Microsoft Talent Acquisition: Should you invest in early careers programs or re-skilling?

Looking to hire Microsoft professionals? Then you’re probably well aware how challenging the tech talent market is right now.

Businesses that are aiming to modernize processes by implementing tools like Microsoft Azure or Dynamics 365 are finding it far easier to access the right platforms than to find the talent they need to implement them. Thanks to the explosion in digital transformation rates, new cloud opportunities are being created faster than new professionals can enter the industry to fill them. It’s a classic supply and demand issue; one that has potentially dire consequences for companies that can’t find the right skills.

Not only does a lack of digital skills make it impossible for businesses to generate ROI from their cloud platforms, it can also create an even larger financial sinkhole due to staff training and turnover costs. Recent research found that 76% of IT decision makers were facing a talent shortage. This dearth of valuable skills was cited by tech executives as their biggest barrier to adopting 64% of emerging technologies. In 2020, that number was just 4%.

Given these startling stats, an increasing number of organizations are realizing that fighting over candidates from tech’s limited talent pool is not a sustainable solution to the skills shortage. As the industry seeks to solve its greatest challenge before it derails digital progress any further, businesses are looking beyond traditional hiring strategies and thinking about how to develop talent, rather than obtain it.

Focusing on creating new talent internally by investing in the development of staff you already have is a great way to build the skills you need in your tech team. But when it comes to upskilling, there’s more than one way to crack an egg. There are a range of approaches organizations can take when developing their in-house talent pipeline; early careers programs and re-skilling are two of the most common and most effective. But which one is the best bet for your business? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of these models across five key areas to help you make the right choice.

Early careers schemes

Early careers schemes take talent that’s new to the job market, in the early stages of their careers, and help them develop new skills on the job. The most popular early careers schemes tend to be graduate programs that place freshly graduated students into entry-level roles and offer support and training along the way.

Most graduate schemes last around two years, and graduates are often offered permanent roles with the company, once the scheme is complete.

Industry experience

As early careers programs engage graduates, they offer businesses the benefit of new talent with fresh perspectives. Hiring candidates without much experience in the world of work can be a good advantage, allowing organizations to start with a clean slate and mold graduates into exactly the type of professionals they need.

The flip-side is that sometimes a business needs candidates with industry-specific experience, especially in areas like tech where there’s a lot of variation between different verticals when it comes to requirements and platform usage.

Salary levels

Graduate schemes tend to pay salaries of around $50,000 per year in the United States. In the UK, the average is around £29,000. Though grad programs relating to tech roles often pay higher than average rates, the cost of hiring a budding tech professional through a graduate scheme will be considerably less than hiring a candidate with more experience. The average salary for a Microsoft Developer in the US, for example, is $120,750 – though this can vary depending on location.

Retention rates

Investing in the future of your graduate hires and giving them a pathway to develop their careers can really pay off; but only if your grads decide to stay on. Graduate programs tend to have a high attrition rate—research suggests that more than half of students expect to leave their first jobs within two years.

Soft skills

Graduates come equipped with plenty of soft skills gleaned from years of studying at college level. Lots of former students boast transferable abilities like collaboration, willingness to learn, critical thinking, prioritization, and time management are highly useful in the workplace.

There are however some soft skills that are difficult to develop outside of the workplace, and only really come through time. If your business puts a lot of stock into skills like consulting, project methodology, and stakeholder management abilities, you’re less likely to find these in a graduate with little professional experience.

Time and cost of training

Of course, it’s not just salary that businesses have to factor in when costing up their potential graduate scheme ROI. To get maximum value from hiring graduates, you need to put in the time and money to get them up to speed.

Creating robust training programs that instill real skills is not easy, and the consequences of offering training that does little more than tick a box can be severe. But the fact is that not every business is able to provide the development infrastructure that’s needed to build a viable, long-term pipeline of talent.

That’s certainly part of the reason the tech skills gap has grown so cavernous; tech moves fast, and organizations don’t always have the luxury of waiting for their graduates to develop the skills they need, leaving them little choice but to enter the battle for external talent.

Re-skilling programs

Re-skilling programs are another fantastic option for nurturing talent. Building on the potential and enthusiasm of your existing workforce, re-skilling allows organizations to take experienced employees with valuable business knowledge and imbue with the cutting-edge skills. With in-house re-skilling, the employer gets access to the skills they need to drive business forward in a less disruptive way, and the employee gets to develop their careers and potentially earn a better salary.

Industry experience

One of the great benefits of developing existing staff is that they already know your business and the industry you work within inside-out. That kind of understanding and proprietary know-how is hugely valuable, and makes building skills that align directly with your organization’s requirements and goals that much easier.

Soft skills

Having already been on the job for some time, your employees will likely have a lot of the soft skills that your business, and your future roles, require. However, they’re still likely to need to be trained up in new soft skills that are more specific to cloud-related jobs, and these can be trickier to teach than hard technical skills.

And unless you’ve been an ardent champion of lifelong learning throughout your firm’s existence, some professionals may not have the same openness to change and familiarity with learning that a recent graduate will.

Let’s face it; learning new things can be tough, and for a lot of people in the workforce, it’ll have been a while since they were faced with the kind of learning, studying, and exams that are prevalent in the tech space.

Salary levels

It goes without saying that if you’re upskilling an employee to take on a more complex, in-demand job role, then you need to be paying them accordingly. However, a newly-certified Microsoft professional that’s still cutting their teeth won’t expect the same kind of salary as someone who’s been in the market for a few years, meaning you could save a lot of cash on salaries if you look for talent internally rather than externally.

Time and cost of training

In the age of The Great Resignation, more people are leaving their jobs for pastures new than ever before. For many professionals, it’s a feeling of stagnation that drives them out. According to a recent survey of Microsoft professionals, the top reason for wanting to change jobs was a lack of career development prospects, with 41% of respondents citing this as their primary motivation.

Investing in your staff promotes loyalty. Employees are less likely to feel undervalued or underutilized in a job where they’re being trained up to do exciting new things, and this can result in increased dedication to your business and longer tenures for your team members.

Retention rates

Investing in the future of your graduate hires and giving them a pathway to develop their careers can really pay off; but only if your grads decide to stay on. Graduate programs tend to have a high attrition rate—research suggests that more than half of students expect to leave their first jobs within two years.

How cloud talent creation programs provide the best of both worlds

Both graduate programs and re-skilling schemes have their place in our effort to close the tech skills gap. But with both methods requiring significant investments in time and cash, we saw a need for an innovative approach to creating cloud talent that would keep the wheels turning on today’s vital digital transformation projects.

At Revolent, we developed our training model to deliver skilled, fully-certified Microsoft professionals quickly and affordably. We understand how crucial soft skills and industry experience are to giving new tech talent a flying start. That’s why our program emphasizes skills like consultancy and stakeholder management, alongside Microsoft cloud skills and certifications, so our Revols are ready to make a difference on day one.

All of our Revols have at least two years of tech experience, and we handle all of their learning and certification, so you get all the benefits of their skills without the hassle of training. Plus, in addition to equipping them with the latest cloud knowledge, their training can be tailored according to your business needs, making them an invaluable addition to your project team.

Find out more about our high-quality, cost-effective solution to the Microsoft skills shortage.

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