An Exclusive Interview with Cecilie Heuch – Executive Vice President, Chief People Officer at Telenor

Recently, PhoneWorld conducted an interview with Cecilie Heuch, Executive Vice President, Chief People Officer at Telenor.

Cecilie Blydt Heuch, born 1965, has more than 25 year’s business experience in an international context and comes from the position as Chief HR Officer from DNV GL, a position she held for 11 years. Her previous work experience also includes managerial positions in Norsk Hydro in Norway and Hydro Agri (today Yara) in Italy. Ms. Heuch is currently a board member of Fred Olsen Energy.

Q.1      Telenor is known for its flat hierarchical culture and it has set benchmarks across industries. What are the key characteristics that hold together the Telenor culture and form its DNA?

Our management model is based on trust. It forms the organizational culture of Telenor and makes us an attractive workplace. This has given us a competitive edge in all the countries in which we operate. Responsibility and empowerment are key elements of our management philosophy. We set clear expectation and goals and strive to avoid micro-managing activities and employees. We also have a set of key behaviors that guide the way we work. They are: Always Explore; Create Together; Keep Promises; Be Respectful. Be Respectful, is especially an exemplification of how to operate: We believe in the unique human ability to understand what matters for people. We want to meet everyone at eye level, listen and show that we care.

We believe that work and life go hand-in-hand at Telenor.  We believe in a balance. We like to have fun at work and we are firm believers in the power of teamwork. That is why we have open office spaces and flexible seating in all our offices across Scandinavia and Asia. Leaders and employees work together in the same space cultivating, innovating and solving tasks at hand.

When we first established this open office model in 2003, it was advanced for its time and was recognized by various publications around the world including Harvard Business Review. Such an environment is the foundation to a culture that recognizes all voices are equal, are contributors and deserve recognition no matter what position you have in the company.

  1. 2 What does diversity mean for Telenor? What’s your view of diversity at workplace, how has it evolved and what value does it bring?

At Telenor, we believe diverse teams create better solutions. We actively seek different perspectives enabled by our strategy, policies, management commitment, development initiatives, work space and internal digital communication tools. Diversity is important for competitiveness, for our ability to innovate and for our ability to collaborate effectively- resulting in products and services which are more aligned with the need of our customers. We are open and honest in saying that Telenor’s diversity and inclusion agenda is continuously being worked on. It’s a journey that is continuously evolving. Along our journey, we have reached milestones which have warranted merits, but it is a journey which always requires commitment, attention and awareness in order to make bigger strides.

An Exclusive Interview with Cecilie Heuch

Q.3      Where does Telenor stand with respect to diversity & inclusion and what does it aim for in that regard?

 We have set clear targets to improve diversity across our footprint.  Transparent reporting, clear rules and systems are among our key ways of work. More than 50% of our employees, and 95% of our customer base, are from Asia.  In Thailand and Malaysia, we have 60% and 50% women in the workforce, respectively. From 2015 to 2018, the percentage of women in senior leadership positions across the Group increased from 20% to 28%. By 2020, we would like to see this increase to 30%.

We are well aware that these stats do not just happen by themselves. Increased commitment to initiatives, for example, makes a difference. In 2016, Telenor implemented a six-month paid maternity leave policy for women employees as a minimum standard globally. This is unique in many of Telenor’s markets, particularly for Telenor’s five Asian markets, where the local standard is less than six months.

In Pakistan particularly, we have a yearly training programme called ‘Naya Aghaaz’ (New Beginning) which enables women to re-enter the workforce after a leave of absence. In addition to the six-month paid maternity leave, we also provide re-entrance benefits such as on-site child care, driving courses for women, flexi-hours and the ability to work from home.

Beyond gender parity, we believe in inclusion and non-discrimination of all degrees with respect to age, religion, race, language and disabilities.  Similar to gender parity, we have enablement programmes which reflect our commitment to diversity.  For example, Telenor Open Mind programme is a unique job training programme that provides people with physical disabilities or mental health challenges a chance for employment and to gain hands-on work experience. Since 2015, this programme has been running in several of our Business Units, including Telenor Pakistan.  As a modern business, in order to serve our entire customer base as best as we can, we must rely on perspectives, skills and insights from across the societal spectrum.

