Telco industry: Talent strategy for the COVID crisis

We’ve seen it in the news lately… those industries on their knees thanks to the COVID crisis. It’s tough to watch. But conversely, we’re also seeing an uptick in activity from other sectors. Like grocery, online shopping, healthcare, and telco, to name a few. Whether this increase in business activity for these sectors lasts, remains to be seen.

But it’s in that last industry that we’ve seen a dramatic shift: telecommunications. One that we felt worthy of covering.


It’s an industry with participation and investment from almost every Australian.

It’s an industry without which, vast swathes of organisations and entire sectors would crumble.

And it’s an industry that’s crucial to the successful operation of our economy, at every level.

Of course, it’s an industry that’s not been without controversy. From privatisation to Government-backed technology upgrades and PPPs, we wonder: how is the sector holding up in this era of COVID lockdown and economic shrinkage? And more importantly, how is the business and talent model affecting the operations of this industry in these current circumstances?

Let’s take a look.

The back story

From the 1990’s through to today, the seismic shift in Australia’s telecommunications industry has been ongoing.

Since the late 1990’s, as we started to rely less on landline telephone communications, the declining revenue in this segment of the industry was quickly replaced with ISPs offering email, internet access and the subsequent array of digital telecommunications we have at our finger-tips today.

Not only has this seemingly simple transformation from landline to online been part of the telco evolution, so too has the shift from fixed-line broadband services, delivered on the old copper network. These services evolved to the fibre and fixed wireless broadband services we have so readily available in the Australian market today. For all its lagging on delivery timeframes, questionable speeds and often very pricey services, NBN’s multi-technology architecture, including VDSL and Fibre-to-the-Node (FttN) gives Australia’s telco infrastructure a solid foundation.

With the demand for mobile broadband rapidly increasing, contributing also to the decline in Australia’s fixed-line market, we’re seeing a shift in consumer appetite for telco services. Today, in the era of ‘anywhere’ and ‘anytime’, accessing consumer and business services in an instant is critical.

In terms of industry transformations, telco’s have experienced it all.

Telco today: 2020

With demand for at-home broadband delivered fast and efficiently, the at-home network is under greater pressure as Australia’s population self-isolates. This isn’t just for the WFH crew. It’s also catering to the needs of the family. Such as increased usage of home-streaming services like Netflix, and the rise in online and streamed gaming for kids who are required to stay at home. These represent significant changes to telco services demands.

If you look at the business services revenues of telco’s, versus the consumer demand (which according to IBISWORLD accounts for 68% of internet usage in Australia in non-COVID times), there’s a notable decline right now.

This will unlikely have any material impact on the industry’s income for 2020. But what might impact income, is the spike in talent costs.

A telco talent strategy for the COVID era

Let’s use Telstra as a case example. The majority of Telstra’s 29,000 employees were, at the onset of COVID restrictions, able to work from home.

From mid-March, when the pandemic really took hold, Telstra experienced a 50% surge in usage of its network. This led to a vastly increased demand for its call centre services.

Many of these call centre services are based offshore, where pandemic restrictions are also in place. However, frequently, these are in countries with less robust telco infrastructures than Australia. As such, their capacity to work from home and stay connected can be compromised.

As a result, Telstra has been hiring. Largely non-permanent – often casual – workers, here in Australia, with a heavy emphasis on call-centre and customer services roles.

Even today, with restrictions easing, and a gradual return to the office for some organisations, the pressure on Telstra’s workforce remains high.

And Telstra’s not alone. Other major telco players in Australia have done the same, including prior to COVID. The increasing pressure on shareholder value, the commercial need for competitive advantage, cost-cutting and profitability, have seen the industry often drastically shift the talent model to temporary or casual. And as a talent strategy for the telco industry,  it’s worked.

The business case

The telco industry is hyper-competitive. I don’t need to cover the various segments and nuances of the industry. Suffice to say, there are operators servicing every demographic, usage and services required in the market.

But in this unprecedented era of COVID, with many telco operators experiencing a significant spike in worker numbers, the industry’s penchant for cost mitigation at every turn can be hindered.

It’s here that the telco industry needs to consider a better talent model. A model where costs and overheads are not pressured into a declining margin scenario.

Introducing new workers into an organisation en masse is no easy feat. The operational, process and compliance standards all need to be met with equal rigour as per hiring during ‘normal’ circumstances.

The difference in this current environment – new workers at scale, with a requirement for a short time-to-productivity – is unique. What’s even more unique, is the uncertainty of how long these workers will be needed in the organisation. This is especially true in the telco industry; not only are these major Australian employers relying on their own governments to get life ‘back to normal’, but they’re also calling on the same from many international governments.

Outsourcing this process for quickly hiring at scale, is the smartest, most efficient, and lucrative cost-saving approach a telco can take. The business case here is clear cut:

  • Increased services demand, calls for increased support talent
  • Hiring, compliance checking and onboarding at scale is typically a lengthy, costly process
  • An outsourced partner (like CXC), can execute this approach with speed, accuracy and full statutory compliance
  • The new hires aren’t on staff. They’re temporary workers, offering the telco the flexibility to up or downscale, pending:
    • government decisions on COVID
    • organisational WFH trends
    • sustained demand in the residential segment of the industry

It’s a telco industry talent strategy. And it seems almost like a no-brainer.

The telecommunications industry remains at the core of our economy here in Australia. But the COVID crisis need not bring telcos to their knees, because of a sudden need for workers on the ground.

Like all things, change isn’t easy.

Especially in industries where every step in the supply chain is under pressure. But taking a lateral approach to engaging new workers quickly, efficiently and with full compliance via outsourced services, appears to be one area telcos can breathe a sigh of relief.


As one of the world’s leading providers of contingent worker management solutions, CXC is well positioned to optimise all elements of your contingent workforce strategy. With operations in more than 50 countries across five continents and decades of experience, we can assist with every aspect of your program.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help please contact us here.