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Verizon's HR Strategy on how to remain competitive and productive

Verizon is one of the largest communication technology companies in the world. Its vision of the future is based on expanding global markets for mobility, broadband and video, and its investment in superior wireless, fibre-optic and global IP networks puts Verizon in the centre of these powerful growth markets and enables the company to deliver unique connected services on a global scale. Verizon combines these great networks with superior devices and communications solutions that make life better for people, businesses and communities.

However, what are the HR priorities organisations like Verizon will need to take into consideration over the next five years? And how does it intend to ensure it remains competitive and productive in a global marketplace? Helen Johnson, European HR Business Partner at Verizon Enterprise Solutions, elaborates.

Technology is continually evolving, and changing the way people work - which has a knock-on impact on Verizon’s HR priorities and the way the organisation is thinking about its people, said Johnson.

For most of our people, work is no longer linked to a specific location, or a set timeframe. Technology enables people to work from wherever they are, using multiple devices. Mobile and flexible working is an expectation now – people are used to using technology in their personal lives, and expect the same tools to be available to them in their work life as well, said Johnson.

What this means is, as an organisation, Verizon is having to think differently about how it enables its employees to work, she said.

“Our workforce is basically focused on supporting our customers’ needs,” Johnson added. “We need 24/7 support services, engineers who can travel at a moment’s notice, skilled employees who can work alongside their customers to develop innovative, and transformative technology solutions and a host of other skills.”

As such Verizon has many different types of workers and working models including permanent employees who might be full time, part time, job sharing, or shift-working etc, as well as contract staff.

“We’ve got a number of different models across the business and what we’re focused on doing in particular is making sure that we can maintain a smooth and efficient service for our customers.”

Workplace mobility is key to Verizon’s strategy. Many of Verizon’s workers are fully mobile and can build their working day around the needs of their specific role, moving easily between office and country locations.

“Our employees are able to reserve a work space according to the best location for them to fulfil their job on any specific day. So for example, if a sales person is visiting a customer in London they can work from one of our sites in London. They can quickly and easily reserve a work space or meeting room to host a customer meeting.”

Verizon’s HR Strategy

Johnson said Verizon’s HR Strategy is effectively focused around four pillars. These are called: Acquire, Develop, Engage, and Shareholder Value.

Acquire

A key focus for Verizon’s HR team is to ensure that the talent they have has the core capabilities for success in an increasingly complex and rapidly changing business environment, said Johnson.

“We are very much a global organisation operating in a global marketplace.”

As such, as part of their HR Strategy they need to ensure that they have the appropriate mix of employees, with the right knowledge, skills and cultural adaptability, to handle global assignments, she said.

“So when we’re hiring, or looking at the people that we’ve already got, it’s very important that they can operate in a global marketplace and that they understand that there are different cultures around the world.”

It is only by having this understanding that people will recognise the need to adapt and flex their management styles globally, she said.

Another important part of their talent acquisition strategy is that people must be prepared to be very mobile in terms of travel, added Johnson.

This is because there are global opportunities at Verizon and therefore talent is moved around the organisation to accommodate those opportunities.

“So it’s important for us when we’re thinking about our talent from a career development perspective that they feel comfortable working anywhere in the world, from the US to EMEA to Asia-Pac.”

Develop

As part of this career development process Verizon’s leadership capabilities have to be quite flexible, said Johnson. In order to achieve this, Verizon focuses heavily on getting its senior executives very involved in understanding the existing talent within the organisation and making sure that everyone involved is focused on the necessary career development in order to help those individuals get to the next role.

“And that [role] could be horizontally across the organisation so that they understand different parts of our business, or upwards in terms of their career potential.”

Verizon also develops its talent by offering extensive training, which in turn ensures the organisation remains competitive and productive in an environment where skill set requirements are continually changing, Johnson added.

“Our role is to make sure we’ve got people coming in with good skills that fit the business’ needs. Obviously, sometimes, we will decide that we want to do something different, and we will hire those new skills, but we also need to ensure that we hire employees who are open-minded, willing to learn, and actively wanting to continually transform their own skill set. We then offer them the tools to do that.

Because the market and technology are continually changing, Verizon spends a lot of money on developing its people and putting really good training programmes in place, with a particular focus on its managers, said Johnson.

“We’ve got a very heavy emphasis on people leaders being true leaders,” she said.

What that means is that Verizon’s leaders are not just promoted because they are technical experts and technically brilliant at what they do, she added.

“Instead they are promoted because they can lead, manage and develop their people.”

Training programmes

Existing talent is developed through formal and informal social learning tools, as well as on the job experiences, mentorships and external study, said Johnson.

One such training programme involves changes and developments in technological advances, she said.

This is particularly important for Verizon’s sales force, which obviously needs to understand the latest technology capabilities, because they are the people working to understand how technology can support customers’ changing business needs, she said.

This is why Verizon has set up a Sales Academy, which gives its sales staff short, sharp bursts of training for 20 minutes at a time, said Johnson. The idea behind the Sales Academy is to keep the sales force up to date and on top of the latest technologies. It also gives them an accreditation at the end of each training session.

“This means that it does feel like an Academy,” said Johnson.

