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Employee Experience

Telefónica: Improving employee loyalty during tough times

“We have an expression in Spain: ‘In good times, friends. In hard times, family,” says Sergio De La Calle Asensio, Head of Engagement at telecoms giant Telefónica.

“The goal of getting through this crisis stronger and more united has guided our response over the last couple of months, as the world has been turned on its head.”

For Telefónica - owner of brands O2, Movistar and Vivo - leading this pandemic with empathy and taking action quickly has seen something incredible happen.

“Our Employee NPS is higher today than it was in 2019,” says Sergio, “which is testament to how we’ve supported customers and society in this unprecedented time, and our people’s sense of belonging.”

What did Telefonica do?

Take a step back and things could have been very different, considering the pressure the telecoms industry is under right now.

A few months ago, our internet connection or phone line was important. Now, it’s a lifeline to the outside world. Our only link to friends and family we’re unable to see in person.

If things break, people are angry. And the employees of telecom companies hear about it - loudly.

As one of the industry’s giants - with nearly 350 million customers globally - Telefónica knew its worldwide workforce of 100,000 people were going to be put under strain.

“Our mission is to make our world more human by connecting lives,” says Sergio, “and we did it even in the darkest time. We recognized our employees were critical to this success.”

“However, early on we saw that the Covid-19 crisis had the potential to surprise us in how much of an impact it would have on our customers and our way of working. Still, we were more prepared than expected. We had started promoting working at home a long time ago and that was an incredible advantage.”

Nonetheless, the evolving nature of the crisis meant Telefónica needed a more frequent pulse, not rely on traditional ways of gathering employee feedback.

Keeping in touch with employees

Since 2019 Telefónica has relied on the Qualtrics XM Platform to power its employee experience program, brought in as part of a partnership with Korn Ferry described by Sergio as a “winning team.”

“At the outset of this crisis, we sprung into action by building and launching a pulse survey with Qualtrics, refining our use of the platform for these new times and leveraging what we’d learned from both Qualtrics and Korn Ferry,” explains Sergio.

Sergio and the team wanted to understand four things:

  1. The different situations its people were dealing with and their challenges
  2. Understand if and how Telefónica's initiatives were known and valued
  3. Ensure its people had the necessary support during this time
  4. To collect ideas for employee motivation

“We had ambitious goals for our first-ever pulse survey, and I must say things have gone better than expected,” says Sergio.

“We were pessimistic because we didn’t have data from the past to run trend analysis. We couldn’t compare our results against similar surveys we’d done before.”

However, two things changed Sergio’s opinion.

“The first was the user experience of the pulse survey was so good - it became easy to forget about some of the research limitations,” says Sergio.

“The second was that it became clear taking action on specific bits of feedback was more important than measuring engagement and just watching stats go up or down.”

Acting, not measuring

The pulse uncovered the biggest challenges facing Telefónica employees globally, and how the company can act in the right way.

“Longer workdays and working at home dealing with family responsibilities were our two biggest concerns globally,” explains Sergio.

“When we looked at what people wanted, over a quarter wanted more guidance on organizing their day. Nearly half were after more information balancing work and life.”

That feedback led Telefónica to take a number of actions, all of which have contributed to a higher ENPS over the last few weeks.

“We’re making it possible to continue to learn and grow as an employee, even though we’re away from the office,” explains Sergio.

“We’re providing managers and employees ways to maximize motivation and productivity during this time, including making sure employees' IT setup is right.

“And at a fundamental level, we’re ensuring employees can get quick answers to simple questions around leave, compensation and holidays.”

The legacy of Covid-19 on employee experience

Telefónica has seen employee advocacy and loyalty grow in the last few weeks as it’s increased listening and reduced the amount of time to turn feedback into actions.

For Sergio, it’s something he thinks will continue into the foreseeable future.

“In the last few years we’ve switched from thinking about a one-size-fits-all engagement program, to thinking about more personalized employee experience,” says Sergio.

“This crisis has not only validated that decision. It’s made it clear we actually need to be listening more in order to take fast, meaningful actions to better serve employees.”

“For us, the legacy of this time will be to think of our employees as individuals, understand their unique challenges, and take personalized actions - even more than we have before.”

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