5 reasons why you’re struggling to find Azure talent right now

By Lina Arshad

It’s no secret that the tech industry has been greatly disrupted by the pandemic. While some of this turmoil has been positive—for example the rapid acceleration of crucial technology that means we’re years ahead in advancements than we thought we would be—some of it has inhibited the smooth running of the tech landscape.  

With organizations and institutions being forced to move online practically overnight, the pressure was on for cloud vendors like Microsoft to step up their product and service offerings and help keep businesses afloat. This resulted in exponential growth for Microsoft throughout the whole of the business, but their cloud computing sector saw a special period of growth, with the Microsoft FY22 Q2 earnings release revealing a 29% increase in their server products and cloud services, which was driven by Azure.  

And considering many key remote working tools and applications, including Microsoft Teams, are run on Azure, perhaps that’s unsurprising. But in providing businesses, institutions, schools, and many more pivotal services with the software they needed to carry on throughout the pandemic, Azure experienced a huge period of growth—Microsoft revealed in its FY21 Q2 earnings release that Azure had already grown by 50% by January 2021, which marked its second quarter of acceleration during the peak of the pandemic.  

While this has been promising for the tech giant, where there’s a want for a service, there’s a want for talent who can drive it forward and help with digital transformations. And you may have found yourself falling into the trap of believing that because tech is such a booming and lucrative industry, that the Azure talent you need wouldn’t be few and far between—but the effects of the pandemic have certainly laid forward some obstacles you’re likely to be facing now in terms of hiring Azure talent. 

In this blog, we will be taking a deeper look at how the pandemic has affected the Azure industry and explaining 5 reasons why you may be struggling to find Azure talent right now.  

How has Azure been affected by the pandemic? 

Demand for Azure during the pandemic was something Microsoft could never have predicted for, with the demand for server products and cloud services revenue up by 30% as reported in the tech giant’s FY20 Q2 earnings release, with this being mainly driven by the 62% revenue growth of Azure.  

This unprecedented demand meant that businesses everywhere were desperately searching for Azure professionals who are confident and proficient in using the service, and who were not only able to carry out migrations and integrations to Azure but also solve any issues efficiently to keep their organization afloat. 

Talent in tech has always been extremely competitive, and with the Great Resignation affecting the Microsoft ecosystem and contributing an additional barrier to finding talent, employers have had to become even more attuned to the wants and needs of both potential candidates and their current staff, or risk losing out on these to other companies. More specifically, the perks and benefits that Azure professionals want changed substantially throughout the pandemic, and businesses had to adjust or risk losing their current and future talent.  

Similarly, the rate at which Azure and its applications were having to advance at meant that professionals already working with it were certainly feeling the pressure to develop their skills even more—and in record time, too! But learning takes time, certifications take time, and more often than not, IT workers learn by having a go and making mistakes. In fact, when asked in our Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2021-22, 55% of Microsoft professionals prefer to learn with on-the-job training, with 54% saying they learn best with hands-on labs. But when the economy was so fragile and volatile, there was no room for mistakes, and many in-person training sessions were halted, so talent was feeling even more squeezed than usual.  

The rush for professionals to keep up with cloud advancements has resulted in an Azure skills gap, where the skill set of current professionals doesn’t quite match up to what is needed in the new business world. This is making it increasingly difficult for employers to find talent who have exactly what they need and who fits their essential criteria. And we found this to be true in our Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2021-22 with 59% of organizations expressing that the top reason for implementation issues have been down to having a lack of appropriate skills internally. 

It should be clear by now that Azure has been heavily impacted by the pandemic and the pressures to find talent that can help businesses navigate their digital transformations and help them to survive the volatile economic climate are continuing to mount up. But how can we tackle this? We explore the reasonings for the talent gap in closer detail in the next section, as well as providing you with advice.  

5 reasons why you’re struggling to find Azure talent right now 

The first step to solving any problem is to understand the root of the issue. Once you know more about its origins, you can then begin hatching a plan to solve it. Here are 5 reasons why finding Azure talent in the current ecosystem might not be as plain sailing as it used to be:

1. Microsoft professionals are leaving the ecosystem

The Great Resignation affected industries everywhere, and Microsoft professionals were similarly impacted by this. The industry was already booming, but with extra pressure to develop their skillset in such a short space of time, and the market for talent becoming even more competitive to find jobs in, it’s no surprise that some of the Azure talent that was previously available to you, won’t even exist in the ecosystem anymore.

The pandemic shone a light on the things that truly mattered to professionals across the globe and saw many professionals upping and leaving their current roles to branch out into something they’d always dreamt of doing. This included turning their hobbies into full-time jobs or changing companies because their employer wasn’t meeting their expectations anymore. 

Microsoft professionals who participated in our Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2021-22 claimed that some of their top motivators for leaving a job in the industry for another was down to a lack of career and promotional prospects (41%), to undertake new challenges (32%), and feeling over-worked and over-stressed (22%). What all these factors have in common is that they could be prevented if businesses listen and respond to their employees’ wants and needs before they felt burnt out and underappreciated and shows just how important it is to reward your staff and give them chances to build on their skills and try new things.  

