Handling Telecom Layoffs: Expert Views
Once the poster child of the country's economic progress, the Indian telecom industry is battling an unsustainable level of financial stress. Shiv Agrawal, Managing Director of a recruitment company ABC Consultants, was quoted in media saying, “Till a couple of years ago, the telecom sector was among the top five out of our 25 business segments. Now it is in the bottom five.” He further said, “We now have more outplacement mandates than hiring ones.” On a similar note, BN Thammaiah, MD of Kelly Services shared in media, “Telecom accounts for about 10% of our business, and we have seen about a 25% drop in business over the last year. Most people from the sector want to move out, and the number of jobs given out has fallen as well."
According to a report by CIEL HR Services, since last year the telecom sector has already lost around forty thousand people, and the trend is likely to continue for the next six-nine months and may see the culling touching eighty to ninety thousand. Aditya Narayan, CEO of CIEL HR Services shares in media, "The attrition rate is likely to remain high at least for the next two-three quarters, and the sector is likely to reduce around 80,000-90,000 people."
People Matters reached out to experts to understand how HR can approach and manage the ongoing layoffs in a better way:
Abhijit Bhaduri, Founder, Abhijit Bhaduri & Associates
Skills are a depreciating asset. When the business environment changes slowly the skills have a greater shelf life. The Digital Tsunami is changing the business models and competitive scenario far more frequently than ever before. The telecom sector like the IT and ITES scenario is getting affected by the early impact of the devastation. People have to find ways to apply their skills in other sectors. Soft skills are transferable. Skills like project management are needed across industries. My advice to the organization would be:
- Inspire alignment across through frequent sharing including updates on performance and actions being undertaken to set up an organization for success.
- Once thought through, then stay the course rather than frequent changes that upset organization cadence.
- Identify and then invest in re-skill, adaptability and change management coaching /training for key talent thereby empowering them to become agents of inspiration and change for the organization.
- Reinforce processes and mechanisms for facilitating employees find best-fit roles across in a compassionate manner. Focus on transparency and authenticity.
T.N Hari, HR Head, Big Basket
Technology advancement and overcapacity often result in an industry being disrupted. While technology advancement results in new entrants, who can provide a much better service at a lower cost, overcapacity results in industry consolidation. Job losses are inevitable in either of the two scenarios. Almost every industry has gone through this phase. There is no easy answer. Reskilling is often talked about like a magic bullet, but the success is insufficient. The best solution for people impacted by these layoffs to look for employment in other industries where similar skill sets are in demand. For instance sales, people in telecom can move to sales roles in say insurance. There is nothing much that the telecom industry can do other than some career counseling along these lines and provide some honest outplacement help.
The experts provide one standard solution to the problem of layoffs i.e. exploring other industries where similar skill sets are in demand. While soft skills are easily transferable from one industry to another, it’s the technical skills which require more effort. Telecom industry can assist the laid-off employees in outplacement. With the rapidly changing business environment, the skills which are becoming redundant can be replaced or rebuilt, and the responsibility of coaching and reskilling the employees has to be taken by the businesses. The fear of layoff can hence be replaced by hope for new opportunities, and the talent can be managed around this new wave of change.