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Barriers to connectivity: Redefining the telecoms ‘talent problem’ will be key to accelerating fibre growth plans

Dean Checkley, CEO of Flomatik, explores why reframing the so-called 'talent shortage' in the telecoms sector will be key to progressing the UK roll-out.

The telecoms industry is on a disruptive and creative growth trajectory, with ambitious plans to bring full fibre and gigabit capable broadband to every home and business across the UK by 2030. But as the critical frontier for competitive advantage in the space, organisations must be equipped with high-level talent to help drive tangible change for a better connected future.


Here, Dean Checkley — CEO of fast-growing network services provider, Flomatik — explores why flipping the onus of the challenge from the availability of would-be employees, to the efforts of employers in the sector, will be key to progressing the nationwide roll-out…


The narrative to date has suggested the industry is facing a shortage of skilled professionals who can design, build, and maintain the necessary infrastructure to facilitate full fibre roll-out ambitions. But are we casting the net wide enough? Does bias still plague the recruitment drive? These questions are an excellent place to start. However, we’ve been asking them for far too long, with little to no avail. As such, the time has come to redefine the challenge and, instead, consider whether our efforts are hitting the right mark.


Positioning race and gender as barriers to entry, for example, conforms to a very archaic view. Not only are younger generations more open-minded – and unafraid to challenge imparity – but with diversity and inclusion now non-negotiables in the eyes of both the public and investors, the industry recognises the value of maintaining a varied workforce. Above all else, they actively seek to feed this into recruitment objectives today.


So, how can telcos strengthen talent acquisition to augment the full fibre roll-out?

Of course, closing the talent gap in the telecoms sector is crucial for achieving widespread connectivity roll-outs, and embracing the opportunities presented by the evolving industry. But there’s evidently a pressing need to pivot first. And here are some of the key considerations for telcos to consider, along the way:


Emphasising attitude over aptitude

Shifting focus from aptitude-based recruitment and instead prioritising attitude, is essential in accelerating progress. That’s because technical capability can be taught. Upskilling is very much part-and-parcel of career development. What you can’t necessarily coach, however, is maturity in mindset; approach and a hunger to learn . 

To attract the right candidates and bridge the tech and telecoms talent gap, it is crucial to develop clear job descriptions that equally concentrate on work ethic and values required to thrive within a specific organisation. These competencies should be assessed during the interview process and beyond, using questions that evaluate adaptability, collaboration skills, and resilience, for example.


Testing for essential competencies

Employers should identify traits that matter within candidates and ensure they form a true part of the interview process. They can benefit from utilising tests that assess emotional intelligence, conscientiousness, and tenacity — qualities essential for success in the telecoms industry.

Such evaluations help to identify candidates with the right personalities that align with an organisation’s values and objectives. By focusing on these competencies, telecoms organisations can ensure they hire individuals who possess the right mindset to thrive in a rapidly evolving industry.


Meeting reciprocal responsibilities

The onus is on an employer just as much as it is an employee too. By meeting their end of the bargain and boasting the right attitude, next-generation talent will naturally seek to be rewarded with worthwhile development opportunities – which allow them to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to grow throughout their career. 

Being equipped to meet the evolving needs of the tech and telecoms space is majorly reliant on hands-on experience. So, it’s important that mentoring support is available in the form of experienced professionals, such as engineers, who up-and-coming talent can shadow and ask questions of – be that in the realm of network design, installation, maintenance, or anything in between. By combining practical skills with funded learning – from apprenticeships or institution-backed programmes – individuals can develop a deeper understanding of the concepts, practices,, and theories that underpin such work too. 


Perceptions of Innovation

Perceptions of innovation are also placing big tech companies ahead in the ‘war for talent’ — with alluring topics such as AI, gaming, and software design increasingly making these firms appear more forward-thinking than those in the telecoms space, and attracting top recruits more easily as a result. But in relaying the advancements that have been made in the telecoms sector more broadly, we can help to give the next-generation workforce a greater sense of purpose – and show how they can help lay the foundations of a more connected future. 

Telecoms professionals don’t exist to simply design or build a network, for instance. They’re part of something much greater. And right now, that’s creating a whole new ecosystem of connectedness in the UK, with full fibre. Who would have thought when copper wires were first laid in the late 19th century, that some years later we could be watching TV and stream programmes on the same infra-structure.  No-one knows which innovations are around the corner. What we do know, however, is that the future is exciting. And it’s rapidly evolving too as we head towards a truly connected society.


Positioning ESG commitment as a differentiator

Reframing industry innovation, senses of purpose, and opportunities for career progression aren’t the only ways the telecoms talent gap can be bridged. An organisation’s commitment to environmental, social and governance (ESG) can serve as a differentiator in attracting and retaining talent too — particularly among socially and environmentally conscious next-generation professionals.

People want to know ESG isn’t just another buzzword in corporate boardrooms though. That’s why evidencing bold claims to combat the growing greenwashing epidemic is key. 

Of course, other elements such as carbon offsetting and resource management will feed into this. But everything full fibre stands for is perfectly compelling too. Not only does the roll-out promote environmental sustainability through the use of energy-efficient infrastructure — with fewer points of presence in the network — it also supports social inclusion by expanding access to reliable and high-speed connectivity, and contributes to economic growth by enabling digital transformation and innovation. 


See, the net is wider than ever right now. The question is, should the strategy we’re using to attract top talent be more robust and future-fit, to augment the teams carving a path to a more connected future? If you want to hear more from Dean and Flomatik, you can head over to their website.

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