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Three strategies to fill your data center talent pipeline

Combat the industry’s labor shortage with unique recruitment strategies for experienced and entry-level talent

The data center labor pipeline is drying up just as an increasingly digital world is exploding with demand. As many experienced workers approach retirement, younger workers are not filling their roles quickly enough to keep pace with industry growth. 

What makes data center operations roles so tough to fill? For one, the 24/7 demands of working in a mission-critical facility are not for everyone. Workers face intense pressure to prevent outages, as ramifications could range from security breaches to global market impact.

Add to these challenges the lack of awareness around careers in data center operations, and it’s clear that this industry needs a revamp, or at the very least a new PR campaign! So, where are the opportunities to reinvent data center recruitment and retention? Following are three strategies to keep the data center talent pipeline full.

Retain experienced workers with advancement opportunities and training

Data center staffing needs will grow to about 2.3 million positions in 2025, partly due to the attrition of an older workforce, according to the Uptime Institute’s 2020 Data Center Survey. Retaining experienced staff will be key to maintaining smooth operations while building the talent pipeline.

Experienced data center engineers want to know that their employer is committed to its people and is on sound footing. Most importantly, they want opportunities to advance their careers and learn new skills. 

A robust training program will help experienced talent learn new skills and keep pace with changes in the industry. Additionally, data center operators need to provide clear facility management career pathways. Workers want support and encouragement to advance. 

Attract millennials and Gen Z with a focus on purpose and diversity, equity and inclusion

Data centers operators are discovering that younger generations pose an entirely new recruitment challenge. 

According to a study by The Guardian, 62% of Millennials (those born between 1981-1996) want to work for a company that makes a positive impact. Data center employers can appeal to younger generations’ need for purpose by highlighting the important role data centers play in society. They may also want to emphasize their efforts to improve sustainability. 

Millennials also seek inclusive benefits and gender equity, found a Great Places to Work survey. They want to work for organizations that prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at all levels of the organization.

Additionally, the industry needs more efforts to educate high school and college students on data center career paths. Young people are massive users of data and technology. Still, most don’t look beyond their shiny new iPhone or laptop to understand how the technology works or the infrastructure needed to power it. 

To build a stronger and more diverse pipeline of young talent, consider the following tactics:

  • Partner with industry organizations like 7x24 Exchange International and AFCOM to offer mentoring and promote awareness of data center careers
  • Lobby for trade schools, community colleges, and four-year universities to add data center operations to their facilities management curriculum
  • Tap into technology like augmented and virtual reality for career marketing and training for the digital native demographic
  •  Articulate and communicate a set of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) values that will resonate with millennials and Gen Z recruits
Prioritize recruitment of untapped and under-represented talent 

Young, entry-level employees aren’t the only new talent source for data centers; also consider skill crossovers from other industries. For example, many veterans of the Navy’s Nuclear Program thrive in data center jobs. While a nuclear submarine may seem like a completely different beast than a data center, the skills of a “Navy Nuke” are uniquely transferable to 24x7x365 mission-critical operations. Military veterans also understand the importance of following well-documented processes and procedures meticulously.

There is also an untapped opportunity to recruit more women to the data center world. Women comprise only about 10% of the data center workforce, according to Data Center Dynamics. 

Industry organizations have begun taking steps to address the outsized gender gap with conference panels and diversity initiatives, but progress has been slow. 

The data center industry has a vital role to play in raising girls’ awareness of all the exciting career paths in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM.) This can include supporting existing initiatives such as Girls + Data and The National Girls Collaborative Project, as well as creating mentorship programs that support women in a male-dominated industry.

A crowd-sourced path forward

Significant challenges lie ahead for an industry that needs to adapt at breakneck speed. It will take a village of date center owners, operators, influencers, and executives to bring forth a meaningful shift in how the industry recruits and retains its workforce. Yet the challenge cannot be overlooked. Developing a qualified and diverse talent pipeline is critical to futureproofing the industry and to powering our digital society. Working with an experienced facilities management provider can broaded your talent pool and provide these crucial training opportunities.

Want to learn more about JLL’s data center facilities management? Click here