The journey to UNLEASH World is well underway and that can mean only one thing for editorial, interviews with the world’s HR leaders.
We were lucky enough to sit down with Virgin Media O2’s Beatriz Jaén Caparrós, director of people technology and analytics, and Dean Bonas, director of organizational effectiveness, ahead of their appearance at UNLEASH World.
In June 2021, Virgin Media and O2 announced the merger of the two companies. Naturally, the coming together of the two enterprises has radically changed how they approach employee services. This is where Bonas and Jaén Caparrós come in.
Jaén Caparrós takes care “of people, technology, data, and analytics”.
For the company, this is essential because to be a market challenger “we need to nail it in terms of tools and data”. Having the right tools allows the company to scale and have data to support business decisions.
Bonas’ role intersects with this mission of scaling the business as he makes “sure we have the right operating model and infrastructure for the business to meet its strategic goals. “
This role consists of many components from looking at what the right workforce skills are for business goals, as well as how to transform and improve workforce capabilities with operation models.
Finally, Bonas looks at the future of work within Virgin Media O2.
Hybrid and the future of work
At the moment, HR is abuzz with discussions about remote, office, and hybrid work. Many organizations have followed a hybrid pattern of work that allows flexible visits to the office, but this has proved challenging for large organizations like Apple who have struggled to define an effective policy in recent months.
Virgin Media O2 has had a unique challenge as these conversations about working practices have occurred just after a huge merger.
At the moment, the company is in the process of shifting to hybrid.
Bonas notes: “It’s definitely a challenge; we’re right in the middle of it. I think it’s a challenge for all organizations, and all shapes, and sizes.”
He adds: “It’s a particular challenge for us because we’re one year into the joint venture, which means we have two large workforces that are still getting to understand one another and build connections, and still largely trying to do that in hybrid.”
Part of the complexity is having so many offices to manage, Virgin Media O2 operates in over 200 locations in the UK.
Another challenge is understanding the changing employee expectations as many employees now expect more flexibility than ever before.
As a result, the company listens to employees and is “making good progress on hybrid working, but it’s a real journey ahead of us”.
Understanding employee sentiment
Of course, listening to employees is easier said than done. Jaén Caparrós shares how data can inform Virgin Media O2 about the best direction to take.
Jaén Caparrós explains: “We are trying to understand the choices that employees are making right now, and the conditions that we have around this so that we can understand how we can better support them in terms of hybrid working.”
With this goal in mind, the company is leveraging dashboards and data products to uncover what is the best way to make new working philosophies fit the business.
Bonas adds: “In terms of data, we have the employee engagement survey data, plus then the actual operational data about utilization of our offices.”
This kind of information is invaluable as what “one person sees as flexibility and freedom, another person sees as a constraint”.
Not only does Virgin Media O2 have the competition of BT and Vodafone, but it also looks at Amazon and Google as competitors. This is because the company wants to become a tech company, rather than remain still in the telecommunications space.
Bonas says: “This requires a very different workforce to the workforce that we have today. And the way that we look at workforce transformation is in four parts: capability, shape, size, and cost.
“And at the moment we’re very focused on capability, and we think capability drives answers on [our] shape, size, and [internal] cost.”
This drive then allows the company to “build a capability framework and a skills framework, that we can then map the organization against.”
To do this, Virgin Media O2 is embracing a quick learning culture. Bonas explains that the company is “moving to a much more of an agile mindset in the culture”.
This culture has allowed the company to progress quickly with cloud functions and digital security. The company is also using its data alongside a partner Simply Get Results, which allows them to see where market demand is for certain positions.
Bonas unpacks this stating that the platform allows insight into where competitors are hiring, including what geographical locations are focused on particular roles.
Jaén Caparrós says: “For us, minimum viable products is one of the cornerstones in terms of understanding what we can deliver or not.”
Data then informs where the company “can correct, adapt, evolve”, and even prioritize projects based on how long they take to deliver, as well as the potential impact on the business.
Jaén Caparrós notes: “This is agile for Virgin Media O2. ‘How can we go faster’ is our mantra, in the organization right now.”
Bonas adds that the company is growing and changing all of the time as it strives forward.
Ahead of their discussion at UNLEASH World, we were keen to understand what excites Jaén Caparrós and Bonas about our ten-year anniversary show.
Jaén Caparrós comments: “From my point of view, I would love to see what the vendors are bringing, in terms of the future of data.”
She adds that she is excited to hear HR leaders discuss their organization’s “vision, and the ambition, and their roadmaps”. “Also, I would like to see some of the colleagues I have met [at UNLEASH World] over the years again.”
For Bonas, it’s his first time coming to the show. He notes: ”I always find these events and opportunity to unplug, from the big institution that we kind of find ourselves lost in, and get inspired by the art of the possible from others.
“And I always come away from these events with some new energy, and some new direction, and new thoughts. So we’re looking forward to participating.”
The world’s HR conference and expo is back! Don’t miss out on UNLEASH World in Paris this October.