​​​One of great challenges of our industry today is the talent shortage. As I travel the world, this seems to be a prolific and powerful inhibitor of growth for partners of all types and sizes. Sadly, the economic crisis forced a huge amount of people out of their jobs. As they searched for work, many turned to the technology sector, but found their skill sets weren’t suited to the industry. Newly minted college graduates are often eager to start a career in technology as well, but many lack the skills to deliver immediate value. The investment required to train these new resources is substantial—whether it be to develop technical or sales acumen. Microsoft recognizes the value of this investment and the imperative to expand your talent base. After all, it makes sense for your business and ours. Our partner teams across the globe are developing creative solutions to recognize talent and build the future workforce. We’re partnering with government and other organizations to provide recruitment and training events to identify and educate people who can contribute to the success of our partner organizations. A great example of such innovation is the Super Salesman (and woman) Program recently launched by our India team.


India, like many countries, is suffering from a painful shortage of top sales talent. Our LARs, VARs, Distis and Solution Partners are competing for a small pool of qualified technical salespeople, which has hampered their respective growth. Neeru Ahuja, our India Partner Skills Development Manager, has worked with a number of partners to develop a training program to skill newly hired resources and strengthen the knowledge of existing sales staff. Recognizing that time away from selling is a costly proposition, the Super Salesman Program begins with self-paced learning, leveraging the digital courses in the Partner Learning Center on MPN, then progressing to classroom learning laboratories. The program helps to impart functional sales and product knowledge as well as behavioral skills: negotiation skills, objection handling and relationship management. In a growth market like India, sufficient skilled sales capacity will define which partners are able to capitalize on the rich opportunities of this market. We are excited and proud to be helping build the next generation of super salesmen and women in India.

The most valuable asset of any company in today’s economy just might be its top talent. But is investing to skill up your resources a wise investment if that talent can walk out the door and down the street to your competitor? This is the most common concern I hear from partners across Asia when discussing the imperative of investing in skills development. Executives at partner organizations big and small, are terrified of increasing the capabilities of sales and technical staff and thereby increasing their employees’ market value and attractiveness to competitors. In short, it would seem we are paralyzed by the syndrome of if you build them, they will leave. (All apologies to the excellent film, Field of Dreams.)
This is a valid concern, and one with sufficient evidence to support the fears. However, constraining your business growth due to a fear of talent migration is a little bit like never taking that dream vacation for fear of inclement weather. The companies that win will be those that bet big and invest in their people, despite the risks. Success and growth for your company as a whole means greater opportunities for your top talent, so while the flight risk is present, the return on investment accrues to your salespeople as it does your organization. So it’s better to invest and lose a few than to limit your organization’s potential. Additionally, top talent expects, as a condition of employment, investment in strengthening their skills and acumen to accelerate their career growth and advancement within your organization. So the flight risk is just as great a consequence of not investing in your top talent as it is when the investment is made.
It’s also important to note that the root cause of talent flight may not be solely owing to the development of employees. Sometimes we have to look within and ask ourselves if it has something to with our hiring criteria.  Top talent possess not only superior skills, but a passion for the business—your business.  Fast Company recently published an article about how to win the talent war and how to hire for success. The article acknowledges the flight risk, but suggests that devising strong hiring criteria that identify candidates with great passion and dedication may be the surest way to mitigate the risk of training your competitors’ future hires. If you’ve hired the right people, it is their passion for the business that inoculates them from the temptations of your competition. The surest way to grow your business and retain your stars is to hire wisely, invest in their growth, and build a passionate army of super salesmen and women. 
If you’re ready to start developing sales superheroes in your own organization, take a look at the Microsoft Partner Network Learning Center for a structured set of sales and technical curricula covering the breadth of our solutions. And, like India, most of our subsidiaries have developed local programs to help partners train new resources and expand the skills of existing sales and technical resources. As we approach a new fiscal year, it’s an ideal time to build your training goals with your PAM, who can help assemble the right resources and identify the programs and events that address your goals.  
Another great way to accelerate your readiness for next fiscal year is attending the Worldwide Partner Conference, which kicks off July 8. This year’s conference will give you a preview of the amazing opportunities that will be generated by forthcoming product launches. Over four days, we’ll deliver 26 tracks and over 200 sessions. You’ll enjoy products and solution previews, as well as our Solution Innovation Center with over 20 teams from Microsoft’s product groups. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to see over 140 exhibitors, attend sessions with industry experts, get key sales training tips, and last but not least, take advantage of the opportunity to network with more than 15,000 of your industry peers. 
Do you have input on how we can help you address your talent needs? I would love to hear them. Find me on WPC Connect or Twitter.