In the last couple of years, human resources strategies have been mentioned on a regular basis as a key focus of many groups operating in the Middle East and Africa. It started as a concern for groups expanding into new territories, with issues of including local staff to that of home markets. However more recently the global economic downturn has added a new dimension to the issue, as groups are cutting down costs, including staffing and training ones.
This week I am attending the Telecoms HR Summit, co-located with the Middle East Telco World Summit in Dubai. As the first event focusing specifically on HR strategies for the telecoms sector, the main impression I got out of the presentations and debates was how hugely important a topic it is for telcos' overall strategies.
HR in the telecoms sector faces three types of specific challenges. First, convergence: as the telecoms ecosystem is evolving, new skills are required from staff and leaders, and different types of companies are competing for the same talent pool. Second, a generational change: within a company’s staff, the baby-boom generation is joined or being replaced by members of generations X (now in their 30s and 40s) and Y (the Millennium generation), who have different ways of working and different expectations from the careers and employers. Third, the economic downturn is bringing new challenges to operators, and particularly their HR representatives, as budgets are being cut, motivation levels are down and pressure is increasing.
In light of this context, the main points of discussion at the event this week were:
- an effective HR strategy remains crucial at times of economic challenge, to retain talent, improve motivation (and therefore productivity) and manage employee rewards
- managing talent within an organisation should be an HR priority, to spot talent, develop leadership and fast-track promising employees to positions where they can add most value
- finding the right ways of rewarding performance is important when cost reduction is affecting salaries: a high basic pay is not enough for long-term performance; instead, companies should focus on KPI-based financial rewards and psychological ones (job satisfaction, good career path, availability of training and personal development, staff awards etc.)
- recruitment strategies should be adapted to new market conditions: organisations need to set in place effective processes to attract talent to the right position; these processes involve in-house recruitment, partnership with agencies, as well as new recruitment methods such as online advertising and social networking sites.
These points were illustrated by case studies of effective HR strategies from leading telcos such as Batelco, Vodafone Egypt, du, Zain, Ericsson, as well as recruitment agencies and training companies. It brought a new, highly relevant angle to the Midldle East Telco World Summit.