To Train or Not
to Train"> Should a VAR decide to invest in training an employee to reach the next level, the damage incurred if the person then leaves hits the VAR harder than it would a large company. In hiring the right talent, the limitations of a VARs leadership also can get in the way.Running a small company means that a leader is required to be the business mind, the head tech and the HR department. Typical VARs are entrepreneurially and technically minded but lack business and personnel reach. "The business owner of a small VAR is often an engineer that grew up in a small VAR and then decided to start their own business," said Gartner analyst Tiffani Bova. More than a paycheck In any employment discussion, compensation naturally becomes an important topic. Bright said IT executives often express concern about affording the salaries job hunters want. But focusing on salaries, he argued, misses the point because many employers overlook the importance of culture while theyre worrying about salary alignment. "Cultural fit plays a large role but in rarely seen ways," Bright said. "IT organizations that understand why people work at their organizations and are able to communicate this [to job candidates] are going to win from a talent standpoint." Sure, salary can make a difference, Bright added. "But in the margins, other factors become important," he said. "If you only pick people for pay, youll get people who stay for six to nine months and leave because its not a good fit. Pay has been put on a pedestal." Some solution providers go as far as using salaries as a weeding-out method. "Were in Southern California, and everyone says they want $70,000, but weve been using that number to weed out what we dont need," said IT Pros Ford. "Someone who wants to work for $60,000 knows what they dont know. Everyone Ive tried hiring at $70,000 didnt work out. They thought they were more high-level than the work was. They didnt want to touch the desktops. When youre with a company like ours, you need to do all of this stuffinstalling system routers, rebuilding desktops. We found that the people who would work for $60,000 didnt think they were too advanced for this." CompTIAs Hopkins also cautioned about focusing too much on salaries. Instead, he said, employers should put more effort into worker retention by keeping them happy. "If youre happy where you are working, would you leave for a 10 percent raise? No," Hopkins said. "If you werent happy, would you leave for 5 percent? Yesand to a company that looks after their workers better than you do and gives them a robust suite of benefits." In addition to retention, many small channel employers find it helpful to interview constantly. That way, even if they dont have a vacancy at the time of interviewing, they can build up a roster of potential future employees. "Run the numbers for yourself," said 4-Profits Kesslin. "If one out of 20 interviewees is worth hiring, and you want to hire two salespeople a year, youre going to need to interview 40 people a year, almost one per week. But theyre not doing that. "Theyre recruiting from a pool of one," Kesslin continued. "They find a candidate, decide they like them and hire them, and then theyre not happy with what they have but say its too hard to fire them. They say that the pain of what I know is better than the pain of what I dont have. " Channel companies can improve their chances of finding the right professional by spending time at universities, conferences and other places where the bigger companies recruit, Kesslin said. Though the consensus is that the IT labor market is tight, there is no shortage of IT professionals who simply dont buy it. If the market is so great for job seekers, they questioned, why does it take them so long to find work? Why doesnt this so-called shortage mesh with their personal, day-to-day experiences? "Most everybody I have met in this field is having trouble getting hired," said Michael Tock, a Cisco-certified technician in Melrose Park, Ill. "They come from different schools, are in different areas of the computer field and are of all ages." After graduating from college with a degree in computer studies, Tock said he spent more than two years looking for work until he found a $12-per-hour job at a Cisco lab in a community college (see story, Page 10). But Tock and others with similar experiences find little sympathy from analysts and employers, who said job seekers need to look at their résumés, skill sets and salary expectations and consider whether they match what employers need. Cohen of LAN Associates urged IT professionals to look at themselves and the roles they intend to play in companies. "Anyone who is not getting hired needs to understand that we cant afford to settle," Cohen said. The long view Despite their talent-finding troubles, Cohen and others said they believe the problem is solvable. Although there is a skills shortage, they said, the situation has been bleaker in the past. And it will get better if IT professionals realize they must keep their skills current by earning A+, MCSE and other certifications to boost their chances of landing well-paying, career-building jobs. "There is still a community of extraordinarily capable professionals who absolutely deserve the high salaries, but, on the other hand, there are a lot of rank beginners and people who are not keeping their skills current that are pricing themselves out of the market," Cohen said. 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"Most solution providers dont have that leadership it factor," said 4-Profits Kesslin. "Theyre successful, they make a living, but they dont recruit as well because they dont know what talent wants. Top talent will only go work for top managers; a B manager can only hire C, C+ talent."