Talent Tales – Scott Smith of AT&T

Talent Tales – Scott Smith of AT&T

Category : 2013

Talent Tales is a quarterly resource that provides insights into talent acquisition, development and retention.  Key HR leaders, vendors, and other subject matter experts provide insights into the people strategies, processes, and tools that help highly successful organizations excel.

This quarter Scott Smith, an SVP of HR at AT&T, who leads staffing, HR generalists, and HR service delivery, talked with us about several aspects of the AT&T employee/employer relationship.

Q:  What attributes do you look for when determining who is a high-potential manager?   Do these attributes evolve over time?

A manager who displays key leadership potential and possesses high integrity, drives results, build relationships, motivates/inspires others, looks for alternative ways of getting things done, and communicates well.   Yes, these attributes can evolve and develop as one has the desire and motivation to hone their skills to make themselves better.  Through their desire to develop themselves, they in turn make those around them better which makes the team function better and leads to higher results.

Q: Are there challenges to advancing high-potential managers?

There are a limited number of promotional opportunities available and with a talented workforce like the one we have at AT&T that alone provides a challenge.  One way that we keep employees engaged is to encourage lateral movement.  Lateral movement allows employees to go horizontally and gain knowledge and exposure in different areas of the business which makes them more competitive when promotional opportunities become available.  The experience they gain broadens their skills set, deepens their knowledge about AT&T and allows them to see the bigger picture.  Through the experience they also increase their business acumen and enlarge their networking circle which are both valuable tools as the market and position themselves for the next opportunity.

Q:  What are several of the key tenets of the relationship between AT&T and its employees?

Trust, empowerment, caring and development are several key tenets of the relationship between AT&T and its employees.  Trust that leadership will do the right thing – every time.  Empowering employees to be innovative and take calculated, intelligent risks.  Showing that we care– through our benefits programs, our focus on diversity and inclusion, and our commitment to our communities.  Lastly, investing in and providing opportunities for development and growth through our coaching, mentoring and training programs.

Q:  What is AT&T doing to understand employee engagement levels and respond to feedback?

For several years, AT&T has confidentially surveyed our employees to get direct feedback about their job, what they need to be successful, their daily work life, working relationships, their leaders and more.  The feedback is provided to leaders, and it is the expectation from the Chairman and his direct report team that the results are reviewed at the leadership level, dialogue occurs between supervisors and their employees and the appropriate action plans are put in place.  We have had positive changes across our company as a result of the feedback received and the dialogue that’s occurred.
This year we added an Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) Survey.  It asked three key questions that centered around willingness and likelihood to recommend AT&T as an employer and AT&T products and services.
The eNPS Survey will be distributed several times this year and will be used to drive ongoing dialogue about continuously improving the customer experience.  Similarly to the Employee Engagement Survey Results, each supervisor is expected to have open dialogue with their employees and discover ways that the customer experience can be improved.

Q:  Given the large scale of the organization, how does communication with employees take place with respect to longer-term views of career development?

AT&T University is our corporate university and it offers resources and tools on Career Development, Communication Skills, Individual Effectiveness, and Mentoring just to name a few.  AT&T University resources are primarily designed for management employees. However, they do provide some resources to our non-management employees as well.  The Career Development module in the AT&T University curricula focuses on the areas of Career Exploration, Career Management and offers several self-assessments to assist employees in identifying their areas of strengths and opportunities for growth to ultimately find their best career path.

AT&T also leverages front-line management employees to emphasize the importance of career development.  Often times that front-line manager is the face of the company to our non-management employees and as such we equip him/her with the right tools and resources in order to effectively communicate that message.

Q:  What are leaders in the organization looking for with respect to the next wave of innovation and business support from HR as you strive to have ready talent available to meet the challenges ahead?

AT&T leaders want HR to hire talented, dedicated, diverse, service-oriented employees that will help AT&T succeed.  Our Staffing organization is doing an excellent job of driving traffic to our att.com/jobs website, evidenced by the more than 3.5 million job seekers who visited the site in 2012.  We have gone mobile in our recruiting efforts and launched our Mobile Career Site as we are one of seven Fortune 500 companies that is considered a front runner in the area of mobile recruiting as identified by iMomentous.  Mobilizing recruiting allows us to reach more job seekers since they can engage with us from a mobile device.

AT&T leaders also want HR to be a strategic partner who understands their individual short-term and long-term business goals and objectives.  This places HR in a role to be more consultative which affords us the ability to predict hiring needs and identify skills that will be essential in contributing to the success of their overall business plan.

And our business is looking for HR to make sure we have the right person with the right skills in the right job at the right time.  Our company is going thru a skills transformation and is counting on HR to make sure that we both find external talent and train internal talent on skills that are becoming more important to us as we move to a fully wireless and IP technology company.

Innovation is our backbone from the legacy telegraph to cellular service to a fully automated home, our leaders are expecting that every organization, including HR, is innovating and helping to move our business forward.

Q:  Taking a longer term view, is there a single opportunity / challenge to be addressed relative to the development of leaders?

Through AT&T University and our Talent Management Team we have created several avenues for self-development and made developing our employees a priority.   One of the challenges that we may experience in the future is how to engage a workforce that spans four generations and has unique characteristics and thoughts about what makes a good leader and how they desire to be communicated with.  As we develop our future leaders, it is critical that we teach them how to see situations through a generational lens.  We must continue to emphasize that good leaders build relationships and know how to effectively communicate.  In the mobile and social media world that we now live in, they must not lose sight of the human factor of collaborating, teaming, partnering, speaking and delivering an effortless customer service constantly.