Slovak Telecom, Slovakia: Redeployment, training and development
The regional branch of Slovak Telecom a.s., located in Slovakia’s capital city Bratislava, applies a non-age specific personnel strategy. Its majority shareholder is Deutsche Telekom AG, which owns 51% of its shares. The company was previously one of the largest state-owned enterprises in Slovakia. After privatisation, it was necessary to invest in new technology, which in turn has resulted in large-scale restructuring and extensive job cuts.
In June 2005, the company employed 5,500 workers, compared with 15,378 workers in 1996. In 2001, due to changes in technology, the company needed a different qualification structure. Today, approximately one third of all employees have university degrees, and only one fifth of staff have not completed a secondary education. The proportion of women in the company has grown to almost 40% of the workforce. The majority of workers are in the 31–50 years age group and the average age of workers is 39 years, compared with 43 years of age in 1996.
The company is headed by a president and consists of the following departments: human resources (HR); strategy and regulation; information technology (IT); trade and operation activities; and finance.
The restructuring of the company’s activities has led to changes in the qualification structure of the workforce. The less qualified workers and older employees who are more experienced in ‘analogue technology’ suffered the most from the structural changes. Nonetheless, 65% of new jobs created were filled by the company’s own workers and only 35% were filled by people recruited externally.
Two trade unions are currently active in the company – a legacy of the previous company structure (Slovenské pošty a telekomunikácie). Although the trade unions’ requirements sometimes conflict with those of the company, a labour agreement signed with company management sets out several rights and benefits for all employees.
Good practice today
The company is continuing to restructure its workforce and plans to outplace a further 400 employees up until 2006. As a result, it has been implementing a number of initiatives aimed at supporting employees in the redeployment process. These involve requalification and training opportunities, along with opportunities to enable some older employees to retain their jobs.
For older employees who have more than seven years to go until they reach retirement age, the company grants funding of SKK 30,000 (about €790) for their requalification in the six months prior to when they are to be made redundant, in accordance with the company’s restructuring plans. Employees who are being made redundant are also supported by HR managers in finding a new job outside Slovak Telecom. The company cooperates with labour offices in the region to identify and secure new job opportunities for those who are leaving the company. Senior employees who are seven or less years away from retirement receive financial compensation, which is several times the amount of their monthly wage.
A number of training projects aimed at supporting employees to help them cope with the structural changes have also been implemented by the company. Among the training programmes offered to employees who are being made redundant is a successful ‘start your own business’ programme. In addition to professional training courses, basic courses on managing a small company are also available.
Training in new technology and industry structure is also made available to all staff. In 2004, the company invested about SKK 50 million (around €1.3 million) in education. A total of 2,394 training sessions were held, and each employee spent an average of six days on competence development.
The company also grants all employees several benefits in relation to their health and well-being, and employees may choose specific benefits from a varied social programme. Other HR policy measures, like flexible working hours or telework, are also made available to employees; although the target group for this initiative is not age-specific, it is mostly used by younger employees. The company’s wage policy is strictly based on the position, responsibility and performance of the person under evaluation.
Some tensions among the younger and older workers have been observed, especially in cases where younger employees have been dismissed and feel unfairly treated because their older colleagues have retained their jobs. Even if there is a qualification difference, this is not taken into account. Some intergenerational problems have also been experienced in call centres, where the working environment is far more difficult for older staff who may not be as flexible to cope with the intensive workload.
Another observation is that men may be more subject to the psychological pressures arising from the threat of losing their job. In 2004, seven male and one female staff members died; the average age of those who died was very low at only 41 years. Some of those tragedies could be related to the pressures concerning the threat of redundancy.
New positions advertised by the company generally require highly specialised workers as the company feels that there is a lack of such workers in the current labour market.
In general, the training and educational activities introduced by the company for its own staff have led to an improvement in services and to the better integration of the Slovakian branch into the overall international company.
Contact: Jana Šalgovicová, Head of HR department for employee relations