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Win the telco talent acquisition battle by enhancing developer experience

Technology that’s intended to improve human experience can’t be successful without strong human collaboration

Much has been written about the challenges of attracting and retaining top talent in the telecommunications sector, including that telecom workers have been reported to be the unhappiest in the world. High turnover and an ageing workforce, coupled with rapid industry growth, are among the reasons that 86% of executives say recruiting and keeping skilled workers are the biggest challenges facing the telecoms industry.  

Adopting a combination of human-centric programs and applications can help telecommunications companies transform their culture, and create a fulfilling environment where highly skilled employees choose to work.

Expert insight: “Every company, no matter its size, must prioritize hiring, promoting, and retaining talent…At the same time, companies will need to think systemically about how to move people who have been freed from routine work by A.I. into roles that are more fulfilling and impactful to the business. In this way, infusing A.I. across a company’s workflows will not only drive new insight and innovation, but also lead to a more satisfied and productive workforce.”

Arvind Krishna, Chairman and CEO IBM

Beyond simply filling vacancies, building an engaged and motivated workforce yields strong overall benefits for an organisation.

Engaged workers lead to better overall results

The development of new technologies such as 5G and Open RAN highlight that the positions telecommunications organisations need to fill require workers with proficiency in some very specific areas. While companies search for these in-demand candidates, workers are looking for specific experiences as well. In addition to receiving competitive salaries, they expect to feel supported, valued and engaged.

Creating an environment where employees feel actively engaged in their work is one of the most elusive and challenging goals for employers. Engagement (or lack thereof) is driven by a variety of factors including effective management, team cohesion, and perhaps most importantly, a feeling of doing meaningful work. A Gallup employee engagement survey noted that in 2023, only 23% of employees across all industries reported that they are engaged at work. 

The same survey measured the business results of organisations that scored in the top quartile for employee engagement vs. organisations that scored at the bottom quartile, and the findings are clear. Companies with engaged employees perform better in every area, from showing lower staff turnover to higher productivity and profitability.

Companies that scored in the top quartile for engaged employees showed: - 23% higher profitability
- 18% higher productivity (sales)
- 14% higher productivity (production records and evaluations)
- 18% lower turnover for high-turnover organisations (those with more than 40% annualised turnover)
- 43% lower turnover for low-turnover organisations (those with 40% or lower annualised turnover)

…than their peers that scored in the bottom quartile.

Advice for improving engagement often centres around creating a more “human-centric” culture. This is a broad term which essentially means recognising that people are multi-faceted, and taking their needs into account. 

Every role contains unpopular tasks that many consider dull or repetitive. Encouragingly, emerging technologies such as knowledge bases leveraging Generative AI (GenAI) have the ability to make some of the most onerous tasks easier for employees. These tools help to create a supportive and engaging workplace across functions, from hardware and software engineering, to operations, marketing and customer service.

Improving the developer experience and creating opportunities for creativity

Some of the tasks that slow development and create frustration for developers include growing complexity of the tools they use, dependencies on other teams for procedural approvals, and older IT processes that don’t work well with cloud-based systems. Dealing with these sometimes overwhelming challenges can drive great developers to look for other opportunities where they can spend their time doing more meaningful and creative work.

A solution that can help create a positive environment for software developers in telecommunications is platform engineering. This is a practice that, through a variety of tools and applications, removes many of the barriers to productivity, streamlines procedural and repetitive tasks, and gives developers more freedom to create and experiment.

Head of DevOps and Platform Engineering for Nearform, Luca Lanzani, describes the pressures put on developers, and how platform engineering can help:

“Developers are starting to get overwhelmed by the number of things they have to know, they have to do. They have to think about not just writing software, but deploying software securely on different types of clouds and understanding how that will run. Platform engineering is trying to solve that. Platform engineering is useful because you can help the organisation move faster, removing some responsibility from the developers and embedding best practices in the platform tool.”
Luca Lanzani Head of DevOps and Platform Engineering for Nearform

Before a platform engineering project can begin, one of the first steps is to gather information about the developer experience in an organisation. This process, in addition to providing insight into what processes or procedures are the most challenging, provides developers with an opportunity to have their voices heard and express their thoughts about where improvements could be made. This ability to speak and be heard is in itself part of what makes for an “in-demand” workplace that can entice top talent. Then once platform engineering takes much of the drudgery out of the day-to-day, it becomes an even more desirable environment for developers.

Using a knowledge base to positively transform employees’ work lives

Studies show that employees and employers both welcome applications of GenAI, with 33% of each saying that they believe it will increase productivity and create new ways of working. In fact, more than half (52%) report that they expect AI to make a positive impact on their career over the next five years.

One way that Generative AI is already helping train and retain employees is through knowledge bases. A knowledge base is a digital repository where all of the aggregated knowledge and documentation about an organisation’s products, processes and expertise can be stored. Once it’s all gathered into an application, people can ask questions using natural language, and rapidly receive answers generated by Generative AI technology. The GenAI tech searches through the documentation and provides a relevant, unique answer based on the source material. 

Access to a thorough knowledge base can aid in training new hires, and answer questions from existing employees at all levels. It also preserves institutional knowledge as workers retire or leave the company, and eliminates the need to interrupt a colleague or wait for answers.

Knowledge bases can be extremely helpful in telecommunications, where older hardware and software may be in use alongside newly deployed versions. Even the most experienced workers can’t be proficient in every different product. In this complex world, the ability to ask a question and get an immediate answer both helps technicians complete their work easier, and saves time.

Deploying human-centric technology

The two examples above represent some ways in which technology can help organisations make work  more rewarding for their employees — and more desirable to top recruits. But it’s important to remember that it’s humans who create the most positive impact in any work environment. Even the decision to integrate these tools into a company’s culture requires honest evaluation, consultation and partnership between a variety of stakeholders. 

A good place to start is to seek input and advice from a technology partner that not only knows the technical challenges of implementing time-and-labour-saving applications, but also takes the time to gain a deep understanding of existing pain points. 

Humans need engagement and support to thrive, and technology that’s intended to improve human experience can’t be successful without strong human collaboration.

Insight, imagination and expertly engineered solutions to accelerate and sustain progress.