For Turkish industrial conglomerate Koç Holding, digital transformation means staying competitive—and nurturing a learning culture for more than 120,000 employees. A partnership with Microsoft Learn is helping Koç to accelerate a sweeping digital transformation across its companies and to give people the skills they—and the business—need to succeed.

“Microsoft Learn is a powerful digital learning tool that supports innovation and accelerates technology adaptation,” according to Cihan Günsür, Koç Holding Group Leader of Learning and Development. “It helps the right person develop their competence in the right content and at the right time.”

The learning culture is reflected across all the companies that make up Koç, where hundreds of digital transformation initiatives are underway—everything from application modernization and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to the latest e-commerce, security, and AI platforms. It’s no surprise that transformation on this scale impacts the organization chart. To prepare its workforce for new and changing roles, Koç launched a comprehensive, organizational transformation program called the Future of Work Initiative. The plan includes role-based learning paths that track to Microsoft Certifications for in-demand job roles, such as data analyst and AI engineer.

Koç participates in the Microsoft Enterprise Skills Initiative (ESI)—a program that offers training and credential resources and opportunities to help learners at enterprise organizations to build the skills they need to be successful with Microsoft technologies. Through the Enterprise Skills Initiative, Koç learners have access to courses, self-paced training, Microsoft Certifications, Microsoft Virtual Training Days, gamified learning, Microsoft Learn content, and more.

In addition, Koç was an early adopter of the recently announced Microsoft Applied Skills credentials. Applied Skills enable learners to gain proficiency in skill sets specific to critical business problems and to validate skills that they can apply to key Azure, cybersecurity, and AI projects. To earn a credential, learners pass an on-demand, interactive lab assessment, completing a series of tasks using the relevant technology. Task-based credentials include deploying and configuring Azure Monitor, securing Azure services, and more. To prepare learners to earn credentials, Microsoft Learn offers on-demand learning paths that learners can follow at their own pace.

According to Özgür Orhan, Koç Holding IT Security and Infrastructure Services Group Manager, “With Applied Skills, our learners working on current and future strategic digital transformation projects will be able to grasp the knowledge and validate their skills in a shorter period of time from Microsoft Learn. This will boost their confidence, increase their proficiency, and ensure project success, improving time to market.”

The following stories explore the impact of the Future of Work Initiative and the learning cultures that developed at three Koç companies. Each produces distinct products and services using different technologies. Yet they all saw how learning can boost individual performance and business outcomes.

Learning provides opportunities for employees at Ford Otosan

Ford Otomotiv Sanayi A.Ş. (Ford Otosan) is one of Turkey’s leading automotive companies, employing more than 20,000 people. It also boasts Turkey’s largest research and development organization in this industry, with more than 1,600 workers. As part of its digital transformation plan, Ford Otosan partnered with Microsoft to develop the intelligent ConnecTruck system using Microsoft Azure. Drivers can monitor and control trucks remotely and receive predictive maintenance suggestions and other helpful alerts through a mobile app and in-vehicle software. To develop this solution, technology teams adopted the latest security and cloud services from Microsoft.

Knowing that transformation means new skills, in 2019, Ford Otosan began a comprehensive effort to develop learning paths. For each path, managers considered the organization’s strategic objectives, the skills needed to meet the business outcomes, and the current level of employee knowledge so the company could fill in the knowledge gaps.

“As a result of this transformation program, we identified and classified all our existing roles as requiring no skilling, reskilling, or upskilling. We also defined new competencies for each IT employee,” explains Engin Gümüşel, IT Cloud and Platform Management Leader at Ford Otosan. “With the Enterprise Skills Initiative, we assigned most of the trainings for the related employees so they could develop the technical skills needed in their jobs.”

Some software developers went on to earn Microsoft Certifications for their new roles, although certification wasn’t required. Others earned Applied Skills credentials for job-specific scenarios involving Azure services. In addition, OpenHack challenges gave developers a fun way to explore connected truck technologies, such as Azure Machine Learning and Azure AI. In addition, Ford Otosan rolled out Microsoft Dynamics and Microsoft 365—platform changes that brought new roles for some IT staffers. Their learning paths included the option to earn industry-recognized certifications, such as Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 Fundamentals (CRM) and Microsoft 365 Certified: Fundamentals.

According to Engin, “Microsoft is one of our technology partners. Microsoft provides the learning path for each of our cloud roles and supports the required training and certifications. These are good opportunities for our employees, and they really enjoy the trainings.”

The learning programs not only equipped employees with the skills they needed but also influenced the selection of Azure services at Ford Otoson. Engin reports, “That really helped to motivate us to decide to move to cloud services and to use Azure Cloud Services for our other products.”

The strategic advantage of learning at Setur

Established in 1964 by Koç Holding, Setur began as a duty-free retail business. Today Setur has expanded to include services for travelers and tour operators, with more than 200 authorized sales agencies, in addition to the duty-free shops at ports and borders. Setur also operates Turkey’s largest online corporate travel portal,

For Faik Ünal, Setur Information Security and System Development Manager, digital transformation meant a move to Azure software as a service (SaaS). This pay-as-you-go computing model is popular for its cost-effective, highly available, scalable, and flexible services. “These SaaS solutions, and the productivity we gain, streamline processes and enable us to remain at forefront of technology, thus contributing significantly to our company’s competitiveness and growth,” observes Faik. “Azure cloud resources are of high importance for our company.”

