Evolving Workforces

Diverse Hiring in a Job-Rich, Candidate-Short Market

Lessons from a Live Data Center

August 9, 2021 4 Minute Read


CBRE has created a bespoke global assessment and selection tool focused on critical behaviors for success for all technical non-management hiring. This tool has enabled us to create candidate pipelines from alternative sectors and markets, giving us a broader talent pool and ensuring globally consistent recruitment standards. We found a correlation between high scores and high performance—people who perform well on the survey succeed in our data center practice. We are able to bring in diverse candidates from other sectors or from other types of roles within the data center industry, which has increased gender and ethnic diversity as well as diversity of thought.

Current state of the industry: Despite a year with real challenges—such as getting construction teams and M&E equipment on site—there has been steady growth within the data center industry. Even with increased market demand, the industry still a lack of diversity—from gender to ethnic to generational.

Growth: Looking to 2021 and beyond, a huge amount of new data center supply will enter the market, which will have a constraint on skills. Campus expansion, higher density builds, the introduction of build-to-suit, growing investment and new data center hubs have all increased demand for data centers. For example, in the FLAP (Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Paris) markets, which we use as the bellwether, getting access to skills is challenging. Forecasting 2021’s numbers, the FLAP markets already have 415 Mw of new supply coming online, making this a record year and bringing these four markets to more than 2000 Mw of total supply.

What this means for diverse talent: As this growth continues, the data center market will face further talent constraint. According to a two-year study by The Uptime Institute, data center staff requirements are expected to rise from 2 million globally in 2019 to 2.3 million by 2025.

While ethnic and gender diversity can begin to be improved upon with new hires and those transitioning from other industries, further strategies need to be in place to attract and retain diverse talent. Additionally, with over 50% of the workforce due to retire in the next decade, generational diversity is pertinent to upskill talent and to backfill roles.

Additional talent pressures: In addition to hiring diverse candidates, there are other hiring challenges. For example, data center markets are either very mature and saturated—making recruiting very competitive—or in remote locations with limited talent pools.

Without an awareness of the data center sector, talent may not know that the industry exists. Particularly for entry level or career transition candidates, there is a lack of academic courses that funnel employees to the data center sector. Poaching employees from one data center firm to another is not sustainable, as there are not enough people and this will not create a more diverse talent pool.

Solutions: While there are still many challenges to overcome, there are a variety of multifaceted solutions:

  • Review job descriptions to make sure they are not gender- or race-based.
  • Ensure diversity is represented in both interview and interviewee panels. 
  • Maintain the same processes for referred candidates as outside candidates, given that referred data center candidates are typically not diverse.
  • Remove questions around current salary in interview process to minimize pay gaps. 
  • Move away from metrics such as time-to-hire, as diverse candidates usually take longer to hire.
  • Hire more people than necessary to ensure future success. 
  • Focus on training current and future employees to set them up for growth and success.

Long term/big picture thoughts: As increased global demand in the data center sector continues to add pressure to this job-rich, candidate-short market, investing in diverse candidates is crucial for the business. The processes described above will help ensure diverse candidates are successfully able to transfer to another sector and utilize their tools, training and work experience in a new way.

The Global Leader in Data Center Operations

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