Aviation is the latest industry of many experiencing hiring headaches and labor shortages in the wake of the Great Resignation. Understaffed airlines are offering passengers $10,000 to step off overbooked planes and throwing pizza parties as consolation for canceled flights. Airline management is scrambling to keep operations running with a dwindling and overstretched workforce, which has hit pilots especially hard; some models anticipate a shortage of almost 30,000 pilots in North America by 2032.  

Airlines aren't the only ones feeling the heat, however, and their very public struggles this summer should serve as a warning sign to other industries. There is another highly skilled labor force that has been particularly impacted by the pandemic, and it exists inside almost every company: IT. Business leaders have to wonder -- will IT be the next industry to succumb to a costly labor shortage? Because the best pizza in the world isn't going to cut it when a cybersecurity event is on the horizon and there's no one around to stop it.

Since the shift to an all-remote and hybrid workforce, IT professionals are feeling the pressure more than ever. According to recent data, 76 percent of IT decision-makers at small and midsize businesses (SMBs) said that the workload of IT workers has increased because of the adoption of flexible work models, with 43 percent agreeing that IT jobs have become more difficult -- largely owing to underperforming software and tools.

Given how vital IT teams are to maintaining consistent and secure operations at small businesses, leaders should act now to ensure that they don't suffer during the next labor crisis. The key is attracting, retaining, and upskilling talent by leveraging the right tools and IT infrastructure to set them up for success.  

Attract

The interview process is a two-way street. It's an opportunity for an employer to get to know a candidate as as well as for the candidate to test the employer. When leaders are on the hunt to fill gaps in their IT team, they must demonstrate that their IT infrastructure is sound and will provide all IT team members with the support and tools they need to do their job well. 

It's also important to recognize that IT workers are more than technology and problem solvers. They're people, too. Without an inclusive and people-centric workplace culture and policies that offer all employees autonomy, it will be difficult to attract top talent. With a dwindling number of qualified candidates, it's never been harder to attract IT talent -- making the benefits package and culture more important than ever. Leaders need to understand what's important to IT talent and address it, or they'll risk falling behind. 

Retain

Once teams have attracted the best talent, leaders' next challenge is to keep them -- especially during these unpredictable times, when 40 percent of workers are considering quitting their jobs soon. The secret: Invest in technology that enhances their work, limits tedious tasks, and frees up time for innovation. The proper tools and resources are critical for leaders to win in the current war of attrition. To best support and empower employees, tech needs to be a top priority and investment for SMBs.

Automation and A.I. software give busy IT teams the respite they need from monotonous upkeep and tasks that add little or no value to the company. Automated scripts, for example, can speed software installation and patches, complete repetitive functions like file batch distribution, and complete complex custom workflows and OS updates. Entrusting these tasks to IT automation software can even boost the reliability of your IT infrastructure. When implemented properly, automation software rarely makes mistakes, it never gets tired or bored, and it monitors operations 24/7. 

Automation, however, is a scary term for many small businesses. For smaller companies that pride themselves on their human connections -- with customers and among employees -- decision-makers may shy away from automating processes. But right now, highly skilled IT professionals are more in demand than ever, and therefore their time is more valuable than ever. Delegating simple tasks to automation will free up personnel to complete value-add tasks and human interactions that automation could never replicate. By investing in the right technologies to support IT, businesses can streamline workflows, consolidate tech stacks, and improve ROI to keep tech teams happy and productive. 

Upskill

Upskilling IT employees lets them know that leadership is future-proofing their organization and that the company is sustainable for the long haul. Technology is evolving at lightning speed, so it's key for leaders to create a culture of innovation and expose and train IT teams with the newest tools. Leaders should also consider paying for outside IT team training and advanced certifications to demonstrate their commitment to their professional development.

Upskilling offers a dual benefit to organizations, because a qualified IT team with a wide breadth of expertise is better able to respond to not only everyday troubleshooting sessions but also large-scale network issues. For example, cybercriminals are evolving new schemes almost as quickly as new technologies emerge to defend against them. An engaged, knowledgeable, and fully staffed IT team is needed to defend businesses against threats and perform recovery if the network goes down. An exceptional IT team can even get ahead of these incidents, mitigating risks and safeguarding tools to prevent attacks before they arise. 

The Right Technology Is the Key to Productive Teams

For SMBs and IT teams to remain resilient in the face of worker shortages and the looming economic downturn, they must be equipped with the best technology to address daily tasks and anticipate future challenges. Given the exorbitant price and effort attached to hiring new talent, it behooves leaders to invest in the tools that will support their IT team and allow room for growth.