For the 150 IT employees, the move to Azure SaaS brought a learning curve. Like Ford Otosan, the Setur management team carefully assessed the cloud services they would need from a learning standpoint, in addition to considering strategic and technological factors. Then they developed individualized learning plans for employees—a practice that Faik recommends for any organization going through a similar transformation.

“A one-size-fits-all approach may not suffice. You have to plan the right training for the right employees, for example, and also tailor learning plans to the distinct needs of various teams and your functions,” Faik elaborates. For system architects and others working directly on Setur’s cloud platforms, useful credentials included Microsoft Certified: Azure AI Fundamentals and Microsoft Azure Security Engineer Associate, among others.

Faik himself earned Microsoft Certified Solution Expert (MCSE) and MCSE Security certifications 20 years ago and more recently passed Exam AZ-500 to earn the Microsoft Certified: Microsoft Azure Security Engineer certification. In his view, “The easiest way to demonstrate your skills is to be certified.”

It takes time to learn new skills. “It’s a long journey,” Faik adds. “You also have to motivate people.” Setur managers do that in several ways. For example, managers track individual accomplishments against the organization’s key performance indicators (KPIs) and develop actions plans to help people meet their goals. During meetings, managers like to recognize the people gaining expertise in a technical area and to celebrate accomplishments, such as earning credentials or certifications. Employees are also encouraged to share their learning journeys and achievements on LinkedIn.

As Faik says, “When colleagues share their journey on LinkedIn, I just like and share and that’s it. Congratulations!”

He advises other companies to think strategically about learning, keeping the end goal in view, and then developing learning pathways. This approach has helped Setur meet its business goals while inspiring teams to come together around the new technologies. As he notes, ”SaaS was a good starting point for us on our cloud journey, because it’s easier to integrate services into our existing software life cycles and processes. That made it easier and faster for us to learn and adopt.”

Application modernization at Arçelik means new skills for workers

Zafer Kaya, Director – IT Special Projects, promotes learning and development at Arçelik, manufacturer of popular household appliances offered under its own name and several others, including Beko and Grundig. Arçelik has grown to become Turkey’s market leader in appliances and employs around 40,000 people. Its digital transformation programs are aimed at integrating and modernizing software systems and building ever more advanced manufacturing facilities.

To help its employees bridge the old and the new, Arçelik invested in multiple learning channels. Like Ford Otosan and Setur, Arçelik managers develop learning plans and help their teams track progress, but Zafer admits that this is difficult to do when so many online training programs are available.

“It’s important to have proper capability building programs, but these are rare,” he explains. “We find that classroom and lab environments work best.” To this end, Arçelik discovered that employees preferred the Microsoft Learn learning paths. ”Our software developers are joining the program,” Zafer points out. “System management and network teams, as well as our software and data AI teams, benefit from this platform, because capability building is among our top priorities.”

A case in point: System and Cloud Architect Ömer Üçler had no cloud experience before joining Arçelik several years ago. “The world is becoming digital, and we need to keep up,” he states. As part of Arçelik’s digital transformation, Ömer and his colleagues are replacing on-premises systems at the company’s many branch offices. The project involves “almost all the Azure services” he observes, including Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), a container orchestration system with which Ömer is now fluent, thanks to his participation in the training opportunities and resources available through Microsoft Learn.

Ömer admits, “I had a lot to learn. I improved myself through the helpful resources in this program.” Ömer earned his first Windows Server certification in 2008. Ten years later, he added his first Azure certification. More recently, he passed more exams and earned additional certifications. Ömer credits the free Microsoft Certification Practice Assessments for his progress. “The Enterprise Skills Initiative is more useful for my teammates and for me,” he acknowledges. “And the best part for me is being able to troubleshoot issues when they arise. I have more confidence in my job.”

In developing a learning culture at Arçelik, Zafer has heard from concerned managers who wonder about retaining qualified employees. What if they get a Microsoft Certification and then go to work elsewhere? However, worker retention hasn’t been an issue at Arçelik. In fact, employee satisfaction has risen. As Zafer sees it, “Certification is important in the company in order to test yourself, your knowledge.”

Ömer agrees. “Education is important for us. Directors, managers, architects—it doesn’t matter what your role is. All of us need to train for this area.”

The Future of Work Initiative continues to shape Koç businesses and teams

As the teams at Ford Otosan, Setur, and Arçelik have experienced, the learning culture across Koç Holding has helped drive innovation, prepare teams for the future, bring new ideas to market faster, and build a workforce with an enviable set of in-demand talents. In the past two years, employees have completed more than 4,000 advanced role-based trainings, earned over 500 Microsoft Certifications, and attended dozens of hackathons to perfect their skills in Microsoft Azure, security, Microsoft Dynamics, Microsoft 365, and other solutions. The ambitious goal is to reskill and upskill 7,000 people in three years through the Future of Work Initiative.

As Cihan points out, “The competencies our colleagues need to be successful are constantly changing.” So Koç continues to invest in both businesses and people as a way “to maintain a strong growth trend in the long term and enable existing talents to shape and lead the future of the business world.”

Next steps: Explore learning resources

Be sure to watch the Koç Holding customer story video, highlighting the company’s early adoption of Microsoft Applied Skills credentials, and explore the Applied Skills available today. Plus, check out the resources that Microsoft Learn provides for every stage of learning: