to address them.

Presently, due to increased scrutiny and research, organisational leaders, managers and human resources operatives are becoming more mindful of the impact those shortages will have on the sector. What many (myself included) have been discussing for decades is now becoming a mainstream topic of enquiry. While for years, people have been ignored or accused of scaremongering with ‘Chicken Little’ like hyperbole that the labour force’ sky was falling,’ these people are now being vindicated; but there’s no joy in it. Being right about a potential labour catastrophe is a hollow win.

Recent research published by the Uptime Institute illustrates that the demand for digital infrastructure staff will increase from around 2.0 million FTE in 2019 to about 2.3million in 2025 across 230 specialist job roles servicing the entirety of the data centre landscape. This does not consider the complexities associated with the loss of incumbents to retirement as the DI workforce ages nor the fierce competition for skilled people from other sectors such as telecoms, manufacturing and IT. Neither does it explore the issues of skills wastage nor the exit of people trained for DI roles who leave and take up work doing something completely different. Uneven demand is also compounding existing regional difficulties, with the Asia Pacific region outstripping other regions (EMEA, NA, LATAM).

Oh, and don’t forget that an aging population means fewer people are coming into the workforce in some regions, adding to the perfect storm that is a known issue currently negatively affecting organisational growth, security and day-to-day operations.

So, what’s going on generally?

In a report released by McKinsey in July 2022, the extent to which the global phenomenon termed ‘The Great Resignation’, the ‘Great Attrition’ or The ‘Great Reshuffle’ in some jurisdictions, has seen people re-evaluating their relationship with work. In the DI sector, many organisations have reported long lead times to fill roles, with some vacancies continuing to be unfilled. With quit rates at 25 per cent above pre-pandemic levels, the DI sector is in for a long-term struggle to recruit qualified and capable staff.

But wait, there’s more!

What if I told you that nearly half of your workforce was quietly contemplating making a move from their current job? McKinsey data illustrates that globally, around 40 per cent of employees were ‘somewhat likely’ to ‘almost certainly’ primed to leave their current position in the next three to six months.

But, all the bad news notwithstanding, when digging into the data, there might be a glimmer of hope for the DI sector. If, as the McKinsey report suggests, that forty-eight per cent of people quit not only their jobs but the industry in which they worked, an opportunity to expand the labour pool to those people who are looking for a different challenge in a novel industry presents itself.

Great! How do I find them?

Accessing people for whom the DI sector might not be on their job search radar is not straightforward. We need to look to the conversation that’s been circulating for many years regarding making the sector more appealing to a broad range of potential employees; that’s not changed. But, recruiters can look at transferable skills to fit a more realistic list of candidate qualifications & attributes. Transferable skills, particularly at managerial & leadership levels, may not have been developed in the DI sector, but they can be employed to good effect regardless. To effectively understand what a person can bring to a DI role without specific technical expertise or experience means being less prescriptive about task & more holistic about impact; the value people bring to their organisations as the sum total of their capabilities & motivations.

We can help

Portman Partners’ executive search is now powered by the Game Changing Index®, a tool that enables recruiters to understand where candidates will make an impact, particularly in senior roles. The profile is not a simple personality test or indicator of strengths but a sophisticated organimetric that profiles where a person’s natural proclivities lie. Essentially, the tool can predict how a person might perform in a given role regardless of technical experience. It can align strategic intent with individual recruitment, team composition and even organisation-wide effectiveness against business goals.

So, if your organisation is keen to leverage the benefits of the ‘Great Resignation’ by expanding your labour pool and enhancing diversity, talk to Portman Partners for a more in-depth explanation of the GC Index®.