Finding and Keeping the Best Employees

Managed services providers (MSPs) tend to be relatively small organizations, which makes each and every hire absolutely critical. At the same time, teamwork among such a small and hard-working staff is key, so your employees must be both technical and able to get along well with others – coworkers and customers alike.

Complicating this further is that, being relatively small, most MSPs don’t have dedicated HR staffs and aren’t trained in the ins and outs of hiring.

Whether you are a fast-growing outfit or just experiencing normal turnover, you probably have a job or two open at any given time.

So let’s get to hiring!

  1. Start Spreading the News

First, let local job seekers know you have an opportunity. Job sites are an obvious choice, and you can further narrow your audience by using LinkedIn. Often, it’s more effective to harness you and your employees’ network of contacts. A hiring bonus helps when using your employees to find additional staff.

  1. Create a Positive Image

When you decide to make an offer, you clearly want that candidate. At the same time, you want that candidate to desire to work for your company. Much like you want customers to view your shop positively, you must roll out that same red carpet for job candidates. All of your employees should put their best foot forward and demonstrate what a great workplace your organization is.

You should also make sure your web presence represents your company and staff well.  This doesn’t mean you need to invest lots of money on a huge website.  However, make sure your digital presence is professional, up-to-date, and reflects the true nature of your business and work environment.

Beyond these impressions, the reality of working at your company is also critical. Clearly lay out the job expectations with a highly detailed job description that includes salary range and key benefits so a candidate can bow out early if there isn’t a fit.

Another key criterion to success is to lay out a growth path so the candidate knows your shop will be a great place to work for the long run.

  1. Know When to Ask for Help

Hiring can be a time-consuming process, and you and many of your workers charge a pretty high billable rate. Is this process a smart use of your time economically, and do you have the skills to do a good job hiring? If the answer to either is no, consider bringing in a staffing agency or headhunter to handle the heavy lifting, such as advertising, sifting through resumes, pre-screening and setting up formal interviews. Of course, you and your staff should handle the interviews and check the references so you know exactly what you are getting

  1. What to Look For

There are many specializations within an MSP organization, so each candidate’s skills should match each particular opening. The skillset of a  service director is very different from that of a a technician. But don’t over-focus on skills. There is a lot to be said for pure talent as well. Talent is what lets some employees easily learn new skills and move up the ladder.

Of course, for MSP employees, technical skills and a passion to master new technologies are critical.

Other skills and attributes include:

  • Problem solving ability
  • Ambition
  • Flexibility
  • Work ethic
  • Positivity
  1. Where to Look

With the internet and social media, there are such a plethora of places to post jobs it can be overwhelming.

There are other ways to attract talent. You could:

Hold an open house: This is a great way to put your company’s best foot forward and to meet candidates in a relaxed comfortable setting. The candidates, meanwhile, get to see your company up close and socialize with employees.

Attend events that pertain to your industry: There are often local events that cater to MSPs, cover the verticals you participate in, and focus on the types of technology that you use such as security, cloud backup, or systems and network management. Go well stocked with business cards and pass them out freely.

Employee referrals: Technical types are often friends with other technical people. They also join peer groups where they meet others of like mind. Don’t be afraid to tap into this extended network.

  1. Hire at the Bottom, Train and Raise them to the Top

One of the bottom rungs, but a critical function nonetheless, is the service and help desk function. These folks don’t just man the technical front lines; they are the face of your business. Be sure to choose techs with personality and knowledge.

Many MSPs prefer to do most of their hiring at the lower service desk levels, such as analyst, and then nurture these new MSP pros into higher-level positions. This way, the worker is trained in your technology and how you do business, and he or she understands your company’s culture.

  1. How to Keep Staff

As we mentioned above, many successful MSPs like to promote from within. As a result, they hire new employees for the lowest-level positions such as a problem technician, train them, and then help them rise through the ranks. This is great for morale, and your future service desk managers will be steeped in your technology and company culture.

For that approach to work,  training is a key way to retain and develop staff. The training has to have a purpose. It should be aimed at the services you have and the ones you intend to develop. At the same time, staff should be rewarded for their learning through new opportunities, promotions, raises and bonuses.

This should also be the basis of a defined career path for lower-level staffers to move up the ladder one day.

  1. Hiring to Scale

Once an MSP organization reaches a certain size or ambition, it becomes time to contemplate hiring higher-level executives that can bring your company to the next level and even prepare an exit strategy. This isn’t to say you can avoid these functions at any time!  However, as your business scales, you will need to hire experienced executives who can focus on these responsibilities.

These C-level executives can include:

Chief Information Officer (CIO): There are two advantages to hiring a CIO. First, this person can rationalize all your systems and technology. More importantly, the CIO will look toward the future and build systems that offer serious competitive advantage. These days CIOS are no longer just about systems, but rather about delivering value through these systems.

