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Job Descriptions, Compensations and Retention in Telecommunications.

Ever since the breakup of Ma Bell, there has been a radical shift in the importance and visibility of the field of telecommunications. Principal factors associated with this include the deregulation of the telecommunications industry and an evoltuion or revolution of the United States in the areas of mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, leveraged buy-outs, inflation, deflation, recession and trade deficits.

This evolution has caused a drastic impact on corporate America, involving a reassessment of a company's business, a tactical response of a somewhat pervasive negative atmosphere of survivability and an attempt to interpret foggy parameters such as tax implications and foreign corruption, which could drastically affect a company's business.

This attention to the bottom line has caused company managements to more-readily accept and address the need to be more competitive, reduce costs and impart flexibility into the decision-making process. Telecommunications has then been viewed as a valuable asset.

Another factor is that from a competitive viewpoint, the US economy has shifted from a pure manufacturer of hard goods to a generator of technology. One of the great potentials is associated with telecom. On a micro level, competition can be enhanced via the ready access and transference of information.

In the same breath, the human resources supporting telecommunications have also changed radically, including much-broader primary resources that cross industry lines, where before, primary resources in this field came out of governmental or regulatory fields. At the same time, competition for the telecommunications resource is extremely keen and fierce.

We have seen less and less of the "pole climber" and "bit biter" terminology and more of the "integrator" and overall telecommunications professional.

Additionally, there is greater and greater career-path potential for the telecommunications professional. We have recently worked on situations that will allow the head of telecommunications to become not only a corporate officer, but the officer in charge of all management information services. And while before we saw the telecommunications professionals referred to as technicians, today we see a broader emphasis on the combination of technical skills with manaement and marketing skills.

Given the scope and national presence of our engagements in telecommunications, important trends are developing that we see relating to the profession.

A tremendous importance is being placed on the information resources and the potential impact of the "bottom line." In our searches, we see it more and more in the accomplishments of MIS and, more appropriately, telecom professionals. The emphasis is in the areas of telecom and decision-support systems, balanced with long-range development.

Second, overall demand for the telecom professional has currently outstripped supply. This goes across lines of suppliers, providers and end-users of telecommunications services.

There also tends to be a trend for companies to look for economy as a scale. Over the last several months, most of the search work we have performed has been in upgrading the current position and replacing the incumbent.

Interestingly enough, there is a tendency today to see reduced turnover of professionals. People are more security conscious, inflation is down, and compensations are correspondingly leveling across the board. Consequently, people are less likely to jump ship.

In addition, there tends to be an increase in the reduction of jobs through mergers, divestitures, leveraged buyouts and leaning of organizations.

Overall, today's professional faces a lot of uncertainty. In essence, there are no safe harbors and no safe employers, as almost any company is prone to the merger/acquistion mania.

We also tend to see career paths for the pure technician, especially within the telecommunications area.

One final trend we see is a great deal of emphasis being placed on the quality of the professional, not the quantity.

One of the underlying keys that we see emphasized today is in the understanding of technology and its application, the ability to relate it to management and users, and effectively implimenting it. Again, this trend emphasizes the need for quality. The responsibility then becomes yours to recruit, compensate and retain the best quality people. Much of this can be translated into the responsiblities of ensuring that positons are properly described, developing competitive compensation and implementing programs aimed at identifying and supporting employee morale and job satisfaction.

A Look at Job Descriptions

Generally speaking, job descriptions can be viewed in two veins. The first is as a communicative tool that evolves over time, serving multiple audiences as a fluid descriptive document. On the other end of the scale, the job description can be viewed as a necessary evil. Increasing standardization and structure has caused its necessity, and its content bears little resemblance to reality. Its mere presence can be synonymous to a lingering disease.

I do believe that there are immense benefits to be derived with the proper generation of an effective job description. How this is done depends a great deal on your view of the purpose of the document and its intended audience.

The first area the job description should address is the overall scope or boundaries of the position. This includes organizational relationships, functional and technical responsibilities, staff and budget accountabilities, and organizational/functional interfaces.

The second area to be addressed is that of defining appropriate duties and corresponding objectives for the position. In essence, this is a specification of what the individual should be doing and what the outcome should be. Very often, this latter area, or expectations, is not defined.

The third area to be addressed is that of contribution and qualifications for the position. Quantification refers t the tangible impact of the job on both the department and the company as a whole. Qualitfications refers to a generalized statement of the prerequisites for appropriate candidates for the positon.

