Solving the technical skills gap continues to be one of the greatest challenges for our partners, and I’m delighted to announce the availability of new partner assets to help navigate this competitive landscape, including the much-anticipated Microsoft Practice Development Playbook: Recruit, Hire, Onboard, and Retain Talent. The playbook is a core element of our new Partner Skills Initiative that was created to provide you with best practices, tools, simplified learning options, and ongoing support to ensure your current employees have the right skills as well as to recruit top talent required to work on high-demand cloud engagements. To support this initiative, we’ve gathered insights, strategies, and best practices from 735 partners around the world. And, we’ve found that partners who invest in the emerging skillsets and business processes through hiring and training initiatives are finding their talent development has become a key enabler of digital transformation. But you likely already know the difficulties in attracting individuals skilled in emerging cloud technologies. In our partner survey, over half the respondents cited hiring technical cloud service talent as a challenge, with 69 percent reporting a lack of qualified candidates, and 70 percent indicating attracting new talent as top challenges.

 

“As the technologies have become more complex, we have had to get faster at the recruitment/hiring process and take some risks. The types of candidates we need are snapped up so quickly that we must be very agile.”

 

Likewise, in the 2018 Global Knowledge IT Skills and Salary Report, 68 percent of IT teams report facing a shortage of skills and cite everything from an inability to attract and competitively compensate qualified candidates to a lack of investment in skills development and ineffective training programs.

But we also found in developing this playbook that technical roles are rapidly evolving, and partners are not always hiring and developing strategic skills that map to current and future service offerings.

Evolution of roles

With the cloud and innovative intelligent technologies, new career paths have emerged for roles like solution architect, cloud administrator, and data scientist. And these technical roles have crossed over to business processes. As the sales narratives for digital opportunities begin to shift from “why” and “what” to “how,” the sales process evolves to be more consultative and accountable for the end-to-end cloud deployment experience, including technical scenario definitions, architectural design, technical demo proof of concepts, pilots, and customer enablement.

That’s why skills development needs to be a priority for your practice—if your employees can’t grow their skills with you, they’ll grow them elsewhere. But in our partner survey, just over half of the respondents allocate less than 10 percent of employee time to ongoing learning/professional development.

We provide role definitions in the playbook for these and dozens of more positions, and the likely career paths for developing and retaining employees with these emerging skills. We also provide resource mappings for Microsoft cloud practices with the number of people based on roles needed and practice size.

Learning programs and retention

Our Hiring and Onboarding Study by MDC Research indicates that most partners (77 percent) lack an internal training department. Most (85 percent) have a strategy to train technical staff on cloud technologies, but the majority (72 percent) relies on self-study. We encourage you to establish continuous learning programs across emerging digital technologies to ensure that your staff is kept up to date on new capabilities and use cases. In the same study, partners noted that a lack of continuous training yields retention of fewer than 4 years, and when employees don’t participate in offered programs, they leave in fewer than 2 years.

To that end, we are investing in new guided programs to help partners elevate their transformation capabilities.

Training portal and skills assessment

As part of the Partner Skills Initiative, we’re expanding our partner training resources with a new Training Center Portal that offers new role-based learning paths with curated training recommendations based on technical role, skill level, and solutions being developed.

And to help you determine the next steps to increase your technical proficiencies and extend your opportunities, we’re providing a Transformation Readiness Assessment to help you map your resources and investments against solution areas and workloads. The assessment covers cloud business and technical capabilities, and how well your business model maps to solution areas.

We’ve developed an index to score your current capabilities and recommend resources to help continue your business growth.

Competition for talent is fierce, and having a continuous process of assessing your skills and attracting, hiring, onboarding, and developing the needed talent can be the difference maker for growing your practice. Please use these tools for new insights on successful strategies and to get recommendations for next steps in supporting your customers in a digitally transforming world.