The data center industry is at a critical point as it faces staggering growth with the continual introduction of new artificial intelligence (AI) applications that require significant compute power.

As demand for data center services skyrockets, so does the need for a skilled workforce to efficiently operate these facilities. Industry projections display a surge in demand for data center employees, particularly in AI and high-performance computing (HPC).

At Dell Technologies World 2024, Dell’s COO, Jeff Clarke, highlighted a pivotal industry shift. By 2026, generative AI data centers are expected to surpass traditional data centers, constituting 75 percent of all data center demand by the end of the decade. By 2030, the industry will need 390GW for AI data centers and 130GW for traditional data centers. This growth highlights the critical need for skilled professionals to manage and innovate within these expanding infrastructures.

There are several factors that contribute to labor shortages in the data center industry. These include specialized skill requirements, the rapid pace of technological advancements, and the increasing complexity of data center operations. Addressing these shortages is essential for continued growth, innovation, and meeting future demands.

To attract and retain talent in a competitive landscape, data center companies must adopt a multifaceted approach. Here are some of the key strategies we employ at Applied Digital:

Invest in your workers

Offering employees competitive salaries and benefits packages is at the heart of ensuring they feel supported. This should primarily include comprehensive benefits packages, including health insurance, retirement plans, and performance bonuses. Performance-based compensation, such as stock options or profit-sharing plans, can also make positions at your data center more appealing.

It’s also instrumental to establish clear career paths and offer regular training programs to retain talent. Certification programs, workshops, and partnerships with educational institutions, along with mentorship programs, foster a growth-oriented environment for those looking to take on more high-skilled roles. Encouraging continuous learning and supporting further education plays a critical role in enhancing employee satisfaction and loyalty.

When it comes to new hires, having a robust onboarding program sets your employees up for success, integrating them into the company culture and providing clear job expectations. Effective onboarding can significantly impact employee retention and including mentorship and buddy systems in the onboarding process can also help new employees feel more connected and supported in your organization.

Furthermore, rather than looking to hire individuals from outside of your organization into higher roles, recognizing and rewarding hard work with career advancement opportunities within your company boosts morale and loyalty. Creating a transparent promotion process ensures employees see a future with the company. Celebrating employee achievements and milestones publicly can also motivate staff and build a strong internal community.

Understand and integrate with local communities

While data center developers select smaller and rural regions to build data centers, it’s important to enter the community and show them what benefits your data center will bring to the community. While building this trust, you can open new options for expansion and provide unexpected value to communities that can become one of your biggest assets. Engaging in local events, investing in local universities, supporting local initiatives, and building relationships with community leaders is a great start, but getting involved in what really matters to these unique communities will make the biggest difference.

Promote employee well-being

Investing in employee wellbeing programs, including mental health resources and wellness initiatives, leads to happier, more productive employees. Companies that care about their employees’ overall health attract and retain more talent. Regular wellness challenges, access to fitness facilities, and healthy workplace initiatives can promote a culture of health and well-being.

Offering employees flexible shift options and encouraging time off can also help to reduce burnout and increase job satisfaction, while supporting employees' personal lives, companies will likely see higher retention rates. Implementing initiatives such as wellness programs, mental health support, and family-friendly policies can further enhance employee well-being.

Additionally, a positive company culture that fosters collaboration, respect, and inclusivity can also have a significant impact on employee well-being. Regular team-building activities and a focus on diversity and inclusion support can create a welcoming environment where employees feel valued and respected. Cultivating a culture of innovation and open communication can inspire employees to contribute their best ideas and efforts as well.

Finally, it's also important to make sure you solicit regular feedback and act on these insights to demonstrate your company’s commitment to continuous improvement. Creating forums for open dialogue and using surveys or suggestion boxes can help gather valuable insights. Addressing feedback promptly and transparently also shows employees that their voices are heard and valued.