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Why Now Is the Time to Upskill Telecom Workers

Digital skills are in demand across all industries. The best way for telecom companies to get the skills they need is to retain talent through an internal mobility strategy.

The telecom industry is gearing up to fuel transformation on multiple fronts. The advent of smart cities is increasing pressure on telecom companies to build up their talent base. In a highly digital landscape, especially after the COVID-19-spurred shift to remote work, the industry is competing with every other industry for specialized talent. 

“The need for data scientists, for instance, greatly outstrips supply,” according to McKinsey research. “The problem is especially acute for telecom companies, where as much as 88% of digital talent who switch companies decide to leave the subsector altogether.”

This attrition only exacerbates the labor shortage, as does the uncertainty of which skills will be needed in the future. Retaining internal talent is paramount.

“Europe needs to upskill and reskill the population and workforce of tomorrow by taking digital literacy to the next level,”

asserts the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). “Today, 42% of Europeans lack basic digital skills, while 57% of companies are struggling to find ICT [information and communications technology] personnel.”

Accenture adds that communications service providers (CSPs) “must move quickly and develop the skills and systems needed to become tech-inclusive. Upskilling employees will prevent churn.”

Upskilling in action

In an effort to grow its technology expertise, telecom company Orange in France implemented a five-year upskilling effort for its 148,000 employees beginning in February 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the company is focused on training its workers in artificial intelligence (AI), data, cybersecurity, network management, 5G, cloud and soft skills. 

“We believe that Orange’s sustainable transformation will depend on each and everyone’s ability to learn in new ways and to share their knowledge and expertise, and that the combination of technical and soft skills is one of the keys to our future success,” explains Valerie Le Boulanger, executive director of human resources for Orange. 

Research firm IDC agrees. Needed digital skills “include both short half-life technical skills and more difficult-to-master human skills, including critical thinking, collaboration, creative thinking and communication.”

Other telecom companies, such as BT and Telefonica, have followed Orange’s upskilling example. “Not everyone will radically change their job” as a result of upskilling, notes Elisabeth Fonteix, head of learning and development for Orange. “But each person will be able to integrate the fundamentals into their job at their own pace, allowing them to progress and adapt.” 

Upskilling benefits

Other benefits of upskilling include: 

  • Increased productivity 
  • Improved engagement and retention
  • Higher morale
  • Cost savings in the hiring process 
  • Shorter ramp-up times

According to SHRM, employees who are promoted within the company in their first three years of hire have a 70% chance of staying with the company. Similarly, those who move laterally within the company have a 62% chance of staying on board. 

That just goes to show that when workers feel valued, they tend to be more loyal. When they recognize that they matter to the company, they typically want to give back to the company, stick with it and help it grow.

How to start an upskilling effort

In order for telecom companies to effectively upskill and reskill their workers, they must first know what skills their employees possess, as well as their potential and proclivity to develop needed digital skills. A talent lifecycle management strategy can help. 

Unlike traditional talent acquisition strategies that focus on roles, this one emphasizes skills. That’s important because skills and responsibilities related to a job title can vary greatly from business to business. For example, responsibilities for a vice president at a startup company look very different than responsibilities for a vice president at an enterprise. 

Focusing on skills can provide a more realistic picture not only of workers’ proficiency and expertise, but also of their aptitude to grow and develop needed digital competencies. 

Feeding data into a centralized talent customer relationship management (CRM) system is key. You want a single repository for all talent-related data across the company. Only then can you truly find connections between millions of data points. 

AI plays an important role in talent lifecycle management. Employing AI can help talent teams quickly find internal candidates who are ripe for skills development — and even help create personalized professional development plans. That’s because AI is able to infer connections between previous positions and responsibilities and needed ones — even if they’re named differently. 

As we shared in an earlier blog, “One immediate impact of the evolution toward skills-based talent management is the ability to look at talent as individuals with a living, evolving set of skills with dynamic levels of proficiency, as opposed to static collections of requirements that fit an existing open role.”

That’s critical in the telecom industry. “By becoming tech-inclusive, CSPs can reaffirm their reputations as technology-focused employers,” Accenture notes. “This will ultimately help them attract and retain the best talent for their needs.”

Learn how Beamery helps upskill telecom workers. 

Hey {}, discover how Beamery’s platform makes managing the talent lifecycle better, unlocking skills and creating more human experiences for the Telecoms industry.