Q.4      What are Telenor’s key achievements when it comes to fostering an enabling working environment?

Answer: Telenor has been recognized in all its markets for its progressive and effective HR practices. Last year, Telenor Pakistan won ‘Best Practice Award’ by the Center for Global Inclusion in ‘Flexibility, Work life Integration and Benefits’ category at the Diversity and Inclusion Conference 2018. This was topped by the ‘Employer of Choice Award for Gender Balance’ by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Pakistan Business Council (PBC) and another accolade at the OICCI Women Empowerment Awards while competing against 39 other organizations. In previous years, Telenor Pakistan has also won the Top Employer and Best Place to Work awards.

Another testament to our work culture is the recognition of our Asian businesses for their progressive and effective HR practices. Digi, our Malaysian Business Unit, was ranked among the top 50 most diverse and inclusive organisations globally in Thomson Reuters’ 2018 D&I Index Ranks.

In Norway, Telenor ranked 15th amongst 79 largest listed Norwegian companies according to the 2018 SHE Index conducted by EY. Policies and targets, gender pay gap, talent, as well as, actions and measurements, were all taken into consideration. Telenor strongly believes in the saying “what gets measured, gets done”. We are fully committed to gender parity and to accelerate change.

Q.5      With Telenor being a multinational organization, how do you bring together the people and culture on such a big scale?

Answer: Although we span 8 markets globally with 20,000 employees, Telenor’s unique culture binds us together as one company, and it is what makes us different from our competitors. Our strategy is intrinsic in the work we do on a day-to-day basis. We stand behind a purpose. We connect customers to what matters most.  We provide relevant and personalized services to our customers. And we help to empower societies. How we do this is reflected in our four key behaviors and in what manner is reflected in our policies such as our Code of Conduct. All these elements are a shared commitment and passion from employees which are reflected in our culture. 

An Exclusive Interview with Cecilie Heuch

Q.6      What changes and trends do you see surfacing in the global job market? What are the key skills of the future?

Answer: How timely you ask this question! In May, Telenor will be publishing a new study titled ‘Workforce Trends 2020’. Seven trends which we feel will rise in prominence next year are: People and HR Analytics; Purpose-driven company; Diversity and Inclusion; Health and Wellbeing; Flexible culture; Chief Coach Officer; as well as Upskilling and Reskilling.

On upskilling and reskilling, in the realms of internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G – which all play critical roles in the age of data and our digital future, we believe skills required in the immediate future are data & analytics, personalized marketing, automation & process, cloud and virtualization, cyber security, customer facing IT, and product management to name a few. You will be able to find more on Workforce Trends 2020, and our reskilling and upskilling internal initiatives on 

Q.7      How are Telenor employees contributing towards the economy and what is their motivation? 

Answer: In an independent study by Frontier Economics titled The Mobile Effect: How Connectivity Enables Growth” (which quantifies the impact of the telecommunications sector on the economies in the five Asian countries where Telenor Group operates – Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia), it found that Telenor has brought USD$4.3 billion in economic value to our Asian markets in 2017. Meeting these connectivity demands requires significant investment, especially in networks. From 2014 to 2017, Telenor invested USD$6.2 billion in its five Asian markets, making the company one of the top three foreign investors. The study also revealed that our 12,600 employees across Asia are 3.5 times more productive than the average telco sector employee and 50 times more than the average worker. Being able to empower societies and impact customers through connectivity is a true motivation in and of itself at Telenor.

Also Read: An Exclusive Interview with Mr. Yusuf Hussain – CEO Ignite

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Shaheer Riaz

A motivated and accomplished Tech Blogger & Graphic Designer, love to write tech blogs and create new designs plus all-time foodie. Studies Bachelors in Computer Sciences.

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