To arm itself in the war for talent, Level 3 developed several creative ways to recruit external candidates and develop existing employees' technical talents.
Speaking on a Women in Comms (WiC) radio show earlier this month, Mary Beth McGrath, senior vice president of global talent management at Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT), outlined some of the challenges and tools the $8 billion B2B service provider -- and other operators -- must address (See Bridging the Skills Gap.)
Employment demographics are changing, for example, as baby boomers steadily inch toward retirement and Millennials take their places. Within the next ten years, 40% of the workforce will leave, according to Anne Loehr & Associates. Simultaneously, tech employees need new skills, while business professionals must have some understanding of technological capabilities. Regardless of career path, agility is key and on-the-job training is often a top talent.
Since so many businesses now are technology companies that specialize in a vertical such as hospitality, retail or flight, competition for a relatively small pool of talent is tight. As a B2B company that's less recognized outside the telecommunications world than AT&T or Verizon, it can be more challenging to attract prospective employees, says McGrath.
Build vs. buy
Three years ago, Level 3 began the College Connect Sales Academy in Atlanta. The program, which quickly grew and now operates out of the CSP's Denver headquarters, trains recent college graduates to become part of Level 3's North American sales team. Upon completion of the program, employees move to various sales offices around the US and Canada, McGrath says.
Back to Class
Education and coaching are at the heart of many Level 3 hiring and retention programs.
The IP Boot Camp and North American Operations Academy target operations, and were designed not only for college graduates but also for individuals from two-year programs or certificate programs as well as those with no formal or lapsed training, she says.
"They're ideal for returning veterans and those who want to move into a career in telecom," McGrath says. "We really have a diverse group of candidates. Specifically in these programs, we've got folks who come in with no telecom or technical experience or a CCNA [Cisco Certified Network Associate]. We get people who are looking to change careers, people who are looking to re-enter the workforce and those who it's their first job. When they graduate from the training they are prepared to enter our field, tech and operation roles."
The CSP developed its Tech Connect Program for college grads who join Level 3 with a technical degree in-hand. After receiving additional training, they then earn positions within the company's IT organization.
All employees can participate in the Career Compass Management System, an internal LinkedIn-like platform where staff list their resumes and career preferences, McGrath says. This helps Level 3 managers and human resources, since it can determine professionals' preferred roles and areas of expertise, she says. It's too early to tell whether the offering also helps with retention, although Level 3 is optimistic, given employee response to the rollout, says McGrath.
"This not only helps us internally from a recruiting perspective when we look to recruit from within, but also for managers who can help provide a clear internal path and can work with the employee to create focused development plans," she says. "We strive to create an environment where employees choose Level 3 first when they come to their next opportunity."
On the other hand, each year the CSP picks between 30 and 40 employees from across the 60 countries in which it operates for its Emerging Leaders program. These "best and brightest [are groomed] to ensure we have the right leadership bench strength for our future," says McGrath.
Like many other enterprises, Level 3 also emphasizes mentorship -- via formal programs; support groups for a variety of employee groups such as women, LGBT, veterans and Millennials, and tuition reimbursement of up to $3,000 per year per employee. Through Level 3 Cares, it also encourages staff to volunteer with local organizations during normal business hours.
Level 3 also supports STEM and diversity programs internally and at K-12 and higher-ed institutions, says McGrath.
— Alison Diana, Ambassador, The New IP Agency. Follow her on Twitter @alisoncdiana or @The_New_IP.