Skills shortage an opportunity

It sometimes seems in this industry that we never stop hearing about the endless IT&T skills shortage. Earlier this year there were calls for action from major IT industry groups who demanded more training schemes and programs. There have been dire predictions that unless something is done, Australia's future as an IT&T force could be jeopardised.

That's all very well and good.

But let's think about this on an entirely selfish level. Would you really want to work in an industry where demand for labour and services wasn't outstripping supply? You show me a skills shortage and I'll show you an opportunity. Really, the day that there isn't an IT&T skills shortage is the day it's time to get out of this game.

Certainly, the skills shortage is partly what is driving the incredible growth in the outsourcing, integration and services markets. In my former lives editing end-user publications, IT managers would repeatedly tell me that the reason they were looking to outsource or outtask was because it was just too much trouble hiring and keeping the right staff. By using services partners, that was one less headache they had to worry about.

It should be no surprise, then, that if you look at the most successful integrators they have a very good track record of hiring exceptional people and even more importantly retaining those people. The first sign that an integrator or reseller is in trouble is when its best people start to leave. In fact, it's very difficult for any IT company to recover from a major case of "brain drain".

If you're moving towards the services model, as so many resellers are today, consider it a truism that you will live or die by the quality of your people.

Yet I wonder how many resellers and integrators would nominate staff recruitment, development and retention as one of their core competencies.

How many have human resources managers of departments? If you consider yourself too small for a dedicated HR function, ask yourself how much training do you have as a manager to ensure that you're not only getting the right people but you have the processes in place to ensure staff grow, learn and develop as they should?

After all, if you have the HR function in your business working right, then you shouldn't have a staff problem - even in times like this when there is such a shortage of good people. If you have basic functions like mentoring processes and your staff are always learning and developing, then when you do lose an important staff member - and you will - there should always be someone who is ready to step into their shoes. And just as importantly, someone to step into their shoes, and so on down the line.

Make HR a core competency and you'll also make it a competitive advantage - because from my observations of channel companies, most are too busy trying to keep up with the latest technology and business trends to really do a great job on human resources.

At Australian Reseller News we this week bid a very sad farewell to a very important member of our team. Cameron Tomes, deputy editor of ARN and editor of ARN Integrator, has decided that, after nearly six years at IDG and two at ARN, it's time for a change. Everyone at ARN will miss Cameron dearly as a colleague and friend and as the lynchpin of the IDG cricket team.

The important thing for us as a team, though, is to make sure you, as our readers and customers, don't miss Cameron. And that's going to depend on whether or not we're doing a good job of human resources.

Philip Sim is editor-in-chief of Australian Reseller News. Reach him at