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Should the IT channel be targeting casualties of Big Tech layoffs?

For years, debate has raged about the need for the IT channel to look outside its own four walls in the hunt for fresh talent.The topic was given fresh impetus during lockdown as many vendors, distributors and channel partners moved to hire and retrain those freshly furloughed from sectors including hospitality and retail.Now, nearly two years on, another golden opportunity to recruit from outside the industry has arisen, albeit from a source slightly closer to the channel's stomping ground.Earlier this month, Elon Musk moved to slash an estimated half of Twitter's 7,500-strong workforce, a week after completing his $44bn takeover of the company. Meta joined the fray last week by slashing 11,000 staff, or 13 per cent of its workforce, while earlier this week, reports suggested that Amazon is planning to shed around 10,000 employees. A prominent activist investor in Google parent Alphabet, meanwhile, yesterday urged it to "aggressively" slash staff and pay.A combination of over-hiring during the pandemic, and a slowdown in advertising revenues, has sparked a downturn for big tech.And as this CRN US article this week shows, dozens of smaller and start-up vendors are also moving to cut the fat as the economic outlook worsens.Should IT resellers and MSPs seriously be considering targeting this fresh wave of talent on the market? And if so, how?Hire powerWhile Big Tech is downsizing, some big IT solutions providers like Softcat are increasing their rate of hiring. Indeed, the UK's largest reseller is preparing to open a ninth UK office in Newcastle that will eventually house up to 50-60 staff.Among those sending out a reassuring message to Meta staff on LinkedIn last week was the man tasked with spearheading the Newcastle outpost, Sebastian Leonharsden (see above).Although Softcat has a reputation for hiring university graduates, Leonharsden said the LSE-listed outfit is now eager to widen its net.He said his motivations for writing the post were primarily personal."Although the post implied Meta, it was more to anyone who's going through something similar. If you look at one of Softcat's partners, Snyk, who do DevOps and security, there were a lot of layoffs there as well, and it seems to be common at the minute. It's important for everyone in the channel and tech community to stick together and lend a hand where possible," Leonharsden told CRN."And then on top of that, from more of a selfish perspective, if an organisation loses staff then that's another company's gain. There's some fantastic talent out there, regardless of whether they're salespeople, technical staff or operations. And it's really important for Softcat not to be too single minded about where we recruit from."Historically, we've always gone for graduate account managers, but there's a much wider talent pool out there with more experienced workers who not only bring a higher level of knowledge and expertise, but also have great relationships we can utilise to our benefit."Anglo-Irish MSP Auxilion, which currently has over 20 open roles, is another firm keen to hoover up talent from the latest round of layoffs."It's still a challenging market to hire people but Auxilion will absolutely be targeting these people as part of our broader, and ongoing, talent and resourcing strategy," CEO Philip Maguire said.While debate rages over whether Twitter and Facebook are actually ‘technology' companies, they are in any case tangentially linked to the IT industry.Some channel players in hiring mood are, however, looking even further afield in their pursuit of fresh talent.In recent years, VAD Distology has taken on and retrained former carers, hospitality workers and even a semi-professional footballer, according to its CEO Hayley Roberts. Earlier this year, she gave a TEDx talk on the importance of attracting staff from outside the IT industry Talking to CRN, Roberts said that Distology would not be targeting Big Tech casualties despite having open headcount in both the UK and Germany."I'm in two minds about this," she said."Recruitment has got to be the hardest thing in the world for every company to achieve, so anything that makes it slightly easier - not having to do deep-dive training with these people as they've potentially got the right skillset - is great."It's nice to know there are companies out there that can catch all of the people that are leaving. But we're not doing it on the basis that we want to be able to develop people who are potentially not directly from the industry and that have potentially a different or wider skillset that we might be able to utilise as an employer. But for us as a business we're not going to jump on that bandwagon. Like anything, I think if you make decisions at speed, you often regret them very quickly as well."Culture vs wagesWhether Twitter or Meta alumni would want to work in the channel is another matter, however. While pay in the channel is relatively high, MSPs and resellers may struggle to compete with Big Tech's famously eyewatering wages.But that's not to say these candidates are out of reach in today's jobs market, according to Marc Sumner, director of channel recruitment firm Robertson Sumner."During Covid, there were a lot of people who had their egos flattered. And unfortunately, we just have to come back to reality," he said."People aren't going to get those massive salaries again. There were people getting 50 per cent pay rises during Covid. They were just crazy times, and unfortunately that's not going to happen now. You have to take a bit of a reality check and come back down to earth, which I think most people are."Leonharsden at Softcat agreed, arguing that candidates in today's market are more likely to put company culture above pay."The big salaries that used to attract people aren't as important any more. People are more passionate about working for a cause they can get behind with a network of like-minded people who can help them," he said."One of the key things about Softcat is you not only get a career, but you also get access to education and an opportunity to better yourself, whilst taking part in all the great perks that come with the job."Some candidates who had moved for high-paid roles at whizzy AI and deep tech start-ups are now regretting their choice, Leonharsden said."They fall out of love with that new place in six to nine months. I've always thought, give me a platform where I can grow and develop my skills and an opportunity to earn based on my input. That's a lot more important to me than having a big tech name behind me and a much higher salary. And I think the market is definitely bouncing back after that and realising that," he said.Sumner (pictured above) advised channel firms to include former Big Tech employees in their recruitment plans."We've said for so long that there's not enough people being bred into the channel from graduate schemes - and there's certainly not enough experienced people floating around in the market. There are more jobs than there are people [to fill them]," he said."Meta, Twitter and those sorts of companies were always going to make layoffs as they were over-hiring through Covid. And it's a great place for the channel to target. The channel is still thriving and recruiting and smaller partners, particularly, are doing very well. So I can see this only being a good thing that they can target these candidates and hopefully bring some talent into the industry."You can't just put out an advert and hope 50 people with experience apply. That's not going to happen anymore. So we're having to take more risks, and train from within."

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Author: Christine Horton

Publish Date: 16/11/2022 12:09

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