“We need an increasing number of people with high-end skills, but the pool of available talent is shrinking all the time. To hire and retain the right people, we therefore need to be ahead of the game,” says Máté Fazekas, Head of Corporate - Public Affairs & Brand at BT’s (British Telecommunications) Regional Operations Centre in Hungary. How is BT in Hungary looking to gain an edge in the competition for talent in this tight labor market, both now and in the future?
The interview was carried out before the full global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear. While labor market conditions have been affected, the research-led insights and proactive workforce planning that are at the heart of BT Hungary’s talent strategy have never been more important.
Standing Out: How are BT Hungary’s skills demands evolving, and what challenges does this present?
Máté Fazekas: Right now, we have around 2,500 employees, who provide a broad range of business and customer support for BT internally, and its clients. In addition to customer relations, a significant proportion of our workforce covers areas such as finance and HR services for the BT Group. Further operations include network design, which requires highly specialized skills.
Pressure on available skills is mounting as our services move up the value chain, with more routine operations being progressively transferred to other centers worldwide. The resulting talent demands include a big expansion in our business support teams. The required skills profile of our customer relations teams is also more exacting. This includes recruiting client relations personnel with the language skills to serve our clients all over Europe. With much of our client base being multinationals with complex needs, we’re also looking for people with deep knowledge of business and finance.
pressure on available skills is mounting as our services move up the value chain.
Securing the right people is challenging. Unemployment here in Hungary is at a record low (February 2020). The resulting talent squeeze is compounded by the fact that there are around 5,000 fewer students coming out of education every year. With business support becoming an ever more prominent part of the Hungarian economy, we’re competing with many other companies for people with the capabilities we need. In areas such as network design, the number of suitably qualified senior architects for the systems we use is probably no more than 50 or 60.
Standing Out: What’s your strategy for getting on top of these talent demands?
Máté Fazekas: With so much competition for key talent and changes in our skills’ demands, we recognize that we need to take a proactive, forward-looking view. One of the first strategic moves that our new general manager made when he took up his post in 2016 was to develop a sustainable employer branding strategy.
Our first campaign under this new employer brand strategy and the associated employee value proposition was #next10, which focuses on how we can be an employer of choice, not just now, but also as our demands and talent expectations evolve over the next ten years. We offer good salaries and benefits, which are undoubtedly important, but not enough in themselves. That’s why we’ve been carrying out in-depth research into what different generations and cohorts of talent want from their careers. We can then frame our employee value proposition and develop targeted messaging around these various demands.
our first campaign was #next10, which focuses on how we can be an employer of choice as our demands and talent expectations evolve over the next ten years.
The results include a revamp of our work spaces, and how we communicate and engage as a team, to reflect the desire for a more relaxed and informal environment among the Gen Z recruits coming out of school and college. For people further along their careers, a key focus is developing family-friendly support and ways of working that enable them to sustain a healthy work-life balance. For our more experienced and senior personnel, we’re also creating more openings for mentoring and coaching.
Beyond these broad attractions, it’s important to determine the decisive factor that can really set us apart. That’s where the kind of research we’ve been carrying out is so useful. For example, we found that the most important aspiration for the more than 100,000 Gen Zs we reached, is to be able to earn 420,000 Hungarian forints (around US$1,310) a month within ten years (around 3.5 times minimum wage). Nearly half didn’t believe that they could achieve this in their home country, so would need to seek out opportunities abroad. But with the appropriate level of skills and knowledge, BT in Hungary and the business services sector more broadly can offer this. That enabled us to communicate a clear message to this cohort that “no, you don’t need to go abroad, come and work for us instead”.
In terms of the number of people we’re able to attract, we’re pleased with the results. Last year, we received around 20,000 applications for 500 hires. But what’s more important is that we can secure the right people. Good competition for places means that we can be selective. And for us, this isn’t just about skills and experience, but also people who are good at solving complex problems, and who can contribute to the close and supportive community we want to be.
Standing Out: How does your employer branding strategy stand out?
