Consultant Insight: Ali Palmer
Why diversity is the Achilles Heel for telecoms
It has been an almighty year of disruption for many businesses. The political and economic volatility that we have all witnessed only emphasises the need for management teams to prepare and respond to change.
The telecoms sector is no different. The industry has been battling to keep up with the pace of technological development. The arrival of omni-channel has prompted a wave of M&A activity, regulatory shake-ups and new entrants that has radically up-ended the status quo. But, the sector has perhaps forgotten the key to its evolution – diversity.
Technology-focused industries have long struggled to embrace gender diversity, for one, within their workforces. Much like manufacturing and engineering, women have been under represented on the shop-floor and throughout organisations – right up to the board room.
The problem is, in part, structural. The education system is only starting to address gender-gaps in those taking science, technology, engineering and maths-based subjects. These are core skills for many technology careers and, in particular, the telecoms industry. Fortunately, there is a recognition from Government to encourage more girls into these subjects, but also make the bridge into full-time, life-long careers.
But, if the sector is to attract the best talent and forge the leaders of tomorrow – the very people that will help telecoms businesses meet the challenges they face – more must be done to bring women into the industry and keep them there in senior positions.
One challenge is the fast-paced nature of the sector. I was recently invited to participate in the 'Cogeco Peer 1 Women in Tech Roundtable', which explored the problems facing women in the technology sector and what can be done to mitigate these.
One problem I identified was that many women find themselves struggling to return to the workplace after a career break, either after having children or having time out for other reasons, because they feel out of touch with developments. Things move on so quickly in technology that women can lose their confidence, which in turn deprives the sector of valuable female senior talent.
More action is needed if we’re to stop losing this talent. The use of return to work schemes is a welcome sign of a different approach to solving this dilemma but other measures are necessary. We also discussed the important role that HR teams can have in encouraging diversity in the workplace and by promoting the multiple benefits a broader talent pool can bring.
We’ve discovered this on the ground, as part of our goal to provide clients with a shortlist of candidates for senior leadership roles that best matches the skills they need and reflects society and their customers. By doing this, we’re not only benefitting clients but also widening our own talent pool. Historically, the lack of diversity in the pool of talent out there has held many organisations back. But, now, there is a real appetite for greater diversity. Clients are actively asking for diverse shortlists, rather than avoiding the issue. So we need to ensure we can offer diversity in all forms.
Another way to bring more diversity into the sector is to recruit from other sectors. Our own data reveals that 22 per cent of technology interim candidates we’ve placed have a background in other industries – predominantly energy, manufacturing, health and social care. This is a simple way to introduce fresh perspectives to the workforce and should definitely be explored further over the next year.
Diversity offers not only different people, but diverse ideas, perspectives and approaches. All of which are needed for telecoms businesses to flourish at a time of change. With omni-channel transformation, increasing M&A activity and regulation on the rise, telecoms needs all the talent it can get to steer it through the challenges ahead. Hopefully, diverse shortlists of candidates will become the norm in the near future, rather than the exception.