5 Ways Companies are Dealing With the Data Storage Talent Shortage

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The shortage of talent in the data storage job market is causing corporate IT departments  to reconsider how they attract storage specialists from the limited tech pool. 

Since the Great Resignation shows no signs of slowing down, enterprises are scrambling to recruit and retain the best employees. Storage teams  in particular need personnel to manage all the data that’s being created, including by remote workforces and the ensuing unstructured data driven by the pandemic. 

Enterprises are recognizing and implementing several methods to find storage employees who will invest in the organization and market: 

Ways Companies are Dealing With the Data Storage Talent Shortage

  1. The Need for Automation
  2. Remote Hiring and Working
  3. The Underrated Value of a Meaningful Cause
  4. Providing Valuable Benefits and Stability in an Unstable Job Market
  5. Company Culture is Key

1. The Need for Automation

Uptime Institute, a standards organization for digital infrastructure design and operation, published a report that discusses the state of data centers in 2021, including operators’ struggles hiring and retaining employees. It highlights one sector of the tech industry’s larger talent problem. 

Forty-seven percent of surveyed data center operators said that it was difficult to find qualified individuals for data center roles, according to the report. And 32% had trouble retaining employees, seeing their workers leave for another company. Uptime Institute also points out that in older data center markets, many employees will be retiring soon, leaving skill and experience holes to fill.

Operators found it unlikely that artificial intelligence (AI) technologies would immediately replace human staff; AI isn’t developed enough yet, nor do people know enough about mitigating the risks associated with using machines to make high-level decisions.

However, automation will still be critical for enterprises struggling to staff their data centers and storage teams. This might look like:

  • Engineers hired to develop programs that automate cloud migrations
  • Improvements made to storage networks, so data is more efficiently transferred 
  • Alerts designed to immediately notify storage administrators if a security breach is detected
  • Technology that shifts workloads to the right server or data stores to the best location 

Storage companies will hire human employees to build out their automated and artificial intelligence systems, so that soon, technology can perform rote jobs and leave higher-level work to employees.  

Also read: Implementing Storage Automation in Data Centers

2. Remote Hiring and Working 

Although many enterprises are transitioning to a hybrid or remote work plan, the technology industry particularly benefits from a remote shift. The tech job market, including storage, is highly competitive, according to Brent Skalicky, the chief human resources officer at data protection company Arcserve.

“​​Employees are looking for flexibility, including the ability to work in the office or remotely,” Skalicky said. 

Post-pandemic, flexibility is becoming more prioritized — now that employees have had a taste of working from home semi-regularly or constantly, they enjoy the ability to work in a more relaxed environment and complete tasks at home. Because so many companies now offer hybrid/remote work models, finding ways to implement that schedule for a storage team will mean a better chance to attract and retain experts. 

Remote hiring also enables location diversity. Skalicky pointed out that Arcserve does not restrict hiring to one region. 

“We’re not just trying to hire in one city, one state, or one country,” he said, noting the importance of finding talent and skills in multiple places. 

Arcserve is also investing in entry-level employees, “adding interns or early career folks and helping them grow their career through on-the-job training and continual education through tuition reimbursement programs,” according to Skalicky. 

Also read: Eight Best Practices for Securing Long-Term Remote Work

3. The Underrated Value of a Meaningful Cause

Finding and keeping intelligent, technically skilled employees requires showing them the value of working for your company. Enterprises need a good cause in which employees can participate if they want their employees to stay with the company, according to Jonathan Halstuch, the co-founder and CTO of RackTop Systems, which provides cybersecurity embedded within data storage. 

“To retain talent in today’s economy, organizations must provide employees a meaningful opportunity and something that can make an impact on the world in a positive way,” Halstuch said. “It would be hard to motivate a developer or engineer to get excited about a faster, cheaper storage system because it is hard to show a significant positive world impact. However, at RackTop, we have a vision to enable every organization to protect their data as if it were a national secret.”

Halstuch stresses the importance of data protection and its effects on enterprise finances and employee time, using ransomware as the prime example. 

“Anyone can see the value of being able to stop something like the Colonial Pipeline attack,” he said. “It is easy for a member of our team to see how they’re contributing to the company and the greater good. This gets them excited and makes them want to keep going and overcome the next challenge.”

4. Providing Valuable Benefits and Stability in an Unstable Job Market

COVID-19, and its impact on supply chains, work environments, and health care, forced enterprises to rethink — and in some cases overhaul — their workplace strategy. Political climates and the Great Resignation are other forces affecting how candidates search for jobs. Job seekers aren’t just hunting for a good storage position; they’re hunting for a good company.

Daria Maltseva, product manager at the custom software development company KeyUA, provided a list of the concerns that current job seekers have about the job market.

“Issues like greater flexibility, permanent remote work, greater investments into psychological state support, and more target diversity and equality are top priorities for workers in 2022,” Maltseva said. “Many employees are greeted with real wage cuts as annual compensation increases fall behind inflation. These realities are layered on top of longer-term technological transformation, continued DE&I journeys, and ongoing political disruption and uncertainty.”

These concerns won’t be solved by just a benefits package or salary upgrade. Employees worry about social, political, and mental matters, and all them also enter the workplace.

Some enterprises are working to provide more appealing company environments for job seekers; tech and storage leaders like Amazon and Google, for example, offer benefits outside the traditional set, such as on-site gyms, employee mental health assistance programs, and hybrid work plans. As storage candidates’ expectations increase, companies will work to meet those demands to recruit and retain the talent they need.

Also read: Top 5 Trends for Data Center Jobs

5. Company Culture is Key

Enterprises that truly want to retain storage employees for many years need a healthy, thriving culture. All the benefits in the world matter little if employees aren’t engaged and satisfied during the workday.

Culture should be the tipping factor when companies look for storage workers, according to Molly Brown, VP of engineering at the storage company Qumulo

“Talented workers with in-demand storage skills know that top-notch benefits and competitive pay have become the minimum standard, so employers can’t rely on those things to set their company apart,” Brown said. “When a candidate has multiple options with great compensation, their natural next question is: ‘Am I actually going to enjoy working here?’”

Interviews are an important time to not only showcase the best things about your company, but also tell storage candidates the tasks they’ll be expected to perform and expectations they’ll need to meet.

“As their window into the culture of your company, use the interview process to share practical details, like team structure, behaviors that accelerate the success of new team members, and day-to-day activities of the role,” Brown said.

The more details storage candidates have, the more they’ll be able to evaluate whether a company is a good fit. Being thorough during the interview process also gives tech enterprises, including storage providers, a chance to stand out from the competition and drive home their culture. 

Read next: Top 5 Data Storage Companies Hiring

Jenna Phipps
Jenna Phipps
Jenna Phipps is a staff writer for Enterprise Storage Forum and eSecurity Planet, where she covers data storage, cybersecurity and the top software and hardware solutions in the storage industry. She’s also written about containerization and data management. Previously, she wrote for Webopedia. Jenna has a bachelor's degree in writing and lives in middle Tennessee.

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