Attracting and retaining top talent for MSPs

by Andrew Wallace
3 min read

Watch SmileBack’s most recent webinar to find out some tips from our panelists on attracting, retaining and developing top talent for MSPs.

Don’t have time to watch the recording? No problem, we went through it and pulled out some key points arranged across the most important themes.

Here you go:

Hiring – where to look, and what to look for

Finding good people is a challenge that transcends all industries. The bottom line is, it’s tough to do and very hard to understand what people’s individual motivations are. Some tips from our panelists:

• Have technical people vet the technical capacity of candidates, and the broader team assess cultural fit. Make assessing fit a team effort.

• Consider using a recruiter, but only a recruiter that is focused on this niche. Success-based fees are preferable to retainers.

• The best people are “passive candidates”: ones that are open to moving from a current role, versus unemployed and actively job seeking.

• Don’t expect to find “lifers” in this day and age. Expect from day one that employees will move on, and make a plan so that they leave better people and both get and give a lot to your company.

• Understand what the average duration of a particular position is at your company and make it clear right from the interview what the path forward from helpdesk or field agent looks like. For smaller organizations where this is not as easy, make clear what the development and salary roadmap look like over time.

• Hire slow, fire fast.

Culture – developing talent, maintaining morale

So much of success comes down to culture. Happy customers translate into happy employees, and vice versa. Some thoughts:

• Really work to develop a team. Get to know your staff outside of work to strengthen bonds. Take staff out for lunch to say thank you—bring two employees who don’t have lots of chances to interact in the day-to-day to lunch together.

• Similarly, actively work against creating siloes in the company. While KPIs are important you want to make sure people aren’t just focused on their own goals to the detriment of their colleagues or the company as a whole.

• Empowerment shifts responsibility to the employee: “you’ve got the reins; you’re driving; tell us where you want to go, and we’ll do everything we can to help you get there.”

• One bad apple spoils the bunch: the hardest decision is often around letting go of a very strong individual contributor who is negatively affecting the overall culture.

• When life gives you lemons, make lemonade: when a crisis hits, you’ll very quickly be able to identify who is management material and who is not.

• Adopt a “no one left behind” approach and take care of your team, clients, company in that order. Don’t ask employees to do something you’re not prepared to do yourself.

Managing and measuring – aren’t you SMART!

The saying goes that you can only manage what you measure, and the MSP space lends itself very well to this indeed. Here’s what our panelists want you to keep in mind:

• Share the goals, growth trajectory, challenges of your company with everyone. This kind of transparency gets everyone working on the same side, and gives people the kind of purpose that means you won’t have to micromanage them every day.

• Tools and gamification help: post and send around CSAT results and comments, keep screens on the wall to show real-time results, give space for peer recognition. MSP staff are often gamers so finding ways to gamify makes work more fun.

• Gift cards and cash rewards are great but, in fact, recognition for a job well done is more valuable.

• Set up 1 on 1s that address the employee’s goals specifically, and make these goals SMART: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound.

• Don’t go overboard with metrics and don’t use as a disciplinary tool!

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