What’s the Telecom Industry’s “New Normal” after COVID-19?
How will it impact the Telecom Industry Workforce?
That’s both the challenge and the opportunity that companies are struggling with as they plan their emergence from the business model impacts of COVID-19 – along with the huge increase in technology dependence.
Before this virus, 5G, smart cities, and the internet-of-things were the focus.
Now with the workforce “sheltered in place” in work-from-home environments, many companies are finding employees CAN be productive working remotely. And eliminating a 30 to 60-minute commute leads to happier employees who are often equally (or more) productive than they were when working from the office.
What’s the new normal and how will it impact you?
1) More remote work.
Pre-COVID 19 full-time remote work was an anomaly – according to U.S. Census data, 5.2% of workers worked from home in 2017.
54% of U.S. workers work remotely at least once per month, 48% work remotely at least once per week, and 30% work remotely full-time.
That 48% of working remotely at least once per week just bumped up to…
…88% for office workers…during the pandemic.
Now obviously the statistics are pulled from different sources. And it is kind of like comparing to apples to oranges.
But the main point is if you’re in a tech-supported industry (like telecom), it is highly likely that companies…with proof that productivity doesn’t tank with much of their workforce working from home…will use this pandemic trigger to revisit many of their workforce policies.
With companies averaging an $11,000/year savings from moving an employee to half time work-from-home status…the financial incentives are there.
And as working in office environments becomes a trickier proposition for company leaders to manage, the first easy decision is…WFH…until told otherwise.
If you’re targeting a contract opportunity – whether as a temporary staffing solution, or as a contract-for-hire perm role, proving you can be an effective remote worker will be a necessary skillset to develop in the New Normal.
2) Leveraging technology.
With this first big test case where technology was ramped up quickly (Zoom calls, Netflix streaming, email, Wi-Fi and cellular networks), tech infrastructure held up.
“53% of Americans Say the Internet Has Been Essential During the COVID-19 Outbreak”
That’s a critical success for the telecom industry.
Just as companies are seeing WFH as a viable model, the leveraging of technology is soon to follow. And with increased demand means more projects for telecom workers like you.
Now while much of this New Tech will come from the classic wireless carrier big budgets (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Dish), you’ll also start to see new opportunities in “shoulder markets” – things like IoT, Big Data analysis, Cloud Storage, Smart Cities – and these all bring new companies with new staffing needs.
Here are 10 places many of these new tech-driven opportunities will show up…
- Online Shopping and Robot Deliveries
- Digital and Contactless Payments
- Remote Work
- Distance Learning
- Online Entertainment
- Supply Chain 4.0
- 3D Printing
- Robotics and Drones
- 5G and Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
When new companies enter the fray – staffing companies often come across these jobs before you can. And when companies need to staff up fast in bulk, agencies are where they go. If you want to see these jobs you need to be looking outside the job boards.
That’s where companies like NextGen can help. They’re your eyes and ears for those hidden opportunities.
3) Fewer in-person meetings, less business travel, and less “drop-ins” to client offices.
Company leaders have learned that much can be accomplished without being face-to-face. And with increased risk from airline travel, companies are revising their policies to limit health risks to their workers.
Whether it is cutting back on ALL “non-essential travel” or having workers work from home, you’re likely to get fewer requirements for in person client meetings. And the days of strolling through a client’s office to “see who’s around” to chat with about project opportunities…that may be a thing of the past.
With that you need to get more creative and effective in your online communications.
That can be…
- Web meetings – leveraging WebEx, Microsoft’s Teams or Skype platforms, or using Zoom video calls for in-depth discussions about projects.
- Phone calls – most of us used the phone as after emails and in person visits – now the phone will play a bigger role.
- Email marketing – getting better at writing “Persuasive” emails instead of relying on in person sales skills will become more important.
As you get back into this more socially-distanced business environment, you’ll want to build up your remote communication skills. That may mean learning new platforms or taking online training to boost your skillset.
4) Social distanced interviewing.
Companies were just starting to do more video interviews and online skillset testing.
This will become more prevalent along with an increased number of phone/web interviews. Fewer companies will rely on in person interviews as their go-to solution for narrowing down candidates.
