January 29, 2021

Maximize your workforce skilling plan with these resources

By David Totten

A woman sitting down with a laptop in her lap.

In the always-changing tech sector, we know that what we do today impacts our opportunities for tomorrow. Microsoft has found that a partner’s ability to adapt quickly to meet the changing needs of customers determines their share of business, and central to this is workforce skilling. It can be a challenge to justify taking employees away from their work to participate in skilling, but partners who invest in and incentivize continuous learning are best positioned to act on emerging business.

To help our partners launch effective and efficient skilling initiatives, we’ve put together key ways any partner can jump in at any phase, with additional curated skilling opportunities. We’ll take a look at these as well as the story of BlueGranite, a partner who has made an art out of workforce skilling.

Design a skilling plan with a purpose

Every organization’s skilling needs will be different, but to help you jumpstart a successful skilling initiative for your workforce, Microsoft has designed a phased framework and provided learning opportunities for each step of the way. This four-phased approach provides an easy starting point for anyone, no matter where you are on your journey.

Phase 1: Jumpstart

Get your entire team familiar with the skill-building opportunities on Microsoft Learn with a little friendly competition. Join the Cloud Skills Challenge to jumpstart your team’s passion for growth.

Phase 2: Fundamentals

Take learning to the next level with role-based and solution-based learning. Learn about a specific task or explore a chosen topic in-depth with self-paced learning paths and snack-sized modules. Explore learning paths on Microsoft Learn.

Phase 3: Role-Based Certifications

Role-based certifications enrich your team with in-demand skills and demonstrate technical proficiency to customers and partners. Learn more about the value of role-based certifications in this blog post and discover certification paths for different roles on Microsoft Learn.

Phase 4: Specialty Certification for Advanced Workloads

The pinnacle of skilling is to become an expert in high-demand, solution-specific workloads, which set you apart in your ability to successfully implement advanced workloads. Browse specialty certifications on Microsoft Learn.

Power continuous learning with Microsoft

Once your team has been initiated through the Cloud Skills Challenge, ensure a skilling plan is in place to build momentum and nurture a culture of learning throughout your workforce. Microsoft curates countless learning opportunities to incorporate in each step of your skilling plan, including:

  • Events – The Microsoft US Partner Community events calendar is packed with free, online events to help partners become familiar with or dive deeper into fundamental topics important for your business. Explore upcoming events.
  • Digital skilling – Explore free, on-demand training for any level through learning modules, learning paths, and certification courses available through Microsoft Learn.
  • Instructor-led trainings – Join live virtual classes led by Microsoft trainers and learning partners available through Microsoft Learn.
  • Certifications – Validate knowledge by making in-depth certifications a part of your skilling path using Microsoft Learn.

With the four-phase framework above and these resources as your starting point, you’re ready to design a skilling path that empowers your workforce to learn relevant skills and reach goals faster. There are multiple ways to approach the topic of skilling. BlueGranite provides a great example of how a commitment to skilling and a plan can make a huge impact on your business.

BlueGranite’s bold skilling initiative empowers team to realize bold wins for customers

Microsoft partner BlueGranite made a groundbreaking investment in skilling when they made the decision to become a “cloud first” – and eventually “cloud only” – company. A multi-year skilling initiative formed the foundation of their roadmap and has positively impacted the company at every level: employees are constantly learning, their organization is more resilient, and their depth of knowledge attracts business.

Three pillars define BlueGranite’s skilling initiative: a dedicated budget for employee development, a skilling dashboard, and a formal coaching and mentoring program.

See David Totten’s 3 Questions interview with Matthew Mace, President of BlueGranite, below:

The company put their full weight behind the new initiative by allocating each team member a time and financial budget to spend on learning. They make a point to send employees to Microsoft trainings, send delegations to Microsoft events such as Ignite, Business Applications Summit, and PASS Summit, and they strongly encourage participation in partner-offered programs as well.

To help their team members pursue growth with purpose, BlueGranite has developed an Azure application called Craftable to help consultants set and track their learning plans, skills, and excitement, and surfaces the data in a set of Power BI visualizations. The application and insights empower team members to take ownership over their growth plan, showcase skills, identify ones they are interested in developing, and keep tabs on their progress on over 400 skilling areas from technical skills to engagement, brand, or account leadership. The Operations team provides project opportunities for team members based on the skills they’re excited about. In addition, they can road test new knowledge in-house by writing blog posts or hosting internal webinars before taking it to clients.

An individualized coaching program complements these learning opportunities and the skilling dashboard by pairing employees with mentors. Mentors help employees identify their role as part of the BlueGranite team, assess performance, and define focus areas for growth.

BlueGranite’s company-wide growth mentality rests on the understanding that learning a new technology is always okay, no matter where you are in your career. Employees across business areas and levels are commonly found in the same trainings or virtual courses, learning side-by-side. This always-learning culture carries over to the way teams approach customer relationships. When one customer asked for an on-premise data warehouse solution, the team saw this as an opportunity to educate. They offered an ADS workshop to help the customer grasp the advantages of migrating to the cloud. Since committing to Azure, BlueGranite’s business volume has doubled as new and existing customers have adopted new technology for data and AI. Customers want to innovate, and the more technologically fluent team members are, the faster they solve problems together.

Now, as the market experiences widespread uncertainty and an urgent need for transformation simultaneously, BlueGranite’s established growth mindset leaves them well-positioned to support customers and preserve their business.

The journey to create a culture of growth in your organization starts with making time, committing funds, and putting in the effort to energize your team today. Microsoft makes it easy to plug your plan into our phased skilling framework and find learning opportunities for everyone.

Start with a Challenge!

The Microsoft Cloud Skills Challenge is a great catalyst to get your team learning. This learning challenge takes all the self-paced, interactive learning paths of Microsoft Learn and adds an element of friendly competition to drive skilling.

Learn more about the Microsoft Cloud Skills Challenge.

An investment in skilling today will reap dividends tomorrow. Whatever your starting point, use the phased framework  to jump in and begin shaping your culture of continuous growth.

Next steps to craft your skilling plan

Take the next step in your growth journey by crafting your skilling plan. Explore these options:

  • Browse online skilling opportunities on our Microsoft US Partner events calendar
  • Explore digital learning paths and certifications on Microsoft Learn



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