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How to Keep Your MSP Staff From Being Poached

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Finding great techs for your business can be hard. Keeping them once you’ve hired them? Traditionally, also a big challenge for MSPs.

Even with the waves of layoffs in the tech industry in 2022, it’s still an employee’s market. Tech skills are in high demand and IT pros are taking the chance to move around. They’re looking for companies that will offer them a fulfilling role, great salary and perks, and a path to future growth.

As a small company, it can feel like you haven’t got a chance to compete. The truth is you’re unlikely to win if you’re competing on salary alone. But you can definitely offer other things a larger team or corporate IT team can’t.

That’s what this article is all about—finding your appealing points of difference and making them work for you. Let’s look at ways you can keep your team happy, engaged, and productive.

Pay a decent salary

Hold up. Didn’t we just say that small MSPs aren’t likely to compete on pay?

Yes, but that doesn’t mean you can grossly under pay your staff and expect to hang onto them. We’ve seen US job postings looking for multiple certifications and years of experience offering $8-12 per hour. All the workplace perks in the world can’t compensate for poverty wages.

At a minimum, your compensation needs to be a) livable and b) commensurate to the skill required. You can benchmark tech roles in your area to get a sense of the market.

Offer WFH and flex hours

If the pandemic proved anything, it’s that you and your team don’t need to be in an office together to be effective. Many IT workers embraced working from home and are looking to continue that, while a lot of bigger companies are trying to push them back into the office.

Offer fully remote roles if you can. A recent Dice survey shows that 60% of IT pros want a WFH gig, and many will change jobs if they can’t get it.

If allowing fully remote work just isn’t in the cards for you, the next best option is a hybrid role that allows your team members to work from home at least some of the time.

Beyond being flexible with location, flexibility in the flow of the work day is also highly valued by techs, says Travis Grundke, EVP Operations at Ashton Solutions.

“If you work for me and you need to take your dog to the vet, I don’t think you should have to take a day’s worth of PTO to go do that,” says Travis. “You’re an adult. You’re a professional. Just make sure that your work gets done. But go ahead. Take care of it.”

“People want that flexibility in their life,” he adds.

Support training and development opportunities

A key competitive advantage you have over internal IT opportunities is the sheer scope for learning and growth inside an MSP. On a multi-client help desk, a technician has the chance to touch a lot of different technologies and tackle a wide variety of problems.

Warning: That volume and variety can be negative if you overload your staff. But if you support your team in using that variety to identify interests, strengths, and career development paths, you’ll come out ahead.

“The number one ask—outside of money purely—that I get is opportunity,” says Travis. “I would say that in 75% of the [hiring] conversations I have, someone says to me, I’m really just looking for an opportunity.”

Offering training and certification support for your team also throws off big efficiency benefits for your MSP. Training “makes our techs more proficient which then reduces ticket time on everything else they do,” says John Dubinsky, IT Operations Manager at ProdigyTeks.

Cultivate a positive workplace culture

Few things will have an employee headed for the exit faster than constant high stress, unreasonable demands, and unpleasant interactions.

Supporting good mental health is key to hanging on to your employees. Best of all, cultivating a positive work environment doesn’t take a lot of money.

For example, think about ways you can be supportive of employees as they learn. John of ProdigyTeks tells his team, “You’re empowered to make mistakes. You can’t make the same mistake five times, but you can make it once or twice. Nobody’s going to get any lashes. Nobody’s going to get into trouble. We all learn from that.”

Have your team’s back at all times

We talked about this in a recent post, and it bears repeating.

It’s not OK for your team to endure abuse from clients, whether that’s angry outbursts, bad language, or threats. Make sure your techs know they can and should report such client behavior and that you’ll take action. Then follow-through on that action even if it means firing the client.

Software provider Auvik, for example, is famous for rule #6 of their Auvik Way: No a$$holes. The staff there know that bad behavior won’t be tolerated—from internal team members, vendors, or clients.

“When customers or partners treat our team inappropriately, it’s really easy to stand behind that rule and say, ‘Hey, this isn’t working out,’” says Auvik’s co-founder Alex Hoff.

When your team knows they can trust you to step up, they’ll feel happier and more confident in their role. “It’s a tremendous morale boost,” notes MSP consultant Erick Simpson.

Equip your team for success

Naturally, you’ll equip your technical team with good computers and large monitors to get their work done. Good MSP software that will make their lives easier is also a no-brainer.

But also think beyond the basics. Do they have a comfortable chair? A high-quality headset? A desk with enough space for their setup to not feel cramped?

If your staff works from home, consider offering them a one-time stipend to buy office extras like that good chair. Depending on where they live, you may also want to pay for them to upgrade to more reliable or higher-speed internet access.

Not to be overlooked are the smaller touches that can help techs feel like a valued part of the team, like t-shirts, ball caps, and other swag branded with your company name and logo.

Bring in the pets

This won’t work for everyone but if you’ve got an office and no one has allergies, consider making it a pet-friendly space where people can bring their dogs (or cats or turtles…) to work. Interacting with animals has been shown to reduce stress and blood pressure, while increasing smiles.

Open up the conversation

This final tip is free and simple to implement: Talk to your team regularly.

Let them know that you value them and want to keep them. Ask them what you can do to better support them or make your MSP a great place to work. Encourage your staff to be honest about offers they may be getting and what’s tempting about potentially moving elsewhere.

Then, listen to what they say. Implement as many of their ideas and requests as you can. If you can’t implement something they ask for, be honest about why rather than just ignoring them. People who feel heard and respected are less likely to jump ship.

Jennifer Tribe

Jennifer Tribe

Syncro’s director of content. Espresso-fueled Canadian nerding out over plain language, productivity, and podcasts.