Finding and hiring the right people can be be tricky for any company, but this is especially true for MSPs because you need your team to have in-depth technical knowledge. To make it even more challenging, your hires must also be the right fit for your company’s culture.

At BrightGauge headquarters, we recently hosted our first Data Driven Workshop where we hosted 15 customers for three days of in-depth learning, peer networking, and best practices sharing. During the workshop, I was able to listen in on the sessions and one of the recurring themes that I noted was on the people side of the MSP business. Every single attendee, no matter the size of their MSP, wanted to trade ideas and try to improve their processes based on the shared experiences of the group.

It’s hard to find good people! Period. We sometimes go through the same thing here at BrightGauge, and in reality SMBs across any industry struggle to find qualified applicants for open positions. In fact, a 2015 NFIB report explains that 47% of small businesses find themselves in the same position when it comes to filling open positions. And once you do assemble an awesome team, how do you make sure that you can keep them happy and engaged so that they stay with you instead of pursuing other options?

Listening in on these conversations resulted in quite a few takeaways. While finding the right blend of technical skills and personality is difficult, you can master the process with a bit of commitment. Here are 6 ideas you can implement to ensure that your team is filled with motivated talent who are ready to grow your business, as shared by your MSP peers:

Offer Internships

Internships can be a great way to evaluate new talent and improve relationships with local universities. An internship of 90 or 180 days is typically required in most Bachelor's programs. While most internships are unpaid, it is important that any company that offers them doesn't just view them as cheap labor. Focusing on mentoring and training an intern pays dividends for both parties. Often, internships turn into long-term positions when the intern is a great fit. Interns can also provide a helping hand on projects and tasks that you are struggle to finish. Meanwhile, they're getting their feet wet with real industry experience.

Keep a Bench of Potential Hires

When filling a position, MSPs who are doing their due diligence should consider plenty of applicants. At times, you’ll likely meet with more than one candidate that you think would be a good fit for the position. Of course, it is only possible to fill the position with one person, but that doesn’t mean that the other applications should be thrown in the trash and the candidates forgotten. According to Harvard Business Review, 33% of new hires look for a new job within their first 6 months. Instead, hold onto those applications to fill future positions or to contact them if your new hire doesn’t work out.

Start the Search Early and Take Your Time

Sometimes companies will have advance notice of position vacancies or may not need to fill a position immediately. If the need isn't urgent, take the time and conduct interviews over the course of weeks or months. This provides a number of benefits:

  • Evaluate more applicants. With a longer hiring period, you’ll be able to evaluate more applicants. Additionally, the longer time-frame allows you to be more picky about the candidates that you bring in for interviews.
  • Add steps to the evaluation process. With more time, you give yourself the opportunity to meet with a candidate several times while evaluating them. Adding an extra phone interview, in-person interview, or even a working interview can be a great way to get to know each candidate better.
  • Be more picky. When you rush into making a hiring decision, it’s hard to be picky. Are they qualified? Do they have the technical skills? In positions that must be filled quickly, answering those questions may be enough, but slowing down the hiring process allows you to evaluate how they fit within your company culture as well.

Work with Local Schools

One often overlooked avenue for attracting talented candidates during the hiring process is working directly with local schools to help shape their efforts in preparing students for hire. Reach out to local universities, community colleges, and technical colleges and ask about opportunities to be an Advisor for their curriculum and/or Career Services efforts.

Schools are happy to have employer insights and gain a better understanding about what skills local companies are looking for because it helps them to boost their post-graduation employment numbers and attract more students. Additionally, working directly with professors helps to ensure that the candidates being sent your way are the top of their class. 

Offer Career Development

One of the best ways to attract top level talent to any MSP is to offer career development, and it’s an especially solid strategy for smaller MSPs that may not have a lot to offer in the way of internal advancement. Remember that any new hire likely has greater aspirations than the position that you hire them for, whether inside your company or elsewhere. When applicants sense that a position could be a stepping stone to bigger and better things, they are more likely to apply. Although career development for employees can be an expensive investment, committing to a few hours per week can make a position much more attractive.

Also note that the career development offered will usually be specific to the position, but sometimes you’ll have employees who are “green” and they’re not sure what they want to do. Help them figure it out, and by getting them on the path to something they are passionate about, you will usually earn their long-term loyalty. Training, certification, or even additional schooling are all excellent options for career development. 

Challenge and Reward Employees for Excelling

Everyone knows that offering promotions and raises are the typical ways to keep employees motivated. But what about small MSPs that don’t have much wiggle room on salary, or are unable to offer promotions? What about employees that aren’t necessarily motivated by money? You’ll have to get creative to find ways to keep employees motivated.

In the past, we’ve written about using games, contests, and rewards to improve employee engagement. Here are a few great ways to keep your teams motivated and reward them for exceptional work:

  • Start contests and keep score publicly. All employees want to be rewarded when they do great work relative to their peers. BrightGauge's platform offers custom leaderboards to create and track employee competitions.
  • Give trophies/mementos to employees that embody core company values. Every company talks about the traits that they would like their teams to exhibit. But how many companies actually show gratification when they do? Showing your appreciation for an employee that embodies a core company value can go a long way towards improving motivation, plus your employees will be proud of their accomplishment and want to show off the trophy on their workspace. At BrightGauge, we regularly give out the highly-coveted Top Banana award! 
  • Start a customer fantasy league. For MSPs there is no bigger win than helping a client become more profitable. Behind each profitability boost is the tools and employees that made it possible. Give out points to your team members and reward the highest scores for their excellent work!

Learn More About Hiring and Retaining Top Talent

Hiring and onboarding new employees, and then keeping them motivated long-term has unique challenges in the MSP industry. Learn more expert advice from John Davenjay, CEO of the IT Services staffing firm, Bowman Williams, on The BrightGauge Podcast, Finding and Keeping the Right Employees in an MSP.

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