The fourth area is a bhistory, which should elaborate upon the current state of the department and company environment as it impacts the position. There also should be a brief summary of the accomplishments, milestones and problems experienced to date that will impact the position.

Finally, the position description should state the strategic challenges of the job. In the case of telecommunications, industry characteristics relative to technology will greatly affect a position. This statement should specify the shortcomings or pitfalls that the incumbent will face.

Two other areas must be addressed before a standard format of job descriptions can be identified, which deal with the audience for the document and its corresponding purpose.

There are six categories of audience including the incumbent, potential candidates, compensation committee, human resources department, recruiters and personal/industry sources.

A purpose is defined as ensuring understanding, facilitating approval, establishing boundaries, assisting with compensation, facilitating comparisons and establishing performance measurements.

The specific and distinct identification of the objective of both of these areas, audience and purpose, should be established by each department and for the company as a whole, since this definition will greatly impact any or all of the five areas of content identified above.

In an attempt to standardize the content fo job descriptions, umerous companies have used various schemes. One of the most prevalent is that of the Hay System. Within this structure, there are six primary factors that define effective compensation levels for the professional. The frist two are combined under the heading "know how." They are corelating the level of specialized, technical or practical knowledge with the overall managerial and communicative skill expectations for the job. The next two generally correlate the individual's freedom to act in the position and the relative impact of their decisions and actions on the department or company. This is referred as "overall accountability and magnitude." The last two are refered to as "problem solving." This attempts to correlate the type of thinking pattern in the position with the types of thinking challenges.

A descriptive job specification should allow you to address these factors in a straightforward and objective manner, allowing an ability to assign a numerical value for the three categories.

In our firm, we come across job descriptions on a daily basis as a result of unsolicited information, candidate interviews and client-supplied data. In addition, we provide custom, comprehensive job specifications on every engagement we perform. This experience with descriptions allows for observations.

* The heading of a job description should contain the title for the position, the organizational unit, dating information, approvals and direct reporting functions. It is recommended that there be an approval line for the incumbent.

* The "basic function" statement should describe the overall functional, managerial and technical responsibilities of the position, any organizational influences and objectives, and a definitoin of the strategic and/or tactical duties.

* A "dimensions" statement for the job should be included in the description, with quantifiable data such as staff size, budgets, revenue contribution, assets impacted and discretionary versus non-discretionary expense responsibilities. In addition, this area should include a definition, this area should include a definition of organization significance, such as direct and indirect control or influences, as well as staffing.

* The paragraph relative to the nature and scope of the position should contain a historical perspective of the job, the strategic and tactical challenges (accountabilities), industry and corporate characteristics impacting the job, shortcomings or pitfalls and overall skill requirements of the position. This area is often overlooked in job descriptions we see. It is highly recommended that these be addressed in a separate statement that is used for recruiting purposes or in promotional situations.

* The final area is "principal accountabilities." Each statement here is generally one to two sentences along and cover what is to be done by the position, who is being managed and the key interfaces or influences. These statements should be action-oriented, specific as to what is to be done, organized in a descriptive flow, specifying deliverables whenever possible, defining levels of organizational influence and describing policy versus procedural responsibility. Care could be taken in describing how any specified duties should be performed. We recommend that this area are be totally eliminated.

Telecom Industry Compensations

In looking at the compensation of telecommunications professionals, several points relative to the current environment can be stated. Firs, compensations across the board are highly competitive. Second, there tends to be less impact on compensation by the educational background of the candidate or incumbent. We do believe that this will change in the near future, and it has been a carryover of former days when telecom was principally activity and comprised of a high majority of non-degreed professionals.

Third, the size of an organization has had a minimal impact on the range of compensations. Fourth, compensations across the board are non-industry dependent, as we have found a free-flowing of professionals across industry lines. Finally, there still tends to be a heavy emphasis on the voice side when telecommunications is mentioned to company management. We believe that this tendency will slowly shift with the integration of voice/data communications. Currently, most tangible savings to companies are derived through project associated with voice communications.

In attempting to gain further insight into the current salary levels of telecommunication professionals, we have taken it upon ourselves to poll some of our clients and contacts in the industry. While we do not believe that these samplings (see chart) are statistically accurate, the results tend to be verified through our search efforts on a national basis.

We firmly believe that the compensation levels for telecommunications professionals are facing a potential milestone and could possibly experience explosive and errative growth.

