Is the recession keeping a lid on a data center staffing crisis?

The data center industry will face a staffing crisis if it can’t drive more employee loyalty, says one Gartner analyst. But IT managers say it’s not a problem in this economy.

LAS VEGAS–David Cappuccio, VP and Chief of Research at Gartner, said that data center managers are on the precipice of a staffing crisis, and it isn’t because of an issue that many suspect.

“The problem isn’t an aging workforce,” Cappuccio said at the 2010 Gartner Data Center Conference. The challenge, he pointed out, is how to keep young workers and their skill sets onboard with companies for longer periods of time.

Cappuccio cited a Department of Labor statistic that the U.S. employee will work, on average, a whopping 10-14 jobs by the age of 38. According to Cappuccio, top talent is often recruited away for higher-salary positions.

But many in the industry aren’t seeing younger IT employees job-hopping -- yet.

“We’re not seeing a lot of turnover. I think it’s the economy. They feel like it’s a good bet to stay. The company isn’t going to go under,” said Keith Adicoff, a data center manager with Williams-Sonoma Inc.

Paul Prachyl, manager of software development at Texas Legislative Council, said that his government organization isn’t seeing any turnover, but it’s something to look at down the line when the economy improves. At that time, keeping young IT workers put will start with being honest and setting realistic boundaries at the gate.

“If someone wants a dot-com or upstart environment, I’ll tell them up front that it’s not like that,” Prachyl said of his organization.

Some of the tactics Cappuccio mentioned to keep junior employees engaged are adding new job responsibilities and technical challenges, rewarding learning, cross-pollinating skill sets and breaking down organizational silos.

This is a strategy some data center managers are using.

 “We like to take people out of their comfort zones,” said John Toner, Jr., Associate Director of IT, Data Center Site Operations at Verizon Wireless, regarding his company’s multiple and constantly shifting IT job roles. “The people that I’ve seen progress are the ones that are willing to take on new encounters.”

Ryan Arsenault is the Assistant Editor of SearchDataCenter.com.

Alex Barrett, News Director, also contributed to this report.

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