Industry Voices

Top, diverse talent is integral to building sustainable data centres

Group of people and different interests

The data centre market is booming. Massive growth in FLAP-D and emerging markets such as Warsaw, Milan and Madrid requires a substantially larger workforce, however, currently only 4% of data centre employees are women. Onboarding a more diverse workforce presents unrivalled opportunities for data centre growth.

The sharp increase in data centres requires a rapid increase in workforce. It is predicted that by 2025 alone, the number of staff required will reach nearly 2.3 million, however a large portion of data centre staff is aging and due to retire. Add in the Great Resignation sparking more vacancies than unemployed people for the first time since records began in the UK, Eurozone unemployment reaching a record low, and the new wave of employees wanting to work for a company with a purpose, competition for skilled data centre staff becomes fierce.

This boom also poses an environmental challenge, with data centres already accounting for 2% of global CO2 emissions and continuing to rise. Sustainability is no longer an option; it is a business imperative. When we combine the sector’s fast growth with the need to be sustainable, this requires innovative solutions, with a workforce to match. Therefore, in order to attract and retain top data centre talent, organisations must prioritise diversity and sustainability.

Attract top talent with sustainability

With energy shortages on the horizon across much of Europe, data centres in need of great amounts of power are taking a reputational hit. This may further impact the ability of the industry to attract and retain talent. Sustainability has to be high on the agenda for every operator in the industry. If create a sustainable working environment, it will attract a workforce that is increasingly searching for meaningful careers. With the power now firmly in the hand of the employee, they can select careers and workplaces where values align, they can make an impact, and thrive in the company culture. Employees can afford to be more selective and choose a company and career path that upholds their values, looking for meaning and purpose. This is where building sustainable data centres can be an effective draw to recruit the right people to help your business thrive.

In addition to attracting talent with a sustainable data centre, if you also focus on diversity, you can unlock a ‘double’ advantage. For instance, the WEF highlights the need for leaders to remove barriers, promote diversity and embrace inclusion to future-proof our planet. There is a responsibility to broader society, through integration with community and government partnerships, to diversify talent in highly skilled data centre roles and inspire a new generation.

Outperform the competition by tapping into your talent pool

To achieve and maintain strong and reliable teams, studies have shown that it is essential to prioritise diversity. However, the frequency of promotions in tech declines rapidly after the age of 36, and women currently represent just 4% of data centre employees. Embracing diversity unlocks innovation and creativity, while fostering collaboration. Employees should reflect the diversity of our communities and the customers they serve to outperform competitors. For instance, the likelihood of outperformance is proven to be higher for businesses diverse in ethnicity and gender, with a true reflection of the local community creating a great business advantage.

As a sector, we must do more to make a career in data centres attractive and attainable to those that have not traditionally been interested or included. Increasingly, data centres cannot find qualified candidates for open jobs, and competition to attract and retain talent is ferocious. To expand the talent pool, we must look to new ways to tempt staff in, differentiating your data centre and business to fulfil employee desires.

Recruit for potential

Creating a diverse community is key and supporting them with training to fill the talent gap in the data centre industry is vital, particularly if you recruit based on aptitude and potential. This must start from promoting STEM at a young age, through to a more inclusive graduate intake and carry on through to the workplace. In fact, continued education and training (51%) is already prioritised by major players in the sector.

Today’s workforce prioritises learning and employers must accommodate this. Vendor-agnostic and CPD-accredited digital education platforms, such as the one created by Schneider Electric, that help data centre industry stakeholders stay up to date with the latest technology, sustainability issues, and energy efficiency initiatives impacting the industry, are crucial. Opening up additional training opportunities to all helps to build the capabilities of the workforce, makes employees feel supported, and in turn gives you a more competitive edge.

Technology can also identify potential talent from different areas of the business. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used to identify internal candidates for a new role based on their current skillsets and present them with data centre roles they have not considered, but where they have potential to excel. At Schneider we have found success by recruiting based on potential rather than on existing skill sets. This significantly increases the talent pool available and allows us to bring in a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

A 4% female workforce in data centres is simply not good enough. The exponential growth in data centres requires a diverse, talented workforce to drive towards sustainability goals. The relationship is cyclical; sustainable data centres attract more diverse talent that search for a company with a purpose, and this new workforce creates more sustainable data centres. Hiring for potential will be crucial, developing your workforce to give a competitive advantage. We must empower and support people to join the data centre industry at different life stages, with different experience, regardless of age, gender and ethnicity, or we leave the majority of the talent pool untapped.