As they do that many may leverage agencies’ knowledge and systems to handle this load…another reason to be connected with staffing agencies like NextGen.
Along with structural changes to interviewing, candidates like you will be asking more questions about the health and safety procedures of companies you’re interviewing with. Things like…
“What changes have you made to safety protocols because of COVID-19?”
“If one of your employees gets COVID-19, what steps will you take to keep the rest of your employees safe?”
5) Pay level impacts based on geography.
If you move out of a high cost area some companies are now evaluating cutting your pay.
Many pay more because of the geographic location you’re required to live in – like Silicon Valley or NYC. But as knowledge workers move out of those areas as companies allow WFH, they’re also realizing they can cut workers pay. So, the savings you anticipate by moving…may evaporate.
Another concern is if you work in a high cost area…with an inflated pay rate…you could be passed over for promotion in favor of someone living in a lower cost-of-living state.
Along with that you’ll also see companies expanding their search area for employees and contractors beyond their home office location. And with that they’ll find they can lower pay rates due to increased candidate pools outside high-cost areas.
But if you live in a lower cost area you may find MORE opportunities with top companies where you previously were excluded.
Now let’s look at more telecom specific elements…
6) Permit delays.
If you’ve been working through the pandemic you may have noticed city offices closed or with limited hours, limited inspections or “virtual inspections” being offered.
Cities have probably had the biggest hit to their way of doing business. Many relied heavily on customer interaction. Whether that was at the permit desk discussing project details and review requirements, or onsite inspections face-to-face.
With city offices having to reconfigure their layouts and interaction approaches to keep their staff safe, many have not reopened in full. And this may continue to be a challenge.
They are the most likely to have temperature screenings at the door, have more appointment-based interactions instead of walk-ins, and mask and glove requirements.
Expect that call volumes will go up to them and you’re likely to see permit delays and other problems as they work remotely more often or outsource some of the permit reviews.
7) Virtual industry events.
Industry conferences and wireless association events were a business development staple in the industry.
New products got introduced there and new companies launched.
After parties and separate targeted client meetings were the norm.
While the learning environment still works in a virtual world, the business connections and network building opportunities were shut down with this model.
The big convention will likely not reemerge in its IRL format anytime soon.
You will likely see more golf tournaments (albeit with individual carts), or other outdoor-based events, replacing restaurant-based wireless events as this all gets figured out.
8) Post-merger project opportunities.
In the carrier world there will likely be another big boom of growth for people like you who support these technology-driven projects.
All things are booming here as projects get kicked off in the next few quarters.
Whether it is decom projects or building out 2.5 GHz leveraging the Sprint-acquired spectrum, or building new small cells…this is going to be a hot carrier for new project opportunities over the next several years.
Dish will benefit from its “start-up” mode as it has to hit the FCC-imposed deadlines in their wireless buildout. Also, there will be some impact of acquiring T-Mobile assets – and the auditing and integration on both the Dish and T-Mobile side.
They’re continuing to bring on new employees to ramp up for this new push. And project issuances will be right behind that – Q3 is the current target for these hitting the street.
Verizon and AT&T
The big two are big for a reason. Continued buildouts and big budgets. They need to stay on top. And keeping their wireless infrastructure humming along as they move from 4G to 5G will be critical.
While many of them already have a solid contractor stable, that workload pipeline will continue to push out work.
Where are your opportunities?
As you navigate online tools, WFH arrangements, and new ways of doing business as you emerge from the COVID-19 haze, you’ll want to consider how prepared you are to operate in this world.
If you find you’ll lacking in any area, now is the time to bolster your skillset.
If you’ve been neglecting your network, better start reaching out and connecting.
And if you’re considering a change or are available for new projects, now is the time to check out the jobs on NextGen’s jobs page or reach out to their recruiters.
Mike McRitchie is a 20+ year Wireless Telecommunications Industry veteran who builds out sites for Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile among others. He’s a Top 100 Career Blogger and Telecom Resume Writer. Join his Telecom Jobs List – to get his daily insight emails on everything job search, telecom and managing your career…plus some cool bonus reports.