Our assessment is based upon some key factors affecting all industries, as well as an economic assumption. First, demand for the professional far outstrips supply. This is especially prevalent where a company desires a professional trained in both voice and data. Second, the pace of technological growth in telecommunications will cause a segregation of professionals. From a technical viewpoint, more specialization will be seen. At the same time, the professional will require more-acute management skills to keep pace with and control the technological growth and potential. In other disciplines where these factors have occurred, the end result has been that the quality of professionals is far less than the quantity. Thus, the demand for top-caliber performers will force compensation levels upwards.

The economic assumption we alluded to above is based upon a familiar scenario. At first we assume flat to slow growth of the gross national product. With this, companies across industry lines will continue to reduce their cost structures, reevaluate business lines and strive to be more competitive or carve new niches.

In high geographic-growth areas, such as the Northeast, radical upward movements could occur. This situation will commence with a few companies who decide to become either compensation leaders or vastly increase their industry compensation percentile range. As an example, when the energy industry went through a boom in the late '70s, the Houston-area compensation levels for MIS professionals was radically affected by one company that decided to offer compensations at 10 to 20 percent above the market levels due to their demand for a highly skilled yet scarce resource.

We also believe that there are a number of programs and ideas that can possibly be implemented within companies and organizations to more-effectively communicate and implement equitable levels of compensation for the telecommunications professional. Some of these programs and ideas are identified below:

* Associations, such as the International Communications Association and Communications Managers Association, should strive to gather more-useful and accurate compensation data for use by member organizations. This data should cross industry lines, be identified according to standard job classifications, be grouped by meaningful revenue or asset-sized entities, and have a mechanism for timely update.

* Telecommunications departments should strive for more-effective communications with the human-resource/compensation function of their companies. This can be achieved through a number of mechanisms, including joing participation in relevant industry association meetings, the temporary internship of a telecommunications professional on the staff of the human resource or compensation area, and other vehicles such as an internal or external roundtable session.

* Request your human resource and/or compensation manager to contact and poll those organizations that have most-readily attracted your personnel and recruited them out of your department.

Retention is an extremely critical factor within most telecommunication organizations. A polling of some of the heads of telecommunications of Fortune 20 corporations have shown that attrition rates vary from 5 to more than 30 percent.

The average retention of an MIS professional is two to three years, and with the increased emphasis in the telecommunications arena, we have found that this average will become shorter.

Some of the effects of higher critical-skill turnover include the loss of background knowledge of a company's activities and business, a loss of expertise in a company's MIS and telecommunications functions and problems, a wasting of training effort and expense, lost rapport with users and teammates, larger finder and recruiting fees for new personnel, and a loss of continuity to a given effort.

Some Approaches to Retention

Professionals will always relate to a sense of priority of values within their lives and working environments. A set of values that are commonly known and supported can effect better communication, team effort, and a high-quality work environment. We recommend establishing some type of values within the information-service department and possibly within the telecom section.

Other approaches to retention include what I have defined as the productivity-enhancement areas. There are two basic premises to this type of project, the first being the recognition of the value of each person. Second, each person is an expert in his or her position. The objective of the project is to define "how we can make this a better place to work" and "how we can be more productive as a department."

What some companies have done in this area is to establish a questionnaire. Its intent is to identify the basic factors of employee concerns with respect to the components of their job. Analysis of the responses allows management to begin to consolidate and state the ideal desire for each component factor affecting the job. Finally, by identifying and implementing programs addressing these ideals, the department employees work at achieving each ideal.

With respect to career planning programs, four points can be made. First, each level within an organization should identify the high-potential employees. These are the individuals who either currently have the skill base or have the potential to obtain the skill base for upwards mobility. Second, three of these individuals should be identified for each position. Third, individual development plans should be identified for each of these personnel, and fourth, cross training programs and policies should be implemented.

Within the telecommunications area, we have seen a newer emphasis being placed on establishing a career path for the pure technician.

Finally, a question is always asked as to what can be done with professionals who are more than ready for advancement into a position for which there is no opening. In polling some of our clients, we have found that the most expeditious answer to this problem is to creat temporary positions. In essence, we are saying that the opportunity has to be made but that it be on a limited timeframe. Interestingly enough, we have found within these same companies that there is much-broader management acceptance to this concept than the artificial and permanent expansion of organizational positions.
COPYRIGHT 1986 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Freud, John
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:transcript
Date:Jan 1, 1986
Words:2857
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