Chief Financial Officer (CFO):  This person can bring discipline to your business, handling accounting, budgets, and cash flow. Just as important, he or she can handle reporting and implement tracking through key metrics that can lead to changes in strategy and pricing.

Chief Operating Officer (COO): A COO can make sure that all the wheels keeping turning, processes are as efficient as they can be, and nothing gets overlooked. While the CFO may establish metrics, the COO lives and breathes these same metrics and uses them to optimize processes.

Chief Marketing Officer (CMO):  An MSP that desires growth has to have an aggressive marketing machine. The best person to drive this is a CMO. These leaders understand the new social and lead stimulating techniques, as well as the role of strong, authoritative content.

Virtual CIO (vCIO): Many MSPs now offer vCIO services where they serve as a virtual CIO for SMB clients. Your CIO could help establish such a program, and even hire peers to handle the work.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO): This is one of the toughest decisions an MSP founder can make – to give up the reins to a highly qualified and talented business executive. If that time is near or has come, make sure this hire is a perfect one!

  1. Have the Right Technologies!

You are interested in hiring because you want to grow. That’s why it pays to have the right technologies in place so these new employees are immediately productive. On the service/help desk side, make sure there are solutions in place so the service desk can support internal staffers with a rich knowledge base and ways to collaborate. This all feeds into the help desk, which should provide self-service and allow technicians to quickly solve client problems.

At the core of an efficient MSP are next-generation remote monitoring and management (RMM) and professional services automation (PSA) tools. Make sure you have already established best practices for each, and then train new workers on the solutions they’ll use to get their jobs done.

Two Service Desk Hiring and Retaining Tips

Hiring Service Desk Staff

Your service desk staff doesn’t just man the technical front lines: they are the face of your business. You need to choose techs with both good people skills and technical knowledge.

Larger service desks have defined hierarchies that can be many levels deep.

Some MSPs have service desk analysts who interact the most with customers. These analysts update clients when there’s a problem, such as an outage, then log the incident and see it through until it is resolved, whether or not they do the problem resolution work.

With this high-level view, analysts can make sure that SLAs are maintained and work with customers if an SLA is in danger of being violated or if there is a service problem where reimbursement is required.

Many MSPs have team leaders in the service desk operations.  This high-level position oversees the customer service position and is responsible for identifying service desk improvements. It’s critical these team leaders can manage a technical staff and are technical themselves.

Above the team leaders might be a service desk manager. The service desk manager is ultimately responsible for customer service, managing overall operations and responsible for all hiring.

Retaining Service Desk Staff

Many successful MSPs like to promote from within. As a result, they hire new employees for the lowest-level positions, such as a problem technician, train them, and identify career advancement plans to help the technicians rise through the ranks. As we noted, this is great for morale and helps ensure uture service desk managers are highly knowledgeable of your services, technology solutions, processes, and company culture.

Training is critical to both retain and develop staff. Keep in mind, though, that the training must have a purpose. It should be customized for the services you have and the ones you intend to develop. Just as having a defined career path boosts morale, service desk staff should be rewarded for their learning through these new opportunities, promotions, raises and bonuses.

Learn More

For more in-depth advice on MSP best practices, check out our three eBooks.

A Winning Hand: 21 Cards to Play for Total MSP Success – Part I

This includes:

  • Lessons on Achieving Managed Services Growth
  • The Dynamic and Influential Role of the MSP
  • Formulating the Right High-Level Strategy
  • MSP Business Planning for Business Growth
  • Vertical Strategies and Top Vertical Markets
  • Creating and Building a Strong MSP Brand
  • MSP Marketing Strategies and Tactics
  • Choosing the Right Technologies For Your MSP

A Winning Hand: 21 Cards to Play for Total MSP Success – Part 2

This includes:

  • MSPs: Making Sure the Price is Right
  • Building Effective Service Bundles
  • 22 Critical Metrics and KPIs for MSPs
  • Finding and Keeping the Best Employees Chapter 12 Contracts, SLAs and Master Services Agreements for MSPs
  • Making Statements of Work, Work For You
  • Mastering the Complexities of Successful Customer Onboarding

A Winning Hand: 21 Cards to Play for Total MSP Success – Part 3

This includes:

  • Building and Tuning a High-powered Sales Engine
  • Creating the Most Helpful Service Desk Possible
  • What You Need to Know About Offering NOC Services
  • What is a vCIO? It’s More Than What You Think It Is
  • Security is an MSP’s Job One
  • Customer Management
  • How to Have the Conversation on Cross Sell New Services

Posted by Doug Barney
Doug Barney was the founding editor of Redmond Magazine, Redmond Channel Partner, Redmond Developer News and Virtualization Review. Doug also served as Executive Editor of Network World, Editor in Chief of AmigaWorld, and Editor in Chief of Network Computing.

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