Africa’s telcos must improve workforce proficiencies in a way that matches their customers’ experiences to ensure they remain successful, says Mariam Abdullahi, Telco Industry Lead at SAP Africa, a market leader in enterprise application software.
Abdullahi explains that since GSM was first demonstrated in Cape Town, South Africa in 1993 and the first GSM networks launched the next year, the telco industry has fundamentally transformed every country on the African continent.
“As some of the largest employers, most admired, and valuable brands, and most innovative companies on the continent, telcos have been synonymous with the rise and development of Africa’s economic development,” she says.
Two of the five largest public companies in Africa are telcos. In the latest Brand Africa Top 100 Most Admired Brands in Africa rankings, three telcos featured among some of the leading global brands, beating out the likes of Puma, Sony and BMW. South African telco MTN is the country’s most valuable brand, valued at nearly twice as much as its nearest competitor, Vodacom.
However, even telcos are not immune to the disruptive forces of technology and a rapidly shifting workplace demographic that is forcing companies to adapt their business models and Human Capital Management approaches. For telcos to successfully transform to Digital Service Providers where they have to lead with new business models and innovation, their workforce engagement and talent attraction strategies, need to be improved.
“Today’s workplace is more diverse and dynamic than it has ever been in history,” says Abdullahi.
She argues that for telcos to succeed in the effective attraction, engagement and retention of these multiskilled digital workers, a fundamental rethink of organisational culture and human capital management is needed.
This is made all the more difficult by the fact that the modern workplace is home to no fewer than five distinct generations, namely: The Silent Generation; The Baby Boomers; and Generations X, Y and Z.
Abdullahi notes that The Silent Generation, born somewhere between 1920 and 1945, who are nearing retirement, typically struggle with adopting new technologies and prefer old-school forms of interoffice communication.
The Baby Boomers now typically make up the upper echelons of organisational structures and are driven by professional success and teamwork.
Generation X, born between 1960 and the early 1980s, are adaptable and driven by results, and also more comfortable with using technology than their older peers.
Generation Y, or the so-called ‘Millennials’, are the most prevalent group in most workplaces and crave feedback, purpose and opportunities to effect positive change.
Generation Z are only now entering the workplace and have grown up using the internet, social media and technology.
“Due to Africa’s overwhelmingly youthful population, the greatest percentage of workers are from Generations X, Y and Z. However, since each is distinct and requires slightly (or vastly) different talent management strategies, telcos need to prioritise a process of workplace culture reengineering to ensure they can continue to access top talent,” Abdullahi elaborates.
She adds that in any organisation, the biggest factor determining whether change is either an opportunity or a threat is its people. According to Abdullahi, the greater the changes facing the organisation, the more important it becomes to have the right people with the right skills and the right mindset. Successful organisation profit from change, instead of being overwhelmed by it. In a highly-competitive environment where digital skills are often a scarce resource, telcos need to ensure they offer the type of work environment that can inspire, attract and positively inspire top talent.
She says that by focusing on six key priorities, telcos will be better positioned to engage and retain a motivated, productive and inspired workforce.
To stakeholders, Abdullahi explains that these priorities are: “Ensuring you are building the right type of organisation – for now and the future; Creating a productive, compelling work environment; Engaging people around a clear purpose for the organisation; Making good talent management decisions; Supporting the needs and wellbeing of your workforce; and finally, Managing operational risks caused by data and people.
“Trying to navigate the regulatory complexities of the modern workplace in a manual way is near-impossible. Telcos need to implement compliant, secure and cost-effective human capital management technology platforms that can automate much of the task of compliance and free HR departments up to focus more on attracting, engaging and retaining top talent,” concludes Abdullahi.