“Every time we place a Connect Academy member into a permanent full-time role in an area of the business they’ve aspired to work in, that really is the ‘aha moment’,” says Duane Peters, Learning and Development Manager for Datacom’s Connect Academy. “And we have hundreds of those moments at Datacom every year.”

Focused on delivering great customer experiences at scale, Datacom’s Connect business employs more than 2000 people in customer care hubs across Australia and New Zealand. The Connect team acts as the frontline for thousands of private and public sector customers.

To ensure this large team stays engaged with the business and each member of the team has the opportunity to upskill and progress their career, in 2017 Datacom established their LEAD programme, which was then enhanced into the Connect Academy in Australia in 2021.

“One of the things we identified was that we weren't really creating a clear career progression framework for our team,” says Duane. “There was some uncertainty, especially for new starters, as to how they would go about moving through the organisation into more senior roles. That’s why we established Connect Academy.”

Duane says the Connect Academy team takes a dual approach: delivering and facilitating training and mentorship to Connect Academy members, and acting as an intermediary or internal recruiter to help connect members with new opportunities and more senior roles in the business.

Tailoring learning opportunities

Another focus for Connect Academy is an individualised approach.

“We recognise that Datacom staff come from a diverse background, so part of the Connect Academy approach is understanding and valuing those backgrounds and also identifying and responding to the motivation of the different team members that take part in the programme.”

“To give everyone the best chance to achieve success we create tailored learning opportunities, depending on the experience of each individual – whether that is experience they’ve gained at Datacom or life experience. Our role is to deliver a foundational set of skills to every member within Connect Academy and to help act as a launchpad for wherever they see their career heading with us.”

To date in FY2022, the Connect Academy facilitated 157 permanent role placements, and 302 employee secondments in the wider organisation.

Duane says those placements are a win for the team members and for Datacom.

“Our team members are getting really valuable learning opportunities and experiencing different parts of the business to help them identify their future career paths. We’re helping people realise their potential,” says Duane.

“For Datacom, the Connect Academy is a great way to keep our team engaged and that means we’re not losing great people. In the context of the tight talent market we’re in, it is also a great way to find really strong job candidates from within the company.”

Helping team members find their career path

Two recent graduates of the Connect Academy, Sarah Gritt and Alex Raper, say the programme helped them build their confidence and identify the opportunities that existed for them.

“It’s taught me more about myself and how I fit into a larger company. Connect Academy helped me discover what's available out there, understand how an organisation like this works and where I fit into it,” says Sarah.

After beginning in customer service representative roles with Datacom and not having a clear picture of their next steps, both Sarah and Alex have moved into training facilitator roles with Connect’s Learning and Development team.

Datacom staff smiling

Before joining Datacom, Sarah was working with an Aussie supermarket and retail chain but didn’t feel like she had a clear direction on what she wanted to do next – the Connect Academy helped her uncover her passion for learning and development.

Sarah’s advice on finding your career path is to ‘go for it’ when you see new opportunities.

“If you ever see something that you are interested in, apply for it. It makes a huge difference in your life.”

Alex, who had completed tertiary studies prior to joining Datacom, was feeling uncertain about his chosen field.

“I was always unsure what I wanted I wanted to do. Going through university, even going through my post grad honours, I was still never sure if I wanted to try something in learning and development. Connect Academy really helped me find what I wanted to do because you got to try a few different things,” says Alex.

“I had always regretted not doing something more to do with education in university and I've now got that opportunity to do that. I have gone from having a job to having a career. Right now, I've got a direction and goals within learning and development that I want to work towards.”

Alex says while a lot of companies talk about progression, Datacom has followed through.

Taking part in the Connect Academy is currently open to any Australian member of the Connect team, as long as they have been with Datacom for at least six months and have demonstrated an interest in developing their skills. The programme will be expanded to include New Zealand team members in the future.

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