Máté Fazekas: BT was among the first multinationals in Hungary with a country specific employer branding strategy. Its importance is reflected in the fact that it’s embedded within corporate level strategic planning and evaluation, rather than being a matter for HR alone.
Our focus isn’t just short-term recruitment. We want to start the conversation with potential candidates early, so when they leave education or look to switch, we’re the company that’s first on their list.
our focus isn’t just short-term recruitment. We want to start the conversation with potential candidates early, so when they leave education or look to switch, we’re the company that’s first on their list.
We’re making a significant investment in developing clear and targeted messaging, supported by the research I mentioned earlier. For people coming out of education and with one- or two-years’ experience, it seems only right to use Facebook. These communications include cartoons, interactive games and other media that appeals to this demographic. If we’re looking to engage with more senior and experienced talent, we tend to use LinkedIn. We look closely at language, both in how we communicate, and whether the communications are most appropriate in Hungarian or English. LinkedIn communications are generally in English, while Facebook messaging tends to be both in Hungarian and English, reflecting the different target audiences. With quite a few of our people now being recruited from outside Hungary, English can also be used to help broaden the international reach of our communications.
Communications are only part of the story. Equally, if not more important, is living up to our promises. We’ve received recent awards for our employer branding strategy, but what really led to celebrations were the awards BT in Hungary has won for mentoring and being a family-friendly company of the year. That shows that we mean what we say over career development and work-life balance. Similarly, when we say “You write your story” in terms of career development, we need to make sure we back that up with learning, development and opportunities for progression. Of around 900 positions that come up here annually, some 400 are filled by internal candidates.
when we say “you write your story” in terms of career development, we need to make sure we back that up with learning, development and opportunities for progression.
Standing Out: There is a lot of speculation and often misunderstanding about the Gen Zs coming into the workforce. How have you developed an effective employee value proposition that reflects their and your expectations.
Máté Fazekas: Yes, Gen Z does have high expectations. We know that from both our research and the growing number of these young people who are joining and beginning to move up within BT in Hungary. In addition to good pay and a vibrant environment, they want challenges, they want to be able to make their mark, and they want to progress at perhaps a quicker pace than previous generations coming into the workforce.
Where possible, we’ll deliver. I’ve talked already about the salaries and working environment we are looking to foster. With personal development plans, more technical apprenticeships, and the rising value of the kind of work we carry out, we can also help Gen Z talent to meet their aspirations. Managers now offer bigger challenges if that is what their people want. At the same time, expectations need to be realistic. Through our school and college outreach program, we offer both technical training and guidance on what the world of work is really like. This guidance also forms a key part of our candidate engagement and induction for recruits. So, when people join us from school and college, they are prepared.
Gen Z does have high expectations…in addition to good pay and a vibrant environment, they want challenges, they want to be able to make their mark, and they want to progress.
Knowledge base: What we can learn about employer branding from BT Hungary
- Employer branding should look ahead to help build talent communities, and understand what talent wants as they set out and develop their careers.
- Employer branding is a business priority that should be closely aligned with strategic management at a corporate level.
- Do your research: BT in Hungary’s experience highlights the benefits. For example, by highlighting the gap between what Gen Z candidates thought they would be paid and what the company could offer, they were able to gain an edge in a tight labor market.
- Priorities do change as people progress through their careers. As long as the core commitments are common to all, it is possible to shape the employee value proposition around these different expectations.
- Gen Z has high expectations. But they’re not impossible to meet.
Máté Fazekas, Head of Corporate - Public Affairs & Brand
Following university studies in which Máté qualified as a corporate communications & PR professional and English teacher, he started his professional career at IBM’s shared service center as a communications specialist in 2006. He went on to lead the communications activities for IBM’s Central European centers for six years. In 2015, he joined the governmental sector as a director for communications and protocol. In 2016, Máté joined BT, where he works on positioning BT and improving the company’s brand attractiveness and awareness in Hungary. His responsibilities also include internal and external communication, employer branding, PR, HR marketing, academic relations and corporate relations
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