You say potato, I say King Edward (mashed and served with a cheeky sauvignon blanc)

— 4 November 2016

You say potato, I say King Edward (mashed and served with a cheeky sauvignon blanc); why HR and data centre managers need to talk the same language

For decades industries have, with varying levels of enthusiasm, utilised competency frameworks to identify skills requirements for vocational roles. Organisations apply them to inform resourcing, talent management and learning and development practices and plans. The theory is, the framework provides a useful measurement of what an individual would do, what qualifications they should have and what sort of personal qualities they might need to undertake the job. On a sector level, such tools are used by governments to determine where skills shortages lie, what training needs to be funded and where vocational demand exists.

As you can imagine mapping out an organisation’s full suite of roles is often a specialist job, takes a good deal of analysis and required a fairly good understanding of the nuances of each job and its relation to those around it and organisational strategy. Such tools are often situated in the realm of the human resources department (or equivalent) of the organisation.

What’s the research is finding?

Early results from an ongoing study into Data Centre skills and labour is finding some interesting material regarding the use of competency frameworks and the interaction between operational hiring managers and human resources departments. Preliminary data highlight some broader implications of the complexities of recruitment, talent management and learning in the DC environment.

Firstly, around 45 percent of respondents suggested that they’d had difficulty in filling DC vacancies with around 73 per cent identifying that applicants had gaps in required qualifications to undertake the role. Unsurprisingly, this indicates that there is a mismatch of what organisations are looking for in comparison to what applicants are bringing to the table.

However, when asked whether a formal competency framework was used in recruitment processes and/or planning the learning and development of staff just over 70 per cent responded that there was not or they didn’t know. For those that did use a framework, all suggested it was an in-house tool specific to their own organisation.

When asked about the interaction between DC managers and recruiting/training staff/HR, 50 per cent of respondents suggested that there was regular interaction but 69 per cent suggested that there was a difference in understanding of the skills/labour needs between HR and DC managers.

What does all this mean?

In an environment where there are almost daily reports of skills deficiencies and labour shortages across a range of occupations and research suggesting that at once some roles are going begging whilst others are awash with applicants, it’s clear that there’s a level of complexity and rapid change in the people landscape. While this will come as no surprise to most, the fact that there is an apparent mismatch between what’s needed in terms of skills and qualifications and what’s on offer is a real problem. More worrying is that there’s a reported misunderstanding between what the operation needs and what recruitment staff are looking for.

This is a double dip problem for specific organisations and the DC sector as a whole. Not only is there a mismatch in understanding of what’s needed between operations and those responsible for recruitment, there’s a deficiency in how labour needs are being defined due to a lack of clearly articulated tool like a competency framework; possibly because of the difficulty in finding a broadly based framework that is flexible and robust enough to suit the DC environment.




Why is this a problem for the sector?

Clearly, if demand and supply are out of alignment then we see skills mismatch, skills wastage, capability discrepancies, poor return on recruitment investment and ultimately, organisational goals are put at risk. More worrying though is the potential for time and energy to be wasted in poorly targeted and uncoordinated recruitment and talent development activities. If there is a mismatch between organisational skills need and the ‘shopping’ list taken to market, qualified and capable people may end up working for your competitors and you have to settle or your vacancy remains unfilled.

Taking a broader view, the sector is unable to determine what suite of capabilities it might need to lobby educators, training organisations and governments in order to identify current and future skills needs. This is a deeply complex and multi-faceted problem that is exacerbated by the rapidly changing DC capability landscape. Sadly, it’s clear that traditional tools and methods used to predict and report capability need are too slow and cumbersome to be of assistance.

What’s being done?

The current research programme being undertaken at Anglia Ruskin University with industry support aims to develop a tool that better identifies capability needs of DCs dependent on the context and business model. This is already in prototype form but more data is needed.

We need you!!

Add your voice to the story by taking a quick survey. It’s confidential, anonymous and important to inform sector wide responses to the issue of skills and labour issues in the Data Centre sector. If you’re a DC manager or if you’re responsible for recruitment or learning and development, you’re opinion is needed.

For more information or to take part in the broader research programme by way of a confidential interview, contact Dr Theresa Simpkin at Anglia Ruskin University