South Africa: Impact Sourcing Fuels GBS Growth
Empathy of South African Youth is the Secret Ingredient
By: Andy Searle, CEO of Business Process Enabling South Africa (BPESA)
With unemployment rates in South Africa exceeding 28 percent, creating work experiences and, ultimately, permanent new jobs for excluded youth is a national imperative. Impact Sourcing is helping to provide a solution and opportunities for future growth.
The practice of impact sourcing has been recognized as being strategic in the continued growth of the Global Business Services (GBS) sector and has been extended to source and place unemployed youth from excluded communities into both domestic and export jobs with great success.
Impact Souring, intentional hiring marginalized individuals, took route in South Africa around 2008, initially through the Rockefeller Foundation’s ‘Digital Jobs Africa’ initiative. Several companies operating in GBS mostly providing contact center outsourcing services to domestic clients in South Africa enthusiastically adopted the practice.
The initial model was refined and expanded by role players such as Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator (see related story on the Global Impact Sourcing Award winner) who targeted the excluded communities in South Africa as resource pools rich in talent for the formal and informal economy.
Depending on the profile of the impact sourcing candidate, work readiness programs range from two to eight weeks long. Prior to candidates being placed into permanent work, they continue with skills development interventions, sometimes by completing entry-level qualifications through learnerships (government-funded workplace learning program). These qualifications are typically in customer services and sales.
Carefully designed profiling techniques, sourcing tools and processes, integrated workplace learning programs and learning pathways enable young people to progress at a suitable pace. Ultimately, these trained and empowered youth engage in work opportunities from simple sales and service type roles and payment and debt collection services into more complex roles servicing domestic and export market clients.
With a growing number of high-profile organizations embracing and advocating Impact Sourcing in the country, the practice is on its way to becoming main-stream, underpinned by the proven social and financial returns on investment. Between 25 and 30 percent of all entry-level roles in GBS in South Africa are Impact Sourcing roles.
To demonstrate the extent to which Impact Sourcing has been recognized and embraced for its ability to open up new opportunities for previously excluded, yet highly talented youth, the South Africa Department of Trade and Industry, the countries government department tasked with attracting foreign investment, has incorporated incentives into their policy guidelines for GBS. These include a highly competitive financial incentive package that supports the creation of new youth jobs to service offshore markets.
The Department of Trade and Industry (dti), BPESA (the industry body for GBS in South Africa) and Harambee have also formed a long-term partnership. Their goal is to stimulate economic growth in the sector focussing on winning new business in the English-language speaking source markets of the U.S., the United Kingdom and Australia. The growth goals are ambitious such as doubling the size of the export segment of the market in five years. But we feel they are very achievable when underpinned by a supply of skills that increasingly tap into the talented yet excluded youth in the country and prepares them for success using Impact Sourcing as a proven model to do so.
A leading customer experience and BPO company has successfully implemented the Impact Sourcing program in partnership with Harambee. It monitored the impact of worker performance during its pilot program and recorded exceptional results.
Punctuality, attendance and attrition amongst impact workers was better than the site average. Additionally, from a performance metric perspective, across call types and compliance, there was no difference between impact workers and the site average.
This company has been hiring impact workers from Harambee at scale and has reaped benefits in terms of revenue appreciation, stable service delivery and better client experience.
Impact Sourcing has been proven as a practice that both solves key supply-side constraints such as lack of sufficient work-ready people for simple sales and service type roles. It positively impacts society through its ability to provide young unemployed and excluded youth with pathways into the formal economy where they build skills and experience that is transferrable to many other jobs and that enhances their continued employability significantly.
South Africa’s GBS value proposition is distinguished by high levels of empathy with the customer, superior quality of both written and spoken English language capabilities, and the availability of neutral accented English across the country. Offshore clients have repeatedly called out high empathy, which is often the missing ingredient in other delivery locations, as the key driver of superior performance from South Africa and empathy is one of the core characteristics of South African youth.
As the GBS sector scales up in size, Impact Sourcing will grow in its percentage contribution to new hires and will extend from the traditional contact center and customer services type roles into digital jobs. It will play an increasingly important role in ensuring that South Africa wins, retains and grows new business for its offshore clients always providing them with that extra value of empathy that is intrinsic to our youth.
About the Author:
Andy Searle is CEO of BPESA, the GBS industry body in South Africa. He has been involved in the GBS Sector in South Africa since 1998, working for Anderson Consulting, Merchants (South Africa) and Dimension Data. In 2003, Searle established his own consulting business, Paladin Consulting, providing consulting services to leading captive and outsourcing contact center operators. His work has included a contribution to the Customized Sector Development program for the BPO Sector in South Africa and the implementation of and support for key elements of the program since 2005. Searle has been working closely with Harambee, BPESA, various professional bodies, government and a broad range of public and private sector demand- and supply-side players to promote South Africa to the global markets, to create an institutional capacity to supply quality skills to the GBS Sector on scale, and to drive inclusive growth for companies working across the GBS supply chain.