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5 steps for MSPs to retain employees

Managed service providers must apply these steps to make it through the Great Resignation and create a stronger company and better working environment.

As an MSP business owner, the heart and soul of a business is the team. When the team falters, the business falters. It's a competitive world out there with MSPs not only competing for customers, but also competing for employees.

If your business is growing or needs to grow to be competitive, retaining and adding employees to the team can seem like a daunting task.

Key items for retaining, hiring and growing staff

MSP business owners might worry that valuable longtime employees are going to go somewhere else. If you don't think they are looking, you need to pull your head out of the sand. Even long-term employees have been heard to make comments about other jobs out there.

The first question you need to ask yourself is "Am I afraid I might lose someone?" If the answer is yes, you have two things you need to work on: culture and opportunity. It has been well documented that money is lower on the list of why people leave a company. Conversely, culture and opportunity are almost always at the top of the list. Money may attract people, but culture keeps them.

Follow these five steps to help get through difficult employment times:

Step 1. Develop your culture by talking to your employees.

Find out what's happening in your employees' lives, what they like about what they are doing and what they don't like. Show up at the "water cooler" and instead of chasing them away, see what's going on. It really is a no-brainer. If you want to know what their needs are, ask them and then provide what they are looking for.

Step 2. Create opportunity.

Are you offering a great place to work? Ask yourself this question: Would I like to work here? The opportunity you create in an MSP business is not just in what a person does, but how they do it. My senior systems engineer told me when he started as a bench tech that his dream was to work lying in bed and managing networks. Today he works from home completely remote managing complex sites and projects. I don't know if he's doing it all from his bed or not. Frankly, I don't care because he gets the work done and in a superior manner. If you are following Step 1, you'll know what opportunities your team wants and be able to retain those key people.

Step 3. Put effort into bringing on that new hire.

Have a training plan put together that they can start working through on day one.

If you want a new hire to fit in as part of the team, you need to make every effort to help them integrate. Don't send them out the first day even if they seem to have all the experience in the world. They don't know your operation, and you are setting them and yourself up for failure. Instead, have a well-thought-out, planned onboarding. Introduce them to the key people in your organization. Make sure the area where they will be working is clean and set up for them, including any computers, phones or other items. Have a training plan put together that they can start working through on day one. It should include training for professional services automation, your remote monitoring management and any specialized packages or systems you work with. You should have your core stack defined and a part of the onboarding package, as well as any products with associated information that you sell. Review daily and weekly to see how they are progressing. This is not a "set it and forget it" time. You have 90 days to see if they will work out and for them to assimilate into your team. Taking the time up front means fewer headaches down the road.

Step 4. Find out why employees leave during offboarding.

When you lose a team member it can be for any reason. If they have been a good team member, don't burn bridges. They may come back when they find the grass isn't greener on the other side of the fence. When the former employee was poison to the team, be sure to try and understand why so you can avoid the same problem in the future. Whenever possible, have a chat on why they are leaving. You need to know why things didn't work out. If it was a bad hiring process, you need to fix it. If it was a toxic work environment, you need to fix that. If it was because their spouse wanted to move out of state, maybe work on better remote work capabilities. The old adage "everyone is replaceable" is true. The often unsaid part is at a price you might not be able to afford. Learn why and act on the why.

Step 5. Don't worry too much about the Great Resignation if you complete the previous steps.

I have a theory on this one. Does the Great Resignation exist? Yes. Is it causing a tightening of the labor market? Yes. Will it last? No. I say no because many people who have resigned and have tested the waters on a different career, or even retirement, are probably not actually financially able to stay out of the labor market should we see an economic downturn. I can't tell you when that downturn will happen, but it will happen. I suspect sooner rather than later. I am already seeing more responses to our employment ads than six months ago with a higher degree of quality people applying. In another six months, I suspect we will see even more employee opportunities. Best advice on this one is plan accordingly. By this time next year, you will probably be able to hire for any position you need. The resignations will be over.

Eric KiehnEric Kiehn

In over 36 years in business, I can tell you that I have been here before and will be again.

About the author

Eric Kiehn is president, CEO and founder of C&W Technologies, a computer networking services based in Stuart, Fla. Kiehn is also a member of The ASCII Group, a North American IT community for MSPs, solution providers and systems integrators.

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