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Dangle the Carrot that Retains MSP Employees

We all know how challenging it is to find high-quality help these days. That’s why retaining your top talent can be equally as important as choosing the right person to hire. To improve employee retention, consider the importance of outlining career progression

Employees leave. It happens. Right now, like it or not, there are probably unhappy people working for you. Unhappy employees are willing to leave for better opportunities. And often, when they do, we’re left wondering: What happened? Where did we go wrong?

Chances are, you’re not “dangling the carrot” that gives your employees a sense of defined career progression and the certainty that they are working for the right company and on the right track toward their desired career progression. By outlining growth opportunity expectations upfront, MSPs can greatly reduce unexpected turnover.

Don’t wait until your employees come to you asking for a career growth plan. If your best field tech or top Tier 2 ticket-killer walks in asking about career advancement opportunities, you’re likely already behind the 8-ball, and you’ll be playing defense the rest of the way.

Think about it: If your employees are directly approaching you, they’ve been unhappy about something for a while. They might have complained to family members about their jobs running them into the ground because they are traveling to too many client sites. And now, they’re standing in front of you, demanding bigger pieces of the pie. What do you do? Do you give in, and if so, how much?

Let’s Make a Deal

Rewind to when your junior employees were candidates and not employees. Did you make it a point to discuss what they’d need to do to progress within your organization? Did you set their expectations by showing them where they could be in a year or two if they worked according to your road maps? Did you point out the mile markers on their journeys?

The best time to discuss growth expectations is before you hire someone. How should you go about doing this? Well, let’s say you’re sitting across from a Tier 1 candidate, and you’re about to make the individual an offer. What did you prepare ahead of time to show this candidate? Sure, without a doubt, you’ll discuss salary, benefits, your company culture. But did you put together career targets? If not, it’s time for you to rethink your approach by preparing career progressions ahead of time for various job positions. 

Here’s how.

MSPs I work with that have good retention rates show candidates their three-year trajectories in career growth and compensation. Put all details in writing — and use Excel. Show your new Tier III employees how their compensation changes when they underperform on utilization, meet utilization expectations or exceed billing expectations, but above all, don’t forget one thing: When it comes to career development road maps, set ground rules to eliminate any ambiguity AND to explain that ultimately, earnings and career progression will still be made at the company’s discretion. Don’t box yourself into a corner.

Some people say It's all about the journey, not the destination. Yes and no. Sure, the journey’s important (don’t get me wrong), but your employees also want to know where they’re heading. They want to know what’s at the end of the tunnel. Will there be a raise or promotion? Will there be additional sick or vacation days? Don’t know?

Well, might as well post my resume on Monster.com.


Want More Insights? Join me at Channel Partners Evolution for my keynote session, Healthy Paranoia: How Successful MSPs Hire. I'll share tangible steps for creating a successful, repeatable hiring process that reduces turnover, increases productivity and keeps you sane as you scale. Book now using my promo code, DAVENJAY!


Junior candidates advance more quickly than senior candidates in almost any industry. Tier 1 and Tier 2 candidates are continually absorbing new material. This is why junior candidates are constantly thinking about their next moves. The good ones, at least, will always have their head on a swivel. Pay close attention to retaining your Tier 1 and 2 staff. MSPs have to replenish these positions most often, a process I discuss here.

When employees know what’s on the other side, they’re less likely to search elsewhere for advancement — even if they’re unhappy with how fast or slow they’re progressing. In my experience (my company has conducted more than 10,000 Skype interviews since 2010), many MSP employees resign because they feel in the dark about the future progression of their career. Now, here’s the thing: When it comes to managing the career trajectories of your employees, not providing opportunities for future career growth is one thing, but not clearly setting expectations for future career growth is a different ballgame (yes, there’s a difference).

So, what’s the difference?

It’s important to note the following: Setting expectations is more than just presenting detailed road maps outlining both career and compensation progression. They’ll expect you to follow through. Yes, it’ll be time-consuming, but at the end of the day, it’ll be worth it. Why? It’s simple: More often than not, MSPs who “dangle carrots” retain their employees.

Do yourself a favor and make sure you conduct employee-performance reviews on a regular basis to learn more about the desires of your employees. Every six months or so, sit down with them, and ask them about what they’d like to do next. Afterward, compare old goals to new goals and make the appropriate road-map changes. And always ask about what they’d like to learn next. Informed employees are happy employees.

John Davenjay is the CEO of Bowman Williams. He founded the company in 2009 after running operations and sales for a managed service and VoIP provider based in Washington, D.C. His firsthand experience of sourcing and hiring MSP employees led to the creation of a staffing firm exclusively focused on helping the MSP industry eliminate the common bottleneck of hiring MSP talent. Forbes ranked Bowman Williams #137 in the Best Recruiting Firms in America in 2018 and the firm is a staffing partner for over 300 MSPs around the country.

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