The "Next Generation of Staffing" is a series of articles discussing topics relevant to 21st century staffing challenges in the technology field. Previous articles have covered topics such as gender diversity and racial bias in the workplace.

Data centers have a huge problem, an aging population. Leaders need to find innovative ways to make the field more attractive, so they have a pipeline of resources to backfill this aging population.

What can a hand gesture tell you about the people around you? Let me answer the question for you. It can tell you a lot.

This video of Daniel Alvarado and his family showing the generational differences in the hand gestures for making a phone call has gone viral on TikTok. In the video, the older generation (Daniel’s wife) uses the thumb to the ear and pinky to their mouth to symbolize a touch tone phone. The younger generation (Daniel’s two children) hold their hand flat against their face to symbolize a smart phone. 

What is interesting is how technology influenced the symbols and gestures of basic communication. But what I love most about this video is that it simplistically articulates the differences in generations that are either ignored because it is trivialized or assumed there is none at all.

What does this have to do with attracting and retaining key talent when you have an aging population in your organization? EVERYTHING!

In a 2018 data center survey conducted by The Uptime Institute, more than 50% of the respondents said that the leading area of expertise that is critical, yet the most difficult to hire, is operations and management, followed by networking, security, and cloud migration skills. The survey found that the data center workforce needs new skills that can manage hybrid IT environments. However, only 35% of the survey respondents did not believe it would not be an issue finding talent to meet those needs. 

At a 2018 Data Center World Conference, two Google executives pointed out that the data center industry is headed for a major talent crisis because the workforce is predominantly older and male. If Millennials are surpassing Baby boomers and Generation X to become the largest generation in the workforce, IT organizations need to pivot their approach to ensure they are attracting and retaining this pipeline of resources. But before you can pivot, organizations must first realize that need to pivot.

The data center industry is headed for a major talent crisis because the workforce is predominantly older and male.
Tweet: The data center industry is headed for a major talent crisis because the workforce is predominantly older and male. #techsupport #servicedesk #staffing @ThinkHDI

Here are three signs that your organization may need to pivot in their approach to attracting and maintaining a younger workforce.

  1. Mentorship: Does your organization have a strong mentorship program? Can you easily see a path of progress from a new hire to managerial position? Are there tangible outlets for discussions of senior-level resources and entry-level resources?
  2. Social Responsibility: Does your organization have a sense of corporate social responsibility? Does your organization support outreach initiatives or support employees’ charitable organizations?
  3. Entrepreneurial Culture: Does your company support and promote an entrepreneurial culture? Is work managed in way to allow for innovative ideas to bubble up and be executed from those that generate it?

Lisa Orrell, from The Orrell Group, identified these three areas as what Millennials and Generation Z value most when looking for a new job. These also contribute to the factors why many stay. Unfortunately, the data center industry is not ripe with organizations that embody these values. Part of the problem is that the leaders in these organizations either don’t see a problem in the pipeline of talent or choose to ignore it all together. So, I will leave you with this: If you didn’t know the hand gesture for a phone is changing with the next generation, how many other areas could you be potentially out of touch on?

I always enjoy keeping the conversation going. Find me LinkedIn. I am always open for connecting with people in the industry.

Dr. Alma Miller is an enthusiastic entrepreneur, speaker, and educator with more than 15 years of experience in the IT industry. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Catholic University, a Masters in Electrical Engineering from George Washington University, a Masters in Technical Management from Johns Hopkins University, and a Doctorate in Engineering from George Washington University. Dr. Miller considers herself a relationship counselor between development and IT operations teams. Her consulting company, AC Miller Consulting , provides services to government and commercial clients across multiple industries. Dr. Miller speaks at industry conferences and events and teaches graduate courses for Johns Hopkins and University of California Irvine. Connect with her on LinkedIn to continue the conversation.

Tag(s): supportworld, workforce enablement, workforce enablement, staffing, leadership


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