Melissa Mulholland Former Director, Cloud Enablement and Profitability, One Commercial Partner

The value of staying current with skills development

Person on headset at computer

This is the second of three blogs on the value of skilling. The series is designed to provide partners with information on the value of staying current on their Microsoft technical training and includes insights and best practices. The first blog, Skills development: a top priority, sets up the series with the importance of constant development in a modern partner practice. The second blog, The value of staying current with skills development, helps partners align their skills with current and planned solution sets. And the third blog, Your next great hire may already work for you, shares how upskilling existing talent can make more sense.

In the market for transformative digital services, you can’t grow faster than your capabilities allow, and the best investment you can make to future-proof your practice is to align your skills with current and planned solution sets. Technology changes with the speed of the cloud and partners and their customers find themselves playing catch-up.

According to the 2019 IT Skills and Salary Report from training partner Global Knowledge, the skills gap has increased for the third straight year with nearly 80% of the IT decision makers surveyed saying their teams lack the necessary skills. Meanwhile, the same survey revealed a puzzling lack of training support and investment, as only 59% of the IT decision makers claimed to have approved training in the past year. Changing this trend has become the biggest priority for our partner community and training existing staff has proven to be a cost-effective solution to the skills gap.

The problem gets compounded with the new career paths emerging for roles like solution architect, cloud administrator, and data scientist. And it’s not just technical roles that are changing. As the focus within IT shifts from requirements-driven, time-and-materials projects to more agile outcome-based solutions, our partners are shifting to a recurring revenue model and becoming true business partners.

So, in addition to new technical skills, transforming partners are taking a more consultative approach with an emphasis on innovation, specialization and customer impact. And this places a premium on the soft skills and domain knowledge required to demonstrate facility with a newer class of solutions. The 2018 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report found 92% of executives say that soft skills such as leadership, communication and collaboration are equally important or more important than technical skills.

It’s time to make training a strategic element of your organization’s overall business and growth strategy. We recommend continuous learning programs across the emerging digital technologies. You do that by creating an organizational learning culture marked by well-structured and proactive training and enablement plans that are aligned to your strategic business priorities.

Benefits of continuous development

In MDC Research’s June 2018 study for our Hiring and Onboarding Playbook, the executives surveyed claimed the success of their learning and development programs is best demonstrated by metrics such as employee retention, increased performance metrics and completion of training programs. In the same study, partners noted that a lack of continuous training yields retention of fewer than four years, and when employees don’t participate in offered programs, they leave in fewer than two years.

It’s no surprise that the study found lack of career advancement tied with compensation as the top contributors of employee turnover. From an HR standpoint, the newer roles provide employees an opportunity for more future-relevant career paths, and emphasizing those skills ensures that your staff is kept up to date on new capabilities and use cases, and how these apply to their specific roles. Simply put, if your employees can’t grow their careers with you, they’ll look elsewhere. But if you demonstrate a commitment to innovation, agility and a modern approach to skills development, your reputation can become one of your best recruitment assets.

To stay relevant, your ongoing recruitment and training will evolve. Business managers need to work strategically with HR on skills inventory planning and leverage data and analytics to continually assess employee strengths, identify skills gaps and develop the relevant recruiting and training programs.

The certification process is a great way to train for and verify your high-value skills. Certifications yield both on the job performance benefits and salary improvements for the individual. The 2018 Global Knowledge IT Skills and Salary Report found that certification yielded:

  • 70% improvement in on-the-job effectiveness
  • 22% (U.S.), 9% (worldwide) salary increase over non-certified staff
  • 40% who said their jobs were performed faster
  • 30% who were able to implement system efficiencies

Global testing provider Pearson VUE surveyed 10,000 certification holders across 32 certification programs in 138 countries last year and found that in addition to the benefits above, respondents also cited personal benefits such as greater self-confidence, increase job satisfaction, greater credibility among co-workers, and a greater sense of community with other credentialed professionals.

To make our certifications more relevant in a digitally transforming landscape, we’ve added new role-based certifications, along with our first specialty certification: Azure for SAP Workloads Specialty. And to help individuals preparing for certification exams find and choose the best learning approach to support their certification journey, the certifications page has migrated to Microsoft Learn. The updated user experience allows the learner to easily navigate and find free on-demand learning paths for that specific certification, as well as paid instructor-led courses. We’re also launching a new feature, collections, allowing learners to curate content to develop personalized learning plans; create and manage collections of Microsoft Learn modules and easily share them with others.

Attracting and empowering your employees is the key to your digital transformation and growth of your practice. Today, training is the most important area of employee engagement. Here are some steps for building a continuous training and development program:

Talent development to-do list