Workforce Development in Digital Infrastructure

Solving the industry talent shortage with military precision

The high rate of growth and change in the data center industry continues to amaze everyone, from investors to operators, though, the industry is struggling to find personnel to sustain that growth. According to the Uptime Institute, the personnel shortage has reached a crisis point and they expect that the deficit will only grow, with an estimated additional 300,000 employees needed by 2025.

Because of an aging workforce and an often misdirected effort to recruit from within the industry, outages at data centers are increasingly attributed to a lack of trained staff who lack the ability to respond in an emergency.

In 2012 the Co-founders of Salute Mission Critical, Lee Kirby and Jason Okroy, analyzed the market and determined that a new service model was needed in order to disrupt the status quo and deliver more highly efficient data center operations globally. The operating model for data centers had evolved into multiple silos of organizations that were inefficient, inflexible and unsustainable. Kirby and Okroy built and brought to market a model that broke down the silos in the traditional operating model and, in doing so, reduced the costs and increased the organizational resiliency of a data center. This model relied on an integrated services model with multi-skilled operators who were highly disciplined and able to solve problems quickly with excellent critical thinking skills. 

Compass Datacenters CEO Chris Crosby says, “We chose Salute because its model is the best available. Their ability to execute with precision globally and work with our teams seamlessly is exactly what our industry needs.”

With the new service model, Salute has proven that the talent shortage can be resolved by executing a highly effective workforce development program. Data center companies use Salute to solve their future personnel needs by not only augmenting their staff, but also by transitioning Salute’s employees to become their own. Salute champions the career progression of its employees, even if it means them finding work elsewhere in the industry. If /when an employee leaves Salute, the company has been set up in a way where positions can quickly be backfilled with other staff, which makes Salute rather unique as other service companies tend to have clauses against poaching their employees.

EdgeConneX CEO Randy Brouckman says: “Our customers are some of the largest, most exacting customers in the world from an IT infrastructure perspective. Having a trusted partner like Salute Mission Critical, that can adapt to a rapidly changing environment with precision and flexibility that helps meet the needs of my customers is essential to our business’s success.”

Lee Kirby, Chairman & Co-Founder, Salute Mission Critical With insights from Digital Infrastructure Industry Executives

“How Salute responds to every request and/or situation proves how ingrained their customer-centric view is at every level of the company, which differentiates them from many competitors. The quality of their services is a testament to the culture of a company, which is based on values that we share. We are proud to call Salute, and the service veterans that make up the Salute team, a strategic partner and an extension of the EdgeConneX team that delivers premium customer service 24/7, 365 days a year for its customers.”

The beauty of Salute is that it can be replicated and used by anyone in the industry. A step-by-step playbook is provided as a free download and the team willingly shares and collaborates with the industry to keep things updated. To fully execute this service model, a comprehensive workforce development plan first must be conceived. This plan has been built on successfully achieving three key objectives:

1. Enable a supply chain of talent from outside the industry
2. Establish an onboarding and training program that can rapidly transition the supply chain
3. Establish an ongoing developmental program that continuously drives:

  • Individual growth
  • Innovation and learning as an organization
  • A distinctive culture.

Military veterans have been a part of the data center industry since the beginning. Traditionally, they were sourced from a small group of veterans who while in the military had done work in specialized roles, which gave them the equivalent technical skills. That subset of personnel in the data center industry currently sourced from military veterans is only in the thousands in comparison to the 200,000+ active-duty members transitioning to civilian life every year and the 800,000+ guard and reserve personnel in our communities.

Lee and his team on his 50th birthday in Iraq

To leverage the entire pool of military candidates, Salute’s onboarding and training program adapts to the service member’s current level of competency. Military experience and training has been shown to create innate abilities to learn and adapt quickly in staff, which in turn helps with effectivity and drives rapid results, providing a competitive advantage in the services sector. All employees of Salute complete safety and culture training first, and then are provided a continuous cycle of refresher training on these two key topics. After completing initial training, new staff moves on to the next phase, along with a mentor and job assignment, which helps them master skills rapidly through micro-training and the adopted method from the medical industry of “watch one, do one, teach one.”

With all of the skills needed to be a multi-skilled operator in a data center, there are a myriad of opportunities to then rise through to technical mastery in a specific discipline or take a leader/manager track.

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