The COVID-19 pandemic is amplifying the global IT skills shortage. As companies accelerate digital transformation initiatives in order to support massive numbers of remote workers, they are finding it increasingly difficult to hire and retain employees with the skills to implement new technologies.

More than two-thirds of companies say they have been impacted by the IT skills gap, according to a new survey from the Everest Group. Organizations also expect new gaps to emerge, with 75 percent saying they expect shortages in critical skills needed to support their rapidly evolving IT environments. The skills gap is a roadblock to achieving business objectives, according to 86 percent of survey respondents.

Even if you can find qualified candidates, you may not be able to afford them. At a time when most organizations are looking to reduce costs to offset diminished revenues, the hidden costs of hiring IT professionals can be budget busters. Industry experts estimate that the annual salary represents only about 50 percent to 70 percent of the true costs for a full-time IT support engineer.

Here are some of the additional costs you can expect to incur:

  • Health, disability and life insurance
  • Legally required benefits such as unemployment insurance, Social Security, Medicare and workers’ compensation
  • Vacation days, holidays, sick days and paid personal days
  • Overtime pay, shift differentials, bonuses and other supplemental pay
  • 401(k) contributions and other retirement plans
  • Computers, phones and software

Training is another significant expense. The 2019 Training Industry Report from Training magazine found that organizations spend about $1,300 per employee on onboarding and training. IT staff typically need ongoing training to keep up with changes in technology. In addition to the cost of the training itself, which can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, IT staff must invest time to complete the coursework.

In some cases, these are simply unavoidable costs. Some organizations require one or more full-time IT professionals who can provide in-house expertise, consistent application of policies and procedures, and deep familiarity with the IT environment and your business objectives. For many requirements, however, there are more cost-effective alternatives for acquiring the skills you need.

Outsourcing IT functions to a managed services provider (MSP) can be a great way to gain access to technical expertise. The MSP can provide a wide range of services, from monitoring and routine maintenance to help desk support, security updates and more. Managed services are delivered for a predictable monthly fee, relieving you of the need to budget for salaries and benefits. Managed services also eliminate recruiting and training costs — the provider’s staff already has the skills needed to hit the ground running.

If you have in-house IT staff, a co-managed IT arrangement can be a good fit. The MSP can provide supplemental resources as your organization grows or specific expertise to complete new initiatives. You don’t have to worry about giving up too much control — best-in-class MSPs will take the time to understand your environment, processes and priorities and develop a highly customized program.

While the IT skills gap has been a problem for many years, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult than ever to obtain needed IT skills. At the same time, organizations are facing economic uncertainty that makes it difficult to justify the expense of adding IT staff. Managed services address these challenges, whether in a fully outsourced model or a co-managed IT arrangement.