I cannot find a good candidate to fill a position within my operations team, or business support, or design… Sound familiar? Data centre providers across the world are faced with this very same issue daily. The hosting world is in the middle of a staff and diversity shortage crisis, but does it need to be like this?
Between this year and 2025, the global data centre workforce will need 300,000 new members of staff within 230 specialist job roles, according to projections from Uptime Institute in its “The people challenge: Global data centre staffing forecast 2021-2025” report.
Although this represents only 2% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over six years, the rising demand will still present some challenges.
“First, this figure represents new jobs, not net demand, which may be increased by other factors, such as the retirement of large number of existing workers,” the authors point out. “Second, the demand is unevenly spread, with the greatest needs clustered in certain regions.”
Year-over-year CAGR is set to accelerate from about 2% through 2023 to 3% in 2024 and 2025.
Most demand will be in the Asia-Pacific region, driven by expected cloud/internet giants and colo data centre capacity growth in China, parts of Southeast Asia, Australia and elsewhere.
Demand in North America and the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions is expected to be roughly similar, with notable growth forecast. In Latin America, growth is expected to be driven by several markets, including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico, among others.
However, irrespectively from where human capital demand will be coming from, it is the very human aspect of the issue that can help fight back any shortages of today and the coming decades. How? Through inclusivity and diversity.
Widening our pools of talent will not only help curb this crisis, but also bring in new and fresh perspectives. Be it gender, race, sexual orientation, life backgrounds, or other, no one loses when diversity wins.
“Working in an environment that is inclusive, respectful, and safe is not a luxury. It is necessary,” writes author Perrine Farque in her latest book, Inclusion: The ultimate secret for an organization’s success. “Leaders have a fantastic position in the organisation to be the change, and when they know what the right thing to do it, they do it. Becoming an inclusive leader is a choice.”
Although the industry is taking significant steps towards a more diverse workforce, we are still far behind from where we should be. And Covid-19 could set us back as remote working brings back some social impediments to some members of the team.
Positive Changes Through Collaboration
Luckily, the data centre world is today way more educated on the issues and has made inclusion and diversity as high of a priority as sustainability. Being diverse is not a ticking box exercise; allowing for unconscious bias does not provide an inclusive workplace; not tackling bullying, racism, sexism, xenophobia, or bigotry is totally the opposite. For every business to succeed in this century, diversity, and a range of voices at the table is paramount.
Organisations like the Infrastructure Masons (iMasons) and its members such as EdgeConneX, CBRE, IO Data Centers, Salute Mission Critical, Netrality Data Centers, Switch, Google and many more have been huge advocates for change.
For example, the iMasons Digital Infrastructure Capstone Project is designed to help build a micro data centre lab environment for the Engineering Department at Hampton University. This includes several activities such as Education/Training, Scholarships, Innovation/Tech Transfer, and Investments/Sponsorship to build on-campus micro data centres that serve as labs and provide a sandbox environment for Capstone project participants and Digital Infrastructure Labs for students brining digital infrastructure to young adults getting ready to enter the job market.
EdgeConneX’s CMO Philip Marangella is one of the mentors of the programme, which is now rolling out to four other Historically Black Universities (HBCUs).
“We found a way to create a Capstone Program, a senior project that is usually a yearlong or a semester-long and we focused on the HBCUs in the US,” said Marangella in a recent video interview with JSA Europe. “We started last year with Hampton University and this year, we’ve expanded it to four other universities where we take these young students and senior students and they do everything from site selection to design, trying to figure out where to build a centre, how many facilities are needed and so forth. When they’re done, they have the practical experience. We hired two of them last year as engineers here at EdgeConneX and so we really look forward to scale that out.”
Engaging the youth is a key path in not only addressing the staff shortage and fight workplace exclusion, but it also establishes the basis for a future workforce ensuring the long survival of the sector – because despite all the AI advancements, humans will be in the foreseeable future just as needed to manage buildings as they are today.
Although, the data centre industry is full of other examples. If the Capstone project focuses on students, other initiatives focus on, for example, military veterans.
That is where Lee Kirby, chairman and co-founder of Salute Mission Critical, has set a great example not only within the data centre space, but beyond.
He explains: “What we hope to do is educate the industry that the veterans they were trying to recruit are awesome and they should keep recruiting them. Historically, operators were going after such a small slice that they were going just after the veterans that had similar skill sets that they could drop into jobs and immediately become available.”
Driving Change and Changing Lives
These two initiatives are driving change, not merely on the young/veteran fronts, but at the same time, they also boost women, race, and sexual orientation and identification diversity within data halls as they don’t discriminate who wants to participate from the get-go. It is a win-win situation.
Yet, finding people to join the business is not the end of the road in becoming diverse. Some might say it is just the beginning.
Operators need to ensure their work environments are safe to all – think of anti-bullying and discriminatory policies – and inclusive – think of gender-neutral bathrooms, websites and intranet portals that can automatically translate conversations between colleagues speaking different languages, etc. Furthermore, every employee needs to be given the chance to progress in her/his/their career.
Change can be scary. Businesses – and people – can be afraid of the new. However, none of this is new, neither should anyone be afraid. We have always lived in a diverse world; we just have never recognised it as such. Being open minded is the biggest obstacle when it comes to diversity and inclusion, but all it takes is a simple “let’s do this” and you will see the benefits right away.
As author Farque says in her book: “Change starts with you. One small act of inclusion can change your day, your team, and maybe even your entire organisation. Yes, the actions as an inclusive leader can change your organisation. It is your decision to start this leadership journey. Change can start with you. Start it right now.”
You can learn more from my chat with Phillip Marangella, CMO for EdgeConneX and Lee Kirby, Chairman and Co-Founder of Salute Mission Critical. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ipcti8Ys2U