The past several years have driven home a hard lesson for many business leaders: no matter how strong their business fundamentals may be, every organization is ultimately subject to the ripple effects of global events and the general up-and-down patterns of the business cycle.
Recessions are periods of economic challenges, but they’re also periods of business opportunity. The enterprises best positioned to capitalize on those opportunities are not necessarily those with the best set strategies—they’re the ones that are most agile and adaptable. Businesses that continue to invest in people despite the looming economic uncertainty can achieve that level of agility, while those that don’t risk falling behind.
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The Equinix Global Tech Trends Survey (GTTS) from earlier this year showed that many tech leaders were struggling to hire skilled employees. We see no reason to believe the tech skills gap has gone away. According to the GTTS, 62% of global decision-makers said that a shortage of IT talent was a threat to their business success.
Furthermore, 61% of survey participants said that the speed at which the tech industry is transforming is the biggest skills challenge facing the tech sector as a whole. To overcome that challenge, tech businesses will rely more than ever on the mission-critical employees that help drive digital transformation forward. In fact, they need to hire more of these key contributors.
One side effect of rapid tech transformation is a growing need for specialization. The GTTS found that the skills gap is evenly spread across specializations, with 27% of leaders seeing a gap in IT technicians, 26% in cloud computing, and a further 26% in AI/machine learning.
To close the skills gap, leading tech companies should take a two-pronged approach: building a culture that keeps existing employees engaged, while also opening new talent pipelines by recruiting and developing employees in different ways.
Build a culture that attracts and retains talent
Of course, compensation is one factor involved with hiring and maintaining great tech talent. An external salary benchmark can help businesses understand how to pay enough to avoid losing talent to the competition, but not so much that they inadvertently contribute to the inflationary cycle in the industry. However, it’s important for business leaders to do more than just throw money at their problems and hope they go away.
There are a variety of steps that organizations can take to help close the skills gap beyond providing competitive compensation. For instance, skilled tech workers are increasingly attracted to organizations that offer a better user experience for employees, including the freedom to work in a remote or hybrid model.
In the GTTS, 41% of IT leaders said that keeping up with employees’ changing expectations about when and where they work is a major skills challenge facing their business. Keeping hybrid workers engaged and satisfied requires companies to invest in their digital infrastructure at the edge; those companies need distributed, interconnected infrastructure to meet workers where they are and ensure uninterrupted, low-latency access to key communication and collaboration tools.
Investing in employees’ physical and mental wellbeing is also essential, particularly in the wake of a global pandemic that increased anxiety and depression by 25% worldwide. Poor mental health manifests itself in the form of lost productivity, less potential for creativity and innovation, and employee retention problems. Giving employees access to resources that address stress and other mental health issues is a key step toward helping employees achieve their full potential.
At Equinix, we’ve made it our goal to create a culture where every employee can say “I’m Safe, I Belong, and I Matter.” We recognize that an important part of this goal is investing in employee wellbeing. We’ve established a multifaceted wellbeing program that includes a variety of daily breaks, weekly and monthly wellbeing classes, global wellbeing challenges, education and information sessions, and other special events.
Our global Employee Assistance Program (EAP) ensures all Equinix employees and their immediate families have access to resources including wellbeing support, legal support, financial resources, and mental health counselling in times of need. Thanks to our investments in the EAP, we saw a 20% year-on-year increase in the number of employees taking advantage of our wellbeing and mental health benefit offerings during 2021.
Develop new talent pipelines and diverse skill sets
Businesses can also broaden their pool of available tech talent by reskilling workers. The GTTS found that 62% of organizations are reskilling workers from within the IT industry. However, these same companies were significantly less likely to be reskilling talent from nontraditional sources, leaving an important opportunity on the table. For instance, only 10% said they were reskilling military veterans.
Businesses would be well-served to focus less on what skills their candidates don’t have, and more on how to take advantage of the skills they do. Many of these potential reskilled employees have transferable skills from their previous experiences that could prove helpful as part of a diverse team.
This is what led Equinix to establish our Career Pathways Program, where we bring in candidates from diverse backgrounds—including former Olympians and Paralympians participating in the Athlete Career Transition program, military veterans looking to transition into the private sector, or those looking to start a new life after resettling as refugees—and give them the training and support they need to be successful in the data center industry.
Finally, investing in the workers of tomorrow means investing in the students of today. Tech businesses can form partnerships with institutions of higher learning to help ensure students are gaining the skills they need to be successful immediately after graduation. In addition, they can provide financial support for promising students who may not be able to complete their degree programs otherwise.
Equinix offers a variety of resources to students and recent graduates through our New to Career program. This includes the Equinix Digital Infrastructure Scholarship, which we launched in partnership with Northern Virginia Community College in 2021. Students who plan to enter the data center industry will be eligible to receive scholarships of $5,000 each, along with mentorship and paid internship opportunities at Equinix.
With sustainability now widely recognized as a business imperative, there’s particularly high demand for talent to help design and implement green business strategies. Equinix aims to address this shortage through our partnership with the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Singapore Management University (SMU). We have pledged S$160,000 toward sustainability-focused scholarships to help support and inspire the next generation of sustainability leaders.
The launch of the Equinix Foundation further illustrates how we’re investing to create the inclusive digital workforce of the future. Supported by an initial financial commitment of $50 million from Equinix, this self-sustaining charitable organization will work to close the digital divide through philanthropic grant-making and strategic partnerships in the communities in which we operate. By providing greater access to technology and the opportunity to develop skills, the Foundation aims to help individuals of all ages and backgrounds prepare for successful careers in the digital economy.
In addition, the Foundation will be shaped and driven by Equinix employees, giving them the opportunity to live their values every day. Employees will help identify and support community-driven nonprofits and social enterprises that matter to them, all while contributing to the Foundation’s goal of closing the digital divide across the globe. For this reason, we believe the Foundation will not only expand our future talent pipeline, but also contribute to a culture that increases engagement and retention among our current employees.
Invest in the talent that will help you navigate the future
At Equinix, we’ve been investing in tech talent and skills for years now, and we have no intention of stopping. In an industry where the only constant is change, being able to adapt requires finding great people, putting them in a setting where they can be successful, and supporting their continued development over time. None of these priorities can be properly served without continued investment, even during periods of economic uncertainty.
To learn more about the challenges and opportunities facing IT leaders, in tech talent and in other areas, check out the results of the Equinix Global Tech Trends Survey.
For more information on how Equinix is working to address the tech skills gap, or to see for yourself what it’s like to work for the world’s digital infrastructure company™, visit the Equinix careers page.
 World Health Organization, “COVID-19 pandemic triggers 25% increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide.” March 2, 2022.