How we addressed the tower climber skills shortage in telecom

How we addressed the tower climber skills shortage in telecom

Summary

Significant demand, limited supply of tower workers

Our customer is a leading global networking and telecommunications company.

Network services is a key line of business for our customer and they consistently bid on new wireless construction and upgrade projects that require a substantial number of Tower Climbers to complete.

Cell site towers are traditionally owned by communication infrastructure companies and leased to wireless carriers where they in turn contract the work to services companies, who often sub-contract to local tower work companies.

Sometimes there may be an additional company or two in the mix, resulting in five layers between tower owner and tower climber.

The challenge

Matching investment and sales with crew headcount

As a result of the multiple layers between the tower owner and the climber, quality and compliance have been historically low and a real concern for wireless providers.

Tower Climbers often work in crews of four – three climbers and one supervisor.

There is a clear skills shortage in tenured workers and many have traditionally worked for small subcontracting companies.

The talent pool – already a very small number – is actively employed and engaged in sub-contractor work.

Our customer recognised the need to employ more Tower Climbers on a full time employee basis as opposed to subcontracting the work.

They invested in extensive training programmes in order to ensure workers’ safety, project quality, and regulatory compliance.

Our customer opened a state-of-the-art facility to train tower climbers on industry standards and carrier specifics in an extensive three-week programme required for all hires – regardless if entry-level or experienced.

As our customers’ RXO provider, we needed to match our customers’ investment and aggressive sales with tower crew headcount.

How we helped

Seeking out talent

To meet demands, we researched and identified trade schools as a potential talent opportunity and our customer selected six schools in fourteen different locations to partner with.

In a targeted campaign, the customer spoke often at these schools to persuade students to consider telecommunications tower work over the more popular power occupations.

All day information and interview sessions were conducted, and students received Letters of Intent for job offers once they graduate.

In addition, these students often get exposure to climbing heights and extreme conditions before graduating and starting in this line of work.

These two factors often create a high attrition rate for entry-level candidates and the trade school education programmes helped curb that significantly.

Recognising weaknesses in the interview process

In a tight labour market, time is essential, and the interview process was taking much too long, so we restructured the full process.

We first identified process owners and designated one or two interviewers per region.

The interviewers in turn provided allocated interview times on a weekly basis, allowing our team to schedule interviews in real time with candidates.

Because many candidates were unable to schedule time for face to face interviews, we eliminated face to face interviews and implemented Skype video interviews to improve candidate retainment.

Interview feedback and hiring selection had become a time concern as well so our team created automated interview forms in the ATS and set an SLA with hiring teams of 24 hours.

Having only a handful of interviewing managers now allowed us to meet this SLA and offer positions much quicker, ensuring we didn’t lose the candidate to other offers, it created a more streamlined and consistent hiring experience for the candidates.

Improving communication methods

Our team noticed common communication habits within the tower community where text proved to be the most impactful line of communication.

We implemented LoopSMS and automated recruiting and on-boarding messages.

SMS messages are now sent to candidates the day of their interview to confirm again or request a reschedule.

This notably improved engagement and the overall candidate experience.

Creating a scalable solution

The number of workers needed is based on project bids won.

Our customer could not forecast demand even in the short term, which made a traditional RXO contract difficult.

To support this, we created specialised teams in our Shared Services centres that work off of a contract separate from our general RXO agreement.

The Shared Delivery team can easily ramp up or down based on project supply and demand.

Impact

Leading the US market with tower climbing employees

Our RXO team hired approximately 1,000 tower workers in the US – a significant market share considering there are approximately 15,000 workers in the country.

43% of these hires were from trade schools, up 2% from the year prior.

Time to fill significantly improved from 70 days to 15 days.

Despite a clear skills shortage, the speed to hire and increased talent pool coupled with the customer’s investment in training has allowed the customer to meet aggressive timelines, improve project quality and compliance, and continue to bid and win new services projects.

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