The race for talent: 5 ways to retain your Azure staff

By Lina Arshad

The cloud tech ecosystem is booming. And with market intelligence firm Fact MR’s Cloud Computing Market report estimating that the market will procure $1,949bn USD and expand at a CAGR of 15% by 2032, it shows no signs of slowing down.  

The tech talent market has always been pretty competitive, with businesses often having to outbid others to secure the professionals they want—even if this means having to offer a higher salary than they initially budgeted for. But with the pandemic forcing organizations and institutions around the globe to move to remote work almost overnight, the pressure was on for cloud vendors to up the ante with their product and service offerings.  

In fact, Gartner reported that in 2021 the public cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS) grew by 41.4%, with Microsoft being among one of the five vendors that accounted for 80% of the IaaS market.  

Microsoft saw exponential growth over the past two years, reporting a massive revenue increase of $17.2bn in their FY20 Q4 earnings release. This jumped to a further $25.1bn increase in their FY21 Q4 earnings release, with a large proportion of the growth being attributed to their Intelligent Cloud platform, which they say is mainly driven by Azure and other cloud services. 

As of Q2 of 2022, Microsoft Azure accounts for 24% of the total cloud market share after growing by 40% annually, making it the second-largest cloud service provider revealed Canalys. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that the demand for Azure talent is growing simultaneously with demand for the service. But with the Great Resignation affecting the Microsoft ecosystem, and the widening skills gap creating just some of the barriers that businesses are faced with during their recruitment efforts, finding the right Azure talent is anything but simple and straightforward. 

In this blog post, we will be exploring how the race for talent is affecting the Azure ecosystem, and what your business can do to retain the great Azure professionals you already have in an overly competitive job market.   

Why is the race for talent happening? 

With the tech industry being so fast paced, it’s always been important for businesses operating in this sector to keep up with the latest developments—and that’s meant recruiting specialist talent who know the industry like the back of their hand and are the best of the best to help them to achieve this and their associated goals.  

But when the pandemic hit and a vast majority of the global population had no choice but to work remotely, pushing the demand for Azure cloud products and services, the competition for talent became even fiercer than usual. And because cloud technology was forced to accelerate far beyond its years in such a short space of time, Azure professionals had to try to keep up with the ongoing developments in the industry and prove their capabilities with them—sometimes with little experience of these behind them. This created a digital skills gap which made it harder for businesses to find the talent they actually want and need to drive their digital transformations. It was no longer a case of drawing up a job ad and including a great salary because a lot of the available talent didn’t have either the hard or soft skills needed to complete the job.  

As we got further into the pandemic, the value of digital skills increased substantially, with organizations across the globe no longer ranking the comprehension and usage of technology as a “nice-to-have”, but rather something that had to be implemented for their business to survive. And this was particularly the case for Azure products and services.  

According to our Nigel Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2021-22, 67% of  the professionals surveyed said that Microsoft Teams was the most in demand product with partners over the previous 12 months, while 37% said Enterprise Mobility and Security, which includes Microsoft Teams, was also in high demand during the same period.  

Similarly, 61% of respondents revealed that their organization had migrated to Microsoft between 2020-2021, yet just 35% of professionals claimed they had experience with Azure Migration products. This demonstrates just one example of where Azure professionals’ skills were lacking, and why you might be struggling to find Azure talent. 

As well as a digital skills gap to contend with, the race for talent is becoming even more urgent because of the Great Resignation. This was the name given to the mass influx of professionals who quit their jobs during the peak of the pandemic, either to change companies within the same industry who were more in line with their own values, or to start a career in a brand-new area including being self-employed. With desperate need to keep retain their staff, but plenty of opportunities for employees to take because of the skills gap, employers no longer had the upper hand—but now the power dynamic had shifted in favor of employees and job seekers. 

The Great Resignation sparked a movement in industries everywhere, and for tech, it meant employees and job seekers were able to shape an ecosystem they wanted to work in, and more specifically, drive successful demand for the perks and benefits employers should be offering them.  

The pandemic and its impact displaced millions of workers around the world, and this in itself caused issues. However, with tech companies needing the right talent to lead digital transformations, it’s up to these organizations to address the disconnect. But how? We’ll be exploring this in the following section. 

5 tips for retaining your Azure staff 

With recruitment becoming fiercer than ever, and a majority of the existing tech talent falling short of the skill set needed by tech organizations, it’s a good time to start thinking about utilizing your existing talent rather than grappling with external hiring and potentially bringing in someone unsuitable for your business needs.  

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that just because you have great talent on board now, it means nothing if you fail to treat them well and listen and provide for their wants and needs. Businesses who have failed to do this have already lost out, so make sure you’re not next by reading our top five tips for retaining your Azure staff. 

1. Offer flexible working arrangements

Our Nigel Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2021-22 found that for end users specifically, 37% said they would consider moving to a new role if it offered homeworking, while 22% revealed the same about flexible working hours.  

These findings are indicative of the fact that people have adjusted well to the new normal, and since the introduction of compulsory remote working for so many industries, employees have got used to—and preferred, having more control over their own schedules.  

The pandemic introduced widespread remote work and flexible working arrangements to many for the first time, so it’s unsurprising that our Careers and Hiring Guide found that only 17% of professionals would be happy with a full-time return to the office, compared to the 50% who favored a hybrid working policy. Not only will this give your employees greater flexibility with their schedules, meaning they can continue working to their new schedule they developed during the pandemic, but it means they’ll be working at times and in ways that they are most productive, which is a great bonus for you!

2. Prioritize learning and development opportunities

Nobody likes to feel stagnant in their role, and in fact, our Nigel Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2021-22 found that a lack of career and promotional prospects (41%) was the top motivator for Microsoft professionals to consider leaving a role.  

