With South Africa nominated the most favored offshore destination for CX delivery services in 2021 in the Ryan Strategic Advisory BPO Omnibus Survey, SA’s Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry has been given a significant boost in terms of investment and employment potential. It also means that adopting impact sourcing and socially responsible supply chains will be given impetus as job creation surges on the back of global demand for the sector’s services. According to Business Process Enabling South Africa (BPESA), the sector is primed to create around 500 000 new jobs over the next 10 years.
iContact BPO, a customer service call centre serving international markets notably in North America, and Shapiro Shaik Defries and Associates(SSDA), a first party collections business, are two BPO providers within the Alefbet Holdings group that have a focused impact sourcing strategy of employing disadvantaged and disabled South African youth. It’s a socio-economic imperative in a country where youth unemployment sits at a shocking 55% according to the International Labour Organisation.
Clinton Cohen, CEO of iContact BPO, which was recently featured in the Impact Sourcing Champions Index in Fortune Magazine, explains that by applying the principles of impact sourcing, the GBS industry is well positioned to make a fundamental difference in the lives of disadvantaged and disabled youth who would otherwise not have access to the formal job market and economy. About 90% of iContact BPO employees are recruited through impact sourcing, the average age is 23, 65% are women and 10% are disabled.
“Financial constraints and limited job market access mean that earning a stable living is a daily struggle for more than half of South Africa’s young, disadvantaged youth, which in turn has significant negative socio-economic repercussions. By implementing impact sourcing as a strategic focus in our business, we’re able to create opportunities for vulnerable youth who would otherwise face bleak career prospects. South Africa’s GBS sector is in fact one of few industries that actually grew and created thousands of new jobs during the pandemic when most other businesses were downscaling,” explains Cohen.
Gareth Levinsohn, Commercial Director of collections BPO business, SSDA adds that the hybrid work models that evolved as a result of the pandemic have opened more avenues for impact sourcing. For a disadvantaged and disabled employee, the costs and practical challenges of transport to office environments are eliminated by providing them with a work-from-home model, supported by all the necessary IT security, tech support and connectivity they need to work productively.
“We’re already seeing higher levels of productivity with employees who are now able to work and earn during the time they would ordinarily have spent commuting to the call centre, which for many can take up as much of four hours of their workday using public transport. The transport cost savings are also significant, not to mention eliminating the obstacles and discomfort that our disabled colleagues experience in accessing public transport that caters for their mobility needs,” adds Levinsohn.
While the initial work-from home movement was a necessity at the time in dealing with COVID-19, the hybrid working models are an opportunity to be flexible and responsive to the needs of our customers and our workforce. Currently, around 60% of SSDA’s workforce have continued to work remotely, while others who prefer to work in the call centre for various logistical and practical reasons have the option to do so in a safe, socially distanced and formalised work environment that meets their needs.
By having impact sourcing as a strategic imperative across the entire Alefbet group, strong synergies are created between the various businesses which providers employees with a diverse range of job roles and opportunities to pursue in their career advancement.
“Our impact sourcing strategy works to ensure that our recruits gain professional skills and transferable credentials that are applicable in many areas such as business development, administration, management, human resources, operations, IT support, training and development and so on. Today’s customer service agent could be tomorrow’s team leader, HR professional, trainer or payroll manager. Most of our disadvantaged and disabled recruits have not had the benefit of career guidance or the privilege of being able to cherry pick tertiary education paths in pursuit of a specific career due to severe financial constraints. A global business services environment like ours opens their eyes to the many diverse roles and opportunities within our businesses, with an employer that is willing to invest in their potential. With focused learnerships and training interventions that sees them attaining a recognised qualification, they are well on their way to building fulfilling careers with ample growth potential,” concludes Cohen.
For the Alefbet group, its impact sourcing models exceed the matrix of what customers want and what business needs. Most of all, there is the real satisfaction that impact sourcing provides in being able to do well as a business, by doing good in the community, for the people who need the door opened the most.