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Cable Technology Feature Article

February 03, 2010

Manpower Survey Highlights Telco Staffing Issues

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

A number of key trends identified by Manpower likely have something to do with Verizon’s (News - Alert) recent 13,000-person layoff in December 2009.
First, there is an “economic environment where organizations are pressured to do more with less.” Also, there is new “pressure to find the right skills in the right place at the right time, a shift in the nature of work and skills.” There is, in short, a skills mismatch.
In the case of fixed-network providers, this mismatch shows up in the growing need for IP, software and Ethernet skills rather than TDM switch engineering or voice applications in the outside plant. Telcos have been dealing with this issue for some years now.
The other issue is a growing mismatch between revenue opportunity in fixed voice and the cost of supporting that business. As the number of subscribers shrinks, the fixed cost of the network has to be shared over a smaller base of paying customers. And though it might be possible to support quite a large number of highly paid workers in a business with large cash flow and high profit margins, that never is true for a business that is shrinking, facing smaller gross revenue and lower profit margins, as the fixed voice market now finds itself, at least at telco organizations.
At the same time, there is a shift of power within organizations of all types from “employer to individual.” Those individuals with the ability, access and self motivation will benefit from the shift of power from employer to individual.
“Those individuals with general, mainstream skills, shared by many, will be marginalized unless they improve their skills and workplace relevance,” said the Manpower report.
In a telco context, that likewise generally puts younger workers at a premium, compared to older workers, because younger workers tend to be more comfortable “managing their own careers,” rather than having them managed for them by employers.
Also, as customers become more sophisticated, the need to supply higher value is growing. Customers are making new demands on their suppliers, and that requires organizations that operate faster, in a differentiated and agile way. At the same time, margin pressures are forcing more attention to productivity.
Technological developments allow new ways of getting work done, increasing the importance of coordination and collaboration. Some demographers already say this will favor females rather than males in the workforce, as females arguably are more used to working in a collaborative fashion.
Even if those trends were not in place, one general rule can be noted: highly-unionized enterprises are struggling, virtually everywhere, to support the agile, flexible, fast-changing nature of work. Irrespective of one’s opinion of labor unions, there is no doubt the nature of work now puts a premium on flexibility, agility and lower overhead.
Industrial forms of enterprise organization are increasingly dysfunctional in the information age.

Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Marisa Torrieri