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Telecom and utility workforce of the future, building a digital culture

The telecom and utility industries are facing major challenges as they navigate constantly evolving business landscapes, including network transformation, net-zero targets, increasing regulation, and the impact of climate change. Managing this evolving landscape requires innovative and creative thinking around effectively tracking and managing network assets and customer expectations.

To achieve aggressive broadband rollout and grid modernization objectives, technology optimization will be crucial. However, these industries are often handicapped by complex legacy IT systems that silo information and applications that compromise operational workflow efficiencies. Faced with these issues, modern operators will need to focus on implementing innovative technology that integrates all information streams into a comprehensive and accurate network view which can be shared across the organization. A real-time digital twin.

 

To make matters even more challenging, these industries are experiencing a crisis in their workforce. As older workers retire, recruiting the next generation of engineers to replace them is becoming increasingly difficult. Greater skill specialization, technical training, and doing more with smaller teams is a new reality. As operators face modernization with emerging technology, a workforce strategy to efficiently and effectively replace talent is crucial to ensure successful network transformation.

 

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The struggle to attract and retain talent

Telecom and utility operators are only as good as their workforce, and cutting-edge technology cannot be fully utilized without an engaged, up-skilled workforce. However, these industries are currently encountering significant hurdles when it comes to hiring and retaining qualified technical workers. Experienced workers are retiring, and the pandemic has accelerated retirement timeframes for many older workers. Recruiters tasked with filling new vacancies are struggling to find new talent with skills to support aging technologies. Time to fill metrics are increasing. Job vacancies remain unfilled for extended periods of time.

 

According to a global survey conducted by McKinsey, the tech sector is one of the industries with the most significant challenge, with almost 90% of executives and managers reporting skill gaps in their organizations, or expecting them to arise within the next five years – reflecting the reality facing all technology-dependent industries.

 

Telecom and energy sector recruiters have also expressed concerns regarding the workforce, with 56% citing an aging demographic and insufficient recruitment and training as significant challenges. Although targeted training programs have been launched by many network operators, greater attention is needed to address the quickly widening skills and employment gaps.

 

Unlocking the strengths of the digital natives

While companies acknowledge the necessity of adopting the latest technology to keep up with modernization imperatives, many are still struggling to understand where to begin. Deloitte's report "Positioning utilities to win the battle for talent" highlights this, calling the industry out for its static image, slow adaptation and lack of innovation due to its reliance on legacy tools.

 

Fortunately, this situation presents an opportunity for operators to kill two birds with one stone. Organizations can increase operational efficiency and also attract and retain technical workers by implementing modern technology.

 

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One successful approach is to refrain from directly filling the skills gap left by retiring senior talent. Instead, operators can engage the competencies of the digital native Gen Z and Millennial generations, creating a new skill set that aligns with their existing talents.

 

A Digital twin that captures and shares an accurate view of the physical network is a good example of a modern tool that can address both technical and human challenges. It helps to break down siloed technology and increases operational efficiency by allowing operators to share critical information across teams. A digital geospatial network view like that provided by IQGeo’s solutions is also more intuitive for younger generations to use since they’ve grown up with similar technologies and are much more comfortable with digital applications than with traditional paper maps that continue to be used by more senior field engineers.

 

Involving employees in digital transformation

While it’s certainly essential for businesses to incorporate the latest technology to attract and retain talent, it’s equally important to consider existing employees during this transition. Digital transformation success relies on commitment from all team members, and employees must feel like active contributors when implementing new technology.

 

We’ve seen first-hand with our customers how success and satisfaction can be improved by engaging employees throughout the entire technology deployment process. Operators can achieve this by taking existing employees' on-the-job experiences into account during the evaluation, selection, and implementation of new technology.

 

Involving employees in the process increases job satisfaction and supports longer-term retention. People feel a sense of pride and ownership over their contributions to the organization when they have a voice in the changes being made. This promotes continued valuable input for future improvements, ultimately leading to increased efficiency and effectiveness.

 

Forward-thinking companies are embracing digital transformation as they move away from manual processes towards a fully digital environment. This shift helps to eliminate information silos, increase network data quality, as well as reduce workplace incidents and accelerate response times to network outages.

 

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Overall, a fully digital environment makes employees' lives easier and more fulfilling. By involving them in the process of testing and implementing new technology, employees are able to witness positive change first-hand, which further promotes a virtuous feedback loop.

 

Framing technology adoption as an empowering democratic process

Implementation of modern technology may cause existing employees, particularly those remaining in legacy operations, to view changes as a threat to their traditional working practices. It’s crucial for operators to reduce these concerns by communicating that the adoption of modern technology will empower all workers and is not a means to replace old employees with new ones.

 

Operators can emphasize the added value that technology can bring to employees, regardless of their tenure. It’s important to highlight how the democratization of modern technology provides workers with the tools needed to improve their performance and play a vital role in the transformation of broadband networks and electric grids for future generations.

 

Engaging the workforce is fundamental to addressing the challenges faced by the utility and telecom industries. To achieve this, operators can provide up-to-date technology that leverages the skill sets of Gen Z and Millennials, while also ensuring existing employees aren’t left behind. Their years of experience is more valuable today than ever before as next generation technology is deployed across their network.

 

The electric utility and telecom workforce makes our daily lives possible, and they will enable major social change over the coming decades. Collaboration with the existing and emerging workforce, along with the deployment of the latest technology and digital processes, are crucial in overcoming the technical and environmental challenges currently facing these industries.

 

Learn more about IQGeo customer success stories

 

Topics: Utilities, Telecommunications, Digital transformation, Smart city, Digital twins

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