2. You’re not offering the right perks and benefits

In such a competitive job market, the perks and benefits offered by a company are everything when trying to attract and retain great Azure talent. 

Although pay remained to play an important role in whether a job offer was accepted or not, we saw a much more defined focus on well-being and health initiatives around the globe. In fact, our Nigel Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2021-22 found that 8% of Microsoft professionals actually took a pay decrease when they last changed jobs, with common reasoning being for a better company culture (25%), and for a better work-life balance (21%), highlighting just how crucial these things are to the modern workforce. 

Perks to fit in with this sudden shift in benefit expectations included things like health and medical insurance, life insurance, and retirement savings plans which give staff greater peace of mind about their health. Some businesses also offered subsidized gym memberships, eye tests, and provided their remote workers with vouchers and budgets for investing in suitable office equipment that was comfortable and supportive.  

Need further inspiration for your perks package? We’ve pulled together some advice on the top 5 benefits all employers should be offering, so, you know how to adjust your benefits package in a way that’ll make a difference.

3. You haven’t implemented flexible working arrangements

It’s no secret that the message to work from home sparked a movement within the modern workforce as they enjoyed the added flexibility it gave to their life, and the knock-on positive effect it had on their work-life balance. And while some employers were keen to get back to office life, for many Americans, the option to continue working remotely was, and still is, incredibly appealing. McKinsey’s American Opportunity Survey found that 58% of US workers were allowed to work from home at least one day a week as of Spring 2022, while 35% have the option to work from home full-time. What’s more, the research revealed that when given the opportunity to work flexibly, 87% of them take it.

Further to this, the results from our Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2021-22 revealed that the number of Microsoft professionals able to work remotely prior to COVID-19 jumped from 15% to 74% during the pandemic—and 19% of respondents reported that they would be motivated to leave a job if it didn’t offer remote work.  

Of course, it’s not as clear-cut for some businesses to switch to a complete remote arrangement. And according to research from Gallup’s Future of Hybrid Work report, full remote work isn’t always what best suits. The report describes how hybrid work schedules are by far the preferred work arrangement with 59% of employees saying they would prefer a hybrid work policy compared to the 32% who said they would want to work remotely all the time.  

4. You’re not prioritizing diversity and inclusion in your recruitment practices

Millennials and Gen Z are driving the modern workforce, adding extra pressure to businesses to match their morals and values—and those companies that don’t, risk losing out on freshly trained talent.  

These age demographics are the most diverse generations in history, with at least half identifying as BIPOC according to YPulse’s Representation in Action Trend report. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that Glassdoor’s Diversity and Inclusion Workplace survey revealed that more than 3 in 4 employees and job seekers report a diverse workforce as an important factor when they’re considering joining a company. And that means seeing evidence of how the values a business says it has matches up to the way their organization is filled and run, not just from performative diversity statements with no action behind them.  

If you feel like you could be doing more to improve diversity in your company, the good news is that even the smallest of changes can make the biggest of differences when it comes to your ED&I efforts. For example, offering remote work is something that doesn’t cost you anything extra—in fact, it could even bring down your office bills, but it can certainly help to widen the net and increase your candidate pool if candidates aren’t being limited to having to be from, or to be able to travel to a certain area. By welcoming talent from other corners of the world, you automatically help to improve diversity in the Azure ecosystem and within your teams.  

Diversity doesn’t just include people from different backgrounds though, but for industries like tech which are often male dominated, it also means encouraging women and people with disabilities and neurodiversities to join and empowering them. We tend to go where we see others like us being welcomed, so by giving these underrepresented groups the opportunity to progress—and being vocal about their achievements within your business, you can unlock hidden Azure talent that your competition might be missing as well.  

Not only is being inclusive the right thing to be, but it’s also worth noting that diverse teams bring different perspectives to situations and therefore tend to be more innovative and successful according to research reported in Forbes.  

5. You aren’t providing enough learning and development opportunities

Not many people work with the intention to stay at the same stage of their career all their life—most of us want to progress. But when an organization is holding employees back from doing so, this is when the trouble starts, especially when finding your talent in the first place may have been a tricky thing to do in the current job market.

With the World Economic Forum predicting that Gen Z will account for 30% of the workforce by 2025, it’s important that as an employer you’re tapping into the wants of what could be one of—if not the largest age group represented within your teams. In particular, this age group is prioritizing jobs where they can expand their skills and broaden their experience, so frequent learning and development is going to be crucial to attracting and retaining younger Azure talent.  

Our Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2021-22 also found that of the end users that responded to our survey, 76% of them would consider moving to join a Partner firm if there was the opportunity to expand on skills, knowledge and experience with Microsoft products. So, it’s imperative that you’re offering these chances to develop and shouting about them to attract and retain your Azure staff.  

The demand and supply of Azure workers isn’t adding up. And while some of that seems to be out of our hands, as an employer, there are many things you can be doing to make your business stand out in the competitive job market and win over the available talent. Hopefully the tips in this article have given you some food for thought about what it is you can be improving on to attract Azure talent to your organization and keep them there. 

Found this article useful? We have plenty of great hiring advice on our Nigel Frank blog for you to explore.  

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