Romanian Experts Contributing to Ethio Telecom’s Learning Strategy Development


How did we contribute to Ethio Telecom’s learning strategy development…Or About Eucalypt Trees, Tibs and Coffee Made to Perfection

Drink ‘the best coffee in the world’, feel the freshness of the eucalypt forests, build friendships with wonderful people and taste the most delicious Tibs. All these while developing the learning strategy of a large telecom company in Africa. It happened to our colleague, Robert Joitoiu, who has recently got back from a business mission to Ethio Telecom.

And if you’re wondering what’s the connection between Orange Services and Ethio Telecom, you should know that, looking to transfer the best in class Group expertise in the HR area to the latter, Sofrecom (Orange subsidiary which has a long, steady partnership with Ethio) turned to Romania to identify the  best HR consultants who could support an ambitious mission: to develop and drive the HR and learning strategy of the Ethiopian telecom provider. Thus, four of our colleagues, senior managers and consultants, will further Ehtio’s ambition of developing their human resources competencies, by putting in place a long term HR and learning strategy and by increasing their competencies in developing both digital and traditional learning solutions.

Robert was the first colleague to have completed his misson to Ethio Telecom, so we invited him to share from his experience within the second #OnTheRoad episode. Enjoy!

Episode 2: Romanian Experts Contributing to Ethio Telecom’s Learning Strategy Development

Starring: Robert Joitoiu, Learning and Development Consultant

Mission’s destination: Ethiopia

Mission’s duration: 2 months

Tell us a few words about your mission in Ethiopia

To give you a little bit of context first, Ethio Telecom is the unique telecommunications services provider (state owned) in Ethiopia. Anticipating the entrance on the market of a potential competitor, Ethio aims to enhance its workforce’s readiness to face such a challenge, by growing both their technical and soft competencies. To this end, Ethio developed an internal ‘corporate university’ – an ambitious learning & development program consisting of three ‘schools’: Technical, Commercial and Management.

The Commercial School, whose scope of activity covered the Marketing, Sales and Customer fields needed a consultant to define, setup and drive the strategic learning plan. Given my professional experience in all the three mentioned areas, I was given the opportunity to take over this mission to Ethio Telecom.

At the beginning of 2016 the project was in its incipient phase, so my first objective there was to carry out a learning needs assessment across the organization. This exercise enabled me and my team (4 subject matter experts from Ethio) to define the strategic learning priorities for the employees working in the Commercial field. Based on these priorities, we then defined a curricula of 54 trainings to be implemented locally.

The second objective of the mission was to design the learning paths, so as to know what training should be delivered to whom. And if you’re wondering what did the trainings contain and who should have delivered them, you’re already reaching the third objective of the mission, which has been completed with the significant contribution of my colleagues, Raluca Alecu and Florin Iordackioiu: to design 3 of the 54 trainings defined in the curricula and to help the 32 trainers of Ethio Telecom deliver them to the employees.

Few months later, at the end of 2016, I got back to Ethiopia to participate to the classroom trainings delivered by the local team, to observe, evaluate and improve (through direct feedback and coaching) the trainers’ performance and eventually to certify them. Looking back, I would say that this second phase of the mission was particularly rewarding, as it gave us all a very concrete measure of our work’s impact.

What’s next on this project?

While the scope of the Orange Services–Sofrecom partnership for supporting Ethio Telecom has already been extended to several strategic HR areas, I will only refer to the learning stream I’ve been working on. Thus, I am proud to say that, building on the success of the first mission, two other colleagues of ours will be soon leaving to Ethio for further developing the local training team’s capabilities. Florin Iordackioiu, Management Development Consultant, will provide instructional design consultancy and training in order to support the local team in creating and delivering the rest of 51 trainings in the curricula and Dorin Enache, Learning Innovation Consultant, will help them grow their abilities to create innovative, digital learning content.

Coming back to your experience to Ethio, which were the key challenges you faced?

I think that aligning and understanding the bits and pieces of work which were done prior to my arrival was the most challenging part of my mission, mostly because there was no proper handover of tasks from the person who was initially in charge of the project. Once I got there and figured out the bigger picture, however, the challenges were rather inherent considering the complexity of the mission.

What did you most enjoy about Ethiopia? What impressed you most?

The tibs! No, I’m joking.. But I’ll come back on this one.

If there’s something I was really impressed about, it’s the people I’ve worked with. They were incredibly kind, warm, welcoming, willing to help and reach common agreement.

Not interrupting the interlocutors and looking for consensus appeared to be some of the most obvious cultural traits.. One funny moment I recall (and a lesson learned the hard way, truth being said) was a meeting with the Ethio Telecom board members in which my appetite for debate and Q&As after each part of the presentation faced my interlocutors’ custom of only raising all the questions once, at the end of the presentation. Ethiopians do believe in the ‘magic of Q&As’, you know…We ended up immediately adapting to the local customs and laughing at these cultural differences, but it was a good lesson for me.

Coming back to the tibs – a traditional dish made from meat and sautéed vegetables, it was absolutely delicious. And if I were to mention one thing which in Ethiopia is taken to perfection, I would definitely say coffee. Wherever you drink it, it is extraordinary tasty and the coffee ceremony is for sure one of the most recognizable parts of the Ethiopian culture.

The freshness of the eucalyptus forests which surround the mountainous Addis Ababa, the impressive contrasts, the welcoming people, the delicious food and the amazing coffee are just some of the reasons for which you should not miss this city if you’re ever going to visit Ethiopia.

A lesson learned?

There are many lessons learned which would be worth sharing, but I’ll stick to three of them:

1) Give up any preconceived ideas when going to Ethiopia. I met wonderful people there, who are willing to share, learn, help each other and who have a lot of cultural similarities with the Europeans.

2) If you ever get to work with Ethiopians, don’t use voting majorities to make decisions. Keep working together until you reach consensus. It might take a little bit more time to get everyone aligned, but you will surely find pertinent counter arguments which are worth taking into account and once you reach consensus, the execution phase will be flawless.

3) Do your homework before leaving home, but stay prepared for assuming mistakes from time to time. Reading about the local cultural traits is key, but human interaction, curiosity and willingness to learn are the things which will help you get the most out of such an experience.

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