Winning the IT Talent War Requires MSPs to Think, Act in New Ways

Janet Schijns, James Phillips and Phillip Walker joined forces on Monday to help partners remedy people shortages.

Kelly Teal, Contributing Editor

April 11, 2022

4 Min Read
Schijns Keynote Picture MSP Summit 2022

CHANNEL PARTNERS CONFERENCE & EXPO/MSP SUMMIT, LAS VEGAS — The indirect technology channel stands “in the midst of a really tough time.” That’s the word from Janet Schijns, JS Group founder, who led the session, “How to Win the Talent War — Or at Least Survive It” on Monday at the MSP Summit. And the reason for the challenge? “Unprecedented turnover.”

As COVID-19 spread and forced organizations worldwide to support remote work, more employees started to realize they had options. Knowing that, many continue to flee their constrictive jobs in droves, choosing roles that support a new shift in priorities — from putting giant paychecks and long hours first to opting for more flexibility and free time. That has left companies with a dearth of qualified people, a trend expected to last throughout 2022.

Many firms are doing whatever they need to do to attract top employees, and that includes negotiating new work-life balance terms that might not come naturally to many an MSP. Look at it this way. There’s a great talent reshuffle happening. In that game, people “are not a deck of cards,” as Schijns said.

So, it’s time for MSPs to learn some strategies for engaging in the new talent war. After all, no partner is going to get as far as it wants without the right people in the right positions. And with sales and technology talent in short supply, “old school business rules need not apply in this market,” Schijns said.

Therefore, MSPs need to think about offering flexibility, inclusion (“This channel is not diverse enough yet and we’re not appealing to enough diverse people,” Schijns said), remote work and more meaningful experiences. These days, too, employees look for “a firm and a leader who represent something of purpose and meaning,” Schijns said. In the next normal of work – and that next normal is going nowhere – “we are going to have to be hyper-competitive now to win at talent,” said Schijns.

Ways MSPs Can Win the Talent War

To do that, MSPs need to think about selling their firms to the best prospective employees, just like selling to potential customers (compile a marketing kit just as you would for clients). Consider that, for the most part, these potential new hires are looking to feel valued even as they contribute. They also expect to work from where they live, regardless of whether the employer has an office there. When it comes to compensation, salary matters, “but so do perks,” Schijns said. Think about offering equity, profit-sharing, health insurance, guaranteed time off and more. Along the way, stay visible on social media and talk about your company’s purpose and genuine impact.

“Your leadership … is always showing,” Schijns said.

James Phillips, CIO at, which delivers a billing platform to channel partners, agreed.

“You have to always be recruiting … and creating your own brand,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean swimming against the rising tide of resignations or hiring issues will be easy. The talent war will not be won right away. For Phillip Walker, CEO of MSP The Network Solutions Provider, one answer lies in a “think local” ethos. He recommends hiring by “spending time in the community you live in.”

This approach can help MSPs tap into new demographics, such as people who might be ready to come into technology but don’t yet have experience. Don’t overlook people who have earned senior titles in other industries but who might be ready for a change, either.

For, eliminating traditional review cadences (six months, one year) also has proven key to getting ahead in the talent war. Instead, the company sets goals and as soon as the employee hits those, good things happen. Phillips’ involvement in the hiring process is essential to getting new talent on board, too. Instead of conducting the last interview, Phillips, now handles the first.

‘Give Your Employees the Best’

In terms of keeping people, empower them, Walker said.

“Give your employees the best so they can give your customers the best,” he said.

That could mean helping employees start their own businesses, fostering a feeling of belonging and fairness, and/or providing modern software and platforms to enable work.

“We’ve embraced turnover and the notion that we’re the stepping stone to technology,” Walker said. “We know we’re not the final destination … but when you go on, you’re still part of us.”

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Kelly Teal or connect with her on LinkedIn.


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About the Author(s)

Kelly Teal

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Kelly Teal has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist, editor and analyst, with longtime expertise in the indirect channel. She worked on the Channel Partners magazine staff for 11 years. Kelly now is principal of Kreativ Energy LLC.

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