This perfectly outlines just how crucial providing learning and development opportunities is. And there are many ways you can ensure this is a pivotal part of your company’s offerings. For example, by ensuring that managers are scheduling frequent one-to-one meetings, to discuss career goals with each member of their team and creating a realistic plan with targets in place and a timeframe put on it. By providing them with the direction they need and a checklist of what they need to achieve and when in order to get them through each stage of their career plan, they’re more likely to be motivated and productive.  

Similarly, certification is a hot topic for employees working in tech—and with the landscape becoming significantly more competitive particularly for cloud tech, encouraging your employees to get certified will help prove their capabilities to your clients.  

Plus, Microsoft professionals who took part in our Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2021-22 revealed said that being certified was a great way to verify their knowledge with Azure products (55%), helps increase their efficiency within their role (46%), improves and increases industry knowledge (41%) and provides the ability to perform complex tasks more confidently (31%).  

But with just 39% of these professionals holding a Microsoft Azure certification, perhaps it’s time for you to consider encouraging this more widely. Factors reported in our Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2021-22 that professionals said would motivate them to take certifications include employer funding (51%), paid time off to attend training or to study (43%), and discounted certifications (29%). Although absorbing the cost may seem like a loss for your business, the additional skills and knowledge your employees will learn and the value they will feel from you providing these opportunities will ensure a great return on investment is made. 

3. Make a commitment to diversity and inclusion

We all want to feel heard and seen, but when we don’t see people like us represented or respected in certain places, we don’t often want to stay there for fear of feeling unwelcome. So, making sure you’re equally celebrating the social, economic, and gender groups your workforce is made up of is crucial to retaining your current staff, but can also drive new talent to your business and keep them there.

There are several ways you can improve your Azure diversity efforts, but making sure equal opportunities are on the table and that unconscious biases aren’t at play during any decision-making is the primary port of call. Shockingly, our Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2021-22 revealed 43% of Microsoft professionals hadn’t had any equality, diversity, and inclusion training in their workplace. And just over half (55%) of all respondents reported their employer providing equal pay for equal work, proving that there’s still much more employers can be doing to level the playing field for people from all backgrounds and groups. 

When it comes to tackling unconscious biases, the line can be less clear-cut as people aren’t aware that they’re having these thoughts, but rather they’ve been drilled into them by society or other close contacts. To mitigate the effects of this, it’s important that all decisions are made with other parties involved, so you can work together to assess the work and results of individuals, instead of letting biases take charge.

4. Nurture a healthy and welcoming culture

Your company culture is a key part of how your business is perceived, but sadly over time some companies have used this as an excuse to exclude certain people and groups from joining their organization. The idea of a “perfect culture fit” has polluted the recruitment process and often meant many companies are missing out on hiring great talent, for reasons to do with another person’s differences, preferences, and interests and hobbies. 

And with our Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2021-22 revealing that as much as a third of professionals would consider leaving their role for another because of a bad working environment or company culture, now is the time to do away with any idea of building a culture that has an element of force behind it. Your company culture should be created organically, by the people inside of it, rather than dictated how it should be by leadership.  

A healthy and welcoming culture happens when your employees feel valued and heard, and you can help to establish this with regular surveys or focus groups that will gain employee insight. Once you have the inside knowledge, act on it—and as quickly as possible. If your workforce has requested measures that may take some time, then keep them updated on the progress. A lack of transparency is your one-way ticket to losing your talent, and certainly doesn’t fit the definition of a healthy or welcoming culture if employees are left out of the loop or blindsided. 

5. Rethink your financial incentives

Financial incentives have and will always be important to employees and job seekers—we all have bills to pay and lives to run and working allows us to do these things while improving both our personal and professional development. And with figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting 1.2 million businesses boosted basic wages during the pandemic, if you haven’t yet offered additional financial incentives to your workforce, you could soon be seeing your retention rates dropping quite significantly.

Raising salaries can be the most expensive way of offering financial incentives, and if you aren’t in a position to do this, it’s worth noting that employees are posing an interest in other forms of monetary perks. For example, with 30% of Microsoft end users reporting that bonuses being offered by another company would be enough to make them consider leaving their current role, it’s clearly important you are thinking beyond salary when it comes to the financial aspect of contracts.  

While it might not have been as important for you to offer this previously, with research from Robert Half revealing 54% of employees were expecting a year-end bonus in 2020, and two-thirds of senior managers saying this was in their pipeline, it’s clear that this has been on the agenda for a couple of years for many other companies. So, in order to compete, you may want to consider offering some sort of bonus to reward your employees for their hard work, and to motivate them to work to keep up their great work.  

Recruiting the right talent is important, but often businesses forget to reward those who are currently within the company. Frequently asking for feedback is only part of the solution—you need to be providing solutions to their problems and concerns and doing so in a timely, transparent manner.  

Want to find out more? Our blog on attracting and retaining Microsoft Azure professionals has plenty more great advice to make your recruitment and retention efforts much more successful. Alternatively, you can visit the hiring advice section on our Nigel Frank blog for our expert tips and tricks on many other recruitment topics.

Want to discuss something with us directly? Simply fill out our contact form and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours to schedule in a no-obligation chat at a time that’s convenient for you. 

Need help attracting new Azure talent? We’re here to help.

More choice than any other agency and many candidates ready to start immediately.

Sign up for Microsoft Azure and Dynamics tips

Get the latest Microsoft Azure and Dynamics news and advice delivered straight to your inbox

We'd love to send you Microsoft career insights and tips by email, phone or other electronic means. We will never share your data with unauthorized third-party organisations.