Employer brand: How to win strategic telecoms talent

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Telcos must improve their ability to attract and retain top talent to meet their transformation goals. By improving their employer brand, telcos can compete for key skills and secure a foundation for long-term growth.

Telcos face a skills gap

Industry transformation is driving a shifting skills landscape

The telecommunications industry is at a pivotal moment. Accelerating demand for network services in a cloud-based, post-pandemic era, combined with network innovations that drive new competition and co-opetition with technology sector giants, have together prompted a wave of disruption that demands new investments and new ideas. Telcos are striving to be at the forefront of this transformation, to embrace the opportunities presented by emerging technologies, reinvent their business models and strategies, and create new revenue streams and growth potential.

This shift is inevitably driving fundamental changes in the skills needed in the telco workforce of the future. New skills include telco-specific expertise in emerging technology areas such as 5G and private networks, as well as in high-tech areas including AI, cloud computing, software development, data analytics and cyber security. In addition, the continuing rapid pace of change and innovation – in organisations and in the market more generally – means that roles increasingly demand hybrid skills, combining different areas of technical expertise, or a mix of technical, market and business skills. In many situations it is better to hire talent with the ability to adapt and learn new skills as needed, rather than with deep expertise in a single area. For an industry built on highly specialised engineering skills, this is a major shift.

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The battle for talent

However, telcos looking to hire the next generation of either specialist or non-specialist tech talent face many challenges (see the below graphic). Digital transformation and innovation trends in all industries mean that there is a global shortage of workers with specialist technical skills. Education systems cannot keep up with demand from industry for pre-trained talent, resulting in stiff competition for experienced workers already in the marketplace. There is of course competition from within the telecoms sector itself: not just from domestic competitors, but from players in other geographical markets seeking to attract specialists by leveraging remote work models.

However, of particular concern to many telcos is that they must compete for tech talent with the technology sector itself, which continues to hire heavily to bolster growth. Often offering very high salaries and extensive benefits packages, the “big tech” giants benefit from a perception that they are the leading drivers of technology innovation and investment, while high-tech startups dazzle prospective employees with the excitement of creating the next tech “unicorn”. By comparison, the telecoms industry struggles to position itself as a desirable employment opportunity for young tech talent. As a sector comprising many very old, very large legacy brands, it can be perceived to be outdated and inflexible. Even current employees have doubts about the long-term success of the telco industry. PwC research indicates that 46% of telco employees do not think their company will still exist in 10 years.

Telco talent acquisition challenges

Source: STL Partners

Another challenge is how to appeal to the youngest generation: Generation Z. With a growing proportion of employees approaching retirement, telcos not only have to address the resourcing issues this presents, but they must also adapt to meet the needs of the youngest segment of the workforce if they are to be seen as a dynamic, future-ready employer that offers the opportunities and employee experience that this new wave of workers expects.

Although the industry is evolving rapidly with many exciting innovation projects and opportunities, the emerging nature of these projects and teams, combined with a lack of familiarity with hiring Gen Z or cutting-edge tech talent, makes it more difficult for telcos to attract and hire the right people. For those that are hired, there is the challenge of retaining them. This is especially so when teams are still under-resourced, or the role does not live up to expectations in terms of the rate of progress, for example.

These challenges are placing increasing pressure on telcos’ growth ambitions. While it might once have been solely the concern of HR teams, talent strategy must now become a board-level priority for telcos – as it has been in the IT industry for several years – increasing the urgency of finding new ways to differentiate in order to attract and retain great talent. In their efforts to improve their attractiveness as an employer and their ability to hire the best talent, telcos are increasingly focusing on their employer brand. In the full report, we make a case for telco investment in employer brand as part of their transformation and growth strategy, identifying priority areas for investment, and sharing best practices for success.

Table of contents

  • Executive Summary
    • Recommendations for telcos considering an employer brand investment
    • Next steps
  • Telcos face a skills gap
    • Industry transformation is driving a shifting skills landscape
    • The battle for talent
  • The importance of employer brand for telcos
    • Attracting top talent
    • Improving employee retention
    • Reducing recruitment costs
  • Building an employer brand strategy
    • Understanding employer brand: The audit
    • Articulating the employee value proposition
    • Shared responsibility and ownership
    • Measuring success
  • What employees want from a telco
    • Fair compensation and desirable benefits
    • Learning and development opportunities
    • Trust and recognition
    • Work flexibility
    • Wellbeing and work-life balance
    • Diversity and inclusion
    • Sustainability and social responsibility
    • Great technology experience
  • Tactics for employer brand success
    • Facilitate employee advocacy
    • Lead by example: Leadership’s role in employer branding
    • Build a tech community presence
  • Getting talent over the line
    • Optimising the candidate experience
    • Pre-boarding and onboarding new hires
    • Do not neglect the offboarding experience
  • Conclusions
  • Index

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Angela Ashenden

Angela Ashenden

Angela Ashenden

Associate Analyst

Angela has over 20 years’ experience as an industry analyst for enterprise software, researching and writing on topics including enterprise collaboration and productivity, the employee experience and the future of work.