Last year Accenture published a report highlighting how Communications Service Providers (CSPs) must re-skill their workforces in new technologies to capture growth opportunities.

What was clear is that for C-suite officers of CSPs this is probably the topic that keeps them awake at night most.

The rapid technological change expected over the next decade means the CSPs teams’ core skills are becoming obsolete at an alarming rate. For businesses that generate their primary income providing solutions using these skill-sets, this is a significant strategic challenge.

Previously CSP’s have solved their short-term skill-gaps by using third-party suppliers, contractors or fresh hires with the emerging skill-set as a short-term fix whilst they retrained their teams.

Sadly, this is no longer an option for several reasons.

Firstly, in many cases the rate of technological change is so rapid that no sooner have they reacted and re-skilled their people than technology has evolved again.

Secondly, previously these were short-term skills-gap challenges for CSPs and paying a temporary premium price had been commercially viable as in the medium term they were able to remedy this differential by training and developing their staff.

The Accenture report challenges CSPs to “take immediate steps to reorganize and re-skill their workforce to collaborate with intelligent technologies if they are to capitalize on the significant growth opportunities these technologies promise.”

So how are the progressive CSPs addressing this challenge?

Unleashing the power of the future workforce

In the US, AT&T has committed to retrain its 280,000 workforce rather than make them redundant. They are investing $220m dollars annually in training programmes providing nearly 20-million hours of training.

Since 2014 they have launched self-service training platforms plus a host of tools and processes for performance-management, career-development and talent-planning. In the last year alone, the platform has been accessed 6-million times.

Employees can identify skills-gaps within the company and enlist to pursue training and development programmes aligned to these gaps. Internal sourcing of STEM jobs has increased 20% between 2012-2015, reducing recruitment costs.

AT&T say it is still early days, but the signs are encouraging—in the past 18 months they have reduced their product-development cycle by 40% and accelerated their time to revenue by 32%. (HBR AT&Ts Talent Overhaul)

Hiring the Future Workforce

At Cisco Live 2019 in Barcelona expert panelists led by Guillermo Diaz, Cisco’s Senior Vice President of Customer Transformation debated a range of talent/workforce issues with an audience of C-suite executives from the leading CSPs in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Russia (EMEAR).

One change the panelists agreed was a more diverse workforce. Michelle Dennedy, Vice President /Chief Privacy Officer at Cisco, highlighted the need to attract, recruit and retain a diverse workforce with complementary skills and build them into collaborative teams.

Phil Wolfenden, Vice President of Customer Experience Centres at Cisco EMEAR, stated the Cisco Customer Experience Centres he manages now focused upon candidate’s key competencies such as flexibility, willingness-to-learn, creativity and resilience. Wolfenden found technologies are changing so fast if you hire a tech skill, that skill will rapidly age anyway. His team found hiring on key competencies better because training good people in the latest technologies is easier.

Jonathan Davidson Senior Vice President / General Manager of Service Provider Business at Cisco spoke how “blind-hiring” can avoid hidden manager bias. Recently his team used a hackathon to hire candidates – anyone who hacked the system was immediately offered.

Bridging the Technology Skills-Gaps

I recently interviewed Colin Seward, Cisco’s EMEAR Chief Information Officer on his views on the Future-of-Talent-Recruitment.

Seward sees no immediate solution to the hard/soft-skills gaps that are a feature of technology recruitment today. “Soft-skills like creative-thinking and problem-solving are crucial skills that will always be relevant in the future” said Seward, whereas “hard-skills will come and go as new technologies emerge”.

Only recently a LinkedIn survey indicated that soft-skills matter as much or more than hard-skills.

Continuous Learning

For Seward part of the solution to this problem is continuous learning.

“The challenge with this is that when you are in a project it is all too easy to de-prioritize learning”. He explained:“If you continue to prioritize learning there will eventually come a time when your teams’ overall skills-set are behind and ultimately they need to take six-months out of the business to retrain”.

Within his function, Seward and his Senior Leadership Team (SLT) work with managers to identify their teams’ collective skills, strengths, and areas for development before creating an environment for continuous learning that supports internal mobility.

At present the CSPs have not found a robust solution to this perpetual challenge of talent obsolescence and regeneration, but the solutions they are collectively working through offer a range of options that leads us conclude that the required paradigm shift in approach to talent is potentially within the CSPs grasp.




Ian Knowlson

Influencer Growth Coach

Global Recruitment Thought Leaders