| by Shawn D. Stewart | No comments

Horror Stories – No People

OR Hello? Anybody?

No, I don’t mean the Zombie Apocalypse has rendered the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) an imploded pile of rubble. Of course, your mind went there. This is a specific recurring nightmare, keeping hiring managers and HR departments awake with cold sweats. Where have all the IT experts gone?

You can’t get good help these days – I’ve said it myself, half joking because we have great people in our organization. In the aftermath of a global pandemic, there are literally millions of people staying at home drawing Federal and State benefits. Meanwhile, nearly every company has a Help Wanted sign on the window or in the paper.

Not Just Laborers – Typically, window signs are looking for unskilled labor. A quick scan of online job boards says the skilled market is hotter now than ever. If you wanted to jump into a new role, now would be the time as companies are more willing to train people for the jobs they need.

Where Did They Go? – I’m not blaming unemployment benefits or rent moratoriums. Even before we all went home, the IT industry was suffering from a lack of skilled labor. Gone are the days when you could train in a boot camp to learn a new skill or study and become certified. The problem is a short-sighted corporate mentality, focused on saving money at the expense of people.

Offshore Oligarchy – You may not know the history. Human Resources are the most expensive and legally challenging assets a company has. IT employees are by far the most expensive of employees due to the skill involved in their jobs.  When Corporate Executives first saw these numbers eating away at their revenues in the 1980s, the concept of offshoring wasn’t feasible. The Internet was a decade away. International phones calls were expensive. Then came the Internet, followed by Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and the flood gates opened.

Killing Me Softly – Large companies hire middle managers and farm out their projects and support tasks to outside companies. The belief corporations have is all “labor” other than management is faceless, nameless, and replaceable. This only creates a workforce with no skin in the game. Managers used to be required to do the jobs of all their employees. Now all they need is an MBA, but they aren’t leaders.

Paper Tigers – Most IT Managers, Directors and CIOs have never worked on a Help Desk. They’ve never been on call on a holiday weekend. Never have they been forced to work on an issue or cutover at 3AM because they are the only one who can fix it. The military would NEVER send any commanding officer into combat with only West Point classroom training. Once managers were required to perform every job they managed. Now, they have become vendor managers.

Why? – Globalization is only part of the problem. The real problem is corporations passing the buck. “Why do it in house when I can outsource it or put it in the Cloud?” Sure, it limits liability and may be cheaper on paper, but even Cloud companies can’t find qualified people. Ever wonder why your Help Desk, Vendor, or Carrier tickets take 6 weeks to resolve?

Always Two, There Should Be – I firmly believe every skilled employee, whether a plumber or engineer, should require mentorship. Not, “come to me if you have any questions”. I mean, if you are a senior plumber, Help Desk Technician, HR representative, or bookkeeper, you have an apprentice you train, ALWAYS! The benefits of job rotation, coverage, and accelerated experience far outweigh any additional cost. Your best people are always training a new generation of great employees.

Story Time! – I worked a project a few years back for a Fortune 100 company rolling out global network upgrades. We ran into an issue that looked like an Antivirus program blocking legitimate connections. A meeting was spun up and none of the 15 Managers, Team Leads, or Supervisors had the skills to resolve the issue. We stayed on the call for 8 hours! Most of it was, “have you tried this?” Finally, the Antivirus engineer joined the call when his shift started, reconfigured the antivirus, and everything was great. How much money did this company lose in that one incident?

Work Interferes With Play – Work once meant something to people. They took pride in what they did, more than just meaningless toil. The psychology that we fail to see is that hard work and dedication to tasks is a Human need. If we sit around doing nothing, we have a sense of uselessness, or as it’s called now, depression. People are looking for purpose and they aren’t finding it at work. And why would they? Most corporations take zero responsibility for the individual. They are expendable. Hence the mental health crisis we have in America today. But it’s not just corporations.

A Ray of Hope – How to fix almost 40 years of corporate nonsense? Amazon isn’t doing it. Apple couldn’t get it right. Google? Well, they’ve built a nice commune, and Microsoft? Clueless!  Here’s the problem and, yes, I’m on the soap box. Until companies stop caring about their stock price over the people they sell to and people they employ, it will never change. Should the government be involved? Hell to the NO! The only way we will see change is if the CONSUMER forces it. Boycotts, scathing reviews, buying from local small businesses, and bolstering American manufacturers are the only ways. Stop giving these swine your money! I know it’s hard, but our children will thank us.

Maybe colleges and universities should better train IT students. Maybe corporations should create programs that train employees “their way” for a few weeks before they hit the ground running. Maybe apprenticeship is the answer. It starts with the employers, and maybe with the Cloud providers. Either way, the future of IT will fall upon the weary shoulders of those that show up with the skills.

Want to see an article on a specific subject? Need help? Reach out. We are all in this together.

Shawn D. Stewart

Mr. Stewart has 25 years of experience with hundreds of international, commercial, military, and government IT projects. He holds or has held certifications with ISC2, Cisco, Microsoft, CompTIA, ITIL, Novell and others. He also holds a Masters in Cybersecurity, Bachelors in IT, a Minor in Professional Writing and is a published author.

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