This Industry Viewpoint was authored by Todd Kuty, Director Customer Service Telecoms, IQGeo
The telecom industry has embraced ground-breaking solutions to meet the growing demand for internet connectivity. In a world where people work remotely, communicate digitally and increasingly consume online, fiber broadband and 5G technology have become a critical role in bridging the digital divide and ensuring equitable high-speed internet access.
Despite their immense potential, there remain challenges in achieving widespread availability of these technologies. Currently, only 43% of U.S. households in the United States have access to fiber broadband and 5G coverage extends to 53% of the country.
The technological gap between capabilities and consumer accessibility is due to deployment obstacles faced by network operators. They have the infrastructure and expertise for fiber broadband and 5G, but encounter significant hurdles during implementation.
One key issue is the scarcity of skilled workers. Older workers are retiring and finding the skills required to replace them is difficult. Operators must address this shortage for successful broadband implementation .
So, how can telecom operators effectively tackle the workforce crisis to ensure smooth deployment of new technologies?
Recruitment and retention: the challenges
A proficient workforce plays a crucial role in the telecom industry’s ability to establish and maintain the intricate technological infrastructure required to deliver high-speed internet to consumers.
However, operators are confronted with significant hurdles in maintaining a strong workforce. Inflationary pressures create enticing alternatives for workers, leading them to explore different job opportunities. The disruptive impacts of the pandemic have also accelerated the retirement of experienced employees. Additionally, societal factors, such as industry perception and a disconnect between educational offerings and industry requirements, further complicate the challenge of sustaining a skilled workforce.
As a result, recruiters are currently grappling with difficulties in identifying suitable candidates, as the retirement of experienced workers has led to prolonged job vacancies, causing strain within the industry.
The technology sector is grappling with substantial ramifications resulting from the widening skill gap. A comprehensive global survey conducted by McKinsey sheds light on the severity of this issue, revealing that an overwhelming 90% of tech executives and managers acknowledge the existence or anticipated emergence of skill gaps within their organizations over the next five years.
This problem is particularly pronounced within the telecom sector. A recent study conducted by Veriforce further emphasizes this point, indicating that an astonishing 86% of telecom company executives identify the scarcity of skilled workers as the primary challenge confronting the industry.
Despite the efforts made by telecom operators to introduce focused training programs, it is evident that additional attention and resources are required to effectively acknowledge the growing skill gap.
Inspiring and encouraging the digital native generation
The broadband industry constantly adapts to meet consumer demands, leading to changes in internal systems and required skill sets. McKinsey’s “The Next Telco Battleground” study emphasizes the need for network engineering talent beyond radio specialization, as virtualization expands technological skills.
Operators and recruiters have an opportunity to tap into the competencies of Gen Z and Millennials, leveraging their familiarity with emerging technologies. This cultivates a new skill set aligned with industry demands.
Embracing younger generations’ talents builds a workforce equipped to navigate emerging technologies, ensuring sector agility and meeting future demands.
Network operators can utilize digital twins to gain a holistic view of network infrastructure and leverage digital natives’ strengths.
Recruiting talent aligned with emerging technologies brings operational efficiencies and increased revenue. This proactive approach helps to address the ongoing workforce crisis, ensuring a skilled set of employees.
Empowering current employees for success
While acquiring new talent is crucial, broadband operators must also value their existing employees. The successful deployment of fiber technology relies on engaging and committed employees who understand the importance of new technology and actively contribute to achieving business objectives.
To achieve this, involving existing employees in the entire development process is vital. Operators should leverage their experience and engage them in evaluation, selection, and implementation stages. This fosters ownership, utilizes expertise, and enhances organizational buy-in, nurturing collaboration and an invested workforce.
Involving employees in the digital transformation process brings numerous benefits. Active participation allows them to witness tangible benefits firsthand, boosting motivation to support and embrace changes.
Employees shape company culture, and involving them in transformation fosters innovation and collaboration. Prioritizing their well-being increases the likelihood of an efficient, productive, and motivated workforce.
Involving existing employees taps into their insights, creativity, and expertise, accelerating technology adoption and improving satisfaction and retention. It ensures solutions align with organizational needs and challenges.
Engaging employees empowers them to take ownership of the transformation, as employee champions. This creates a shared purpose, encourages innovation, and establishes a foundation for long-term success.
Highlighting the power of modern technology
Telecom operators must address employee concerns during digital evolution – especially those of older generations who may feel like they are being pushed out. Assuring employees of their value and clarifying the benefits of technology for everyone is essential. Operators can do this by highlighting technology’s added value, democratizing access to information and enhancing productivity, processes, and collaboration.
Involving the workforce is crucial. Operators can leverage Gen Z and Millennials’ competencies while including existing employees in changes for overall success. Comprehensive training and upskilling opportunities ensure adaptation to new technologies and industry relevance.
Operators should listen to employee feedback and incorporate it into decision-making as a culture of inclusivity and open communication builds trust and engagement. By addressing concerns, highlighting benefits, and involving the workforce, operators can confidently navigate digital evolution and new challenges they will face in the future.
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