Telecom is a telecommunications organisation based in the Middle East. The organisation employs over 2,000 people in technical and customer service based roles.
Telecom is a young company which employs relatively young employees. With an average age of around 39 years old, and a senior management team with an average age close to 45 years old, the organisation prides itself on its innovative and fresh approach to developing its people and supplying telecommunications services to its wide-ranging customer base:
‘Everyone has started to realise that [talent management] is very important. We are a young company, our workforce is young. The average age I think at this moment in time must be around 39 years old. Our chiefs, their average age collectively maybe, at this moment in time, maybe it’s 45. We need to start, you know, being wiser in how we manage succession.’
Being custodian of a young talent pool does, however, pose some interesting challenges for the business, in particular the makeup of talent pipelines into the organisation, and the development of clear succession plans for senior roles. The organisation has a desire to recruit from within as much as possible, but succession for senior roles is sometimes difficult when talent is not freely available from within. As a result the organisation has started to apply HR analytics thinking to their talent pipeline and succession planning processes, and is now moving towards applying analytical thinking to strategic talent and resource planning decisions.
How analytics is being applied
Analytics is being applied in a number of ways at Telecom, both at the level of senior engagement with high-level HR performance data, and also at a more granular level as to the nature of individuals within the succession plan, and in the maps of skills to roles. One particular area of interest for the rest of the business is the difference in cost between developing talent from within, and recruiting talent from an external source. For senior roles the difference in cost can be significant, and as a result Telecom is focusing on the development of succession plans which illustrate to senior leaders how cost can be reduced by investing up front in the development of future talent:
‘If you look at it from a financial perspective: best practice says that if you hire someone externally it will take them six months to get used to the company, to the culture, adapting. It’s expensive as well at that level to bring in headhunters. If we are recruiting Emeratis the pension issue also is in place because you need to buy their pension or transfer their pension to the organisation. So from a financial cost it’s going to be very high. It would be easier to make sure someone at SVP level, who, hypothetically moves into a more senior role or you have already the pipeline happening from within. The benefit here also is that the engagement could be higher. They know the history and so on.’
To do this the HR team has looked specifically at developing HR analytics capability within the HR function by recruiting from highly analytical backgrounds. For example, the team features both clinical and industrial psychologists, highly numerate and well versed in how to complete highly complex and sophisticated analytics. These different skillsets are now being embedded into the organisation and the HR team expects that the business will soon be able to realise the value of developing this kind of talent within the function:
‘The good thing is that the [HR] team has the capability to analyse information. They come from an industrial psychology or clinical psychology background and are very used to using data and analysis to develop conclusions. We’ve started implementing and are putting all of our knowledge together ... and we are trying to take best practice bringing it into the business instead of spending too much time doing something new ... and adjusting it to our needs.’
Learning from best practice use of analytics is a valuable exercise for the HR managers at Telecom as they look to develop their own analytics functions. Examples of best practice around leadership and succession, for example, have steered the development of their own talent analytics and talent management initiatives – and while they’re still early in the development of activity, it is apparent that the HR team is learning a lot from their exposure to new ways of thinking:
‘Something we have taken from external and used internally is the leadership index which was looking at success. Within that it looked at things such as critical roles: how many of the identified individuals would fall in the critical roles. … It’s an easy one, although at the moment for us it still didn’t happen because we’re at the early stage … we also used lessons from external sources to develop individual development plans, and measured the completion of these. We wanted to quantify it.’
Impact of analytics: looking into the future
HR at Telecom sees the possibilities for HR analytics in helping the organisation to develop its talent capabilities, and in particular secure future talent inflow to the business. Part of their vision for the future is the availability of this data and the format that it is presented in to the rest of the organisation. Reporting of succession plans is something clearly very important to the HR function at Telecom, and as such features heavily in the way the team speaks about their goals for the development of HR analytics capability within their HR function:
‘In the future for talent management I hope we can see where we are in terms of succession: out of the critical roles, how many ready people we have. This includes understanding who is already pretty advanced in their development. And, it’s information that would be accessible to the board, the chiefs, if they needed to. HR analytics should be something that comes naturally to us and it automatically gets captured somewhere. That would be my dream.’
For Telecom, this tension between a young, agile and innovative workforce is presenting highly complex challenges in the way it manages and grows talent. What is clear, however, is the value that HR analytics is adding to HR in terms of illustrating areas of interest such as succession planning, and Telecom is moving towards making the most of the new data and capability it is developing within the HR team.
HR Manager, Telecom