“And when they’re interested in a particular topic they also have access to additional videos and press releases that they can watch/read and learn more about that particular topic. We also list different books that they can study and articles that they can read. So what we are trying to do is to offer the training in a way that is interactive and also appeals to the learning style of different individuals.”

Johnson said all functions within the organisation had training designed around their particular function to ensure their skills are kept fully up to date

As part of its focus on developing its talent, Verizon also offers tuition assistance, Johnson added.

“If someone wants to do an MBA or MSc and that fits in with their career development then the company will support them to do so,” she said.

Engage

This pillar focus on career development, and is very much linked to Verizon’s employee engagement strategy, which in of itself features very highly in Verizon’s overall HR strategy.

“It’s really important to us to hold on to our talent and that that they feel they can see a career within Verizon.”

This is why Verizon’s HR team do a lot of work on career paths, said Johnson.

“People obviously do leave an organisation if they don’t feel they can see their career path within that organisation. So it’s very important for us that our people understand what the opportunities for them are within the company, so that they do not feel they have to step outside the company to further their careers.”

Johnson said that by promoting and encouraging its talent to develop their career set within Verizon they were not only able to hold on to scarce skills and to keep their employees engaged, but were also helping those individuals operate in a more sophisticated way which was adding more value for the organisation.

“[This is why] broadening our peoples’ learning and understanding of the organisation, and giving them an awareness of different functions in different countries, is really important to us,” she said.

Another bonus is the impact this career progression has on Verizon’s employer brand and its ability to attract and acquire new talent.

“People join us because of the assets they have at their fingertips to sell to customers, but another reason is because we’re a huge organisation and therefore they know they can progress their careers within us,” she said. This is also why it’s really important for us to develop great leaders across the business, because they inspire and motivate so many people,” said Johnson.

Is diversity a concern to Verizon? What processes have you put into place to ensure you have a diverse workforce that is representative of your customers?

The work force is no longer homogenous, said Johnson. In fact today’s work force is made up of different genders, age, social class, sexual orientation, values, personality characteristics, ethnicity, religion, education, language etc, which is something Verizon recognises.

Moreover the communication technology company also recognises that diversity of thought and opinion is linked to better creativity, decision making, innovation and a global culture, which is a big part of Verizon’s brand as an organisation, said Johnson.

In fact, “diversity is really key” to us, she said.

“And we do a lot of work in making sure that we are cultivating an inclusive organisation, with a focus on spreading the age profile, cultural fit, and introducing more females into management positions.”

This is because reflecting the marketplace is of paramount importance to Verizon, and the diversity of its employees helps the company mirror its customers, suppliers and community partners, said Johnson.

“So when we are recruiting and advancing people, we look for people from diverse backgrounds and that then means we are confident that we can understand and serve the needs of our diverse customer base.”

Diverse recruiting

Verizon have a number of processes in place to support the development and maintenance of a diverse workforce, such as looking for balanced recruitment slates, said Johnson.

“As part of my role as an HR business partner I always challenge the recruitment team and the managers and make sure that they have got diverse candidates from their recruitment slates - that they’re not just going out and using their own networks, but that we are looking more broadly,” she said.

As part of this, the Verizon recruitment team has targeted recruitment campaigns outside the typical technology routes - for example targeting universities and technical colleges during term time.

“Some of our functions are obviously very technology-focused and that tends to be quite typically male-biased. So by going into universities and technical colleges we try to tap into more diverse talent earlier in the people’s career paths.”

Unconscious bias

Another focus linked to diversity is that of unconscious bias.

“We’ve been doing a lot of work making sure all our recruiters, talent managers, hiring managers and leaders are aware or their unconscious biases,” said Johnson.

Where unconscious bias is identified, training and development around inclusive working environments is offered to those individuals so that any behaviour that is remotely inappropriate is challenged and called out.

As well as training programmes on unconscious bias, Verizon also run a number of other targeted training programmes including one on strengthening the female leadership pipeline with specific leadership skills coaching in order to ensure more women are introduced into management positions.

“Obviously being a technology industry it tends to be slightly more male heavy, so it’s absolutely a real driver of ours to challenge that.”

She added: “We also have employee resource groups that bring employees together to work alongside the business in promoting diversity. For example one of our biggest successes internally is WAVE which is our Women’s Association of Verizon Employees. Anyone can join, not just women, and that really focuses heavily on professional development for women both within Verizon and within out stakeholder communities.”

As part of its agenda, WAVE offers a lot of its own training and also invites external speakers to speak to the organisation about how women can better promote and develop themselves, as well as what steps they can take to really advance their careers, said Johnson.

Shareholder Value

Verizon’s HR function has transformed to become closely aligned to every strategic objective of the business, said Johnson.

As such the HR function is constantly looking to add to shareholder value, which is the final of the four pillars in Verizon’s HR Strategy, she added.

“We spend a lot of time working with the organisation about how to drive high levels of performance and to help people contribute to their best ability.”

She said: “But alongside this, our code of conduct is really critical to us as an organisation. We have a credo that defines how every employee approaches their job. And what I really like is that this is not just something that you come in and talk about. It’s not like strategy statements that you just paste along the wall. It’s lived and breathed. And that’s really one of the things that does brand us as an organisation.”