DURBAN – With South Africa reeling from the news of it’s official unemployment rate soaring to 34,9%, and 46,6% if those who have given up looking for a job are included, and with youth unemployment rocketing to 66,5% in the narrow definition, all stakeholders of this country are desperately trying to find sustainable solutions to this unsustainable trajectory.
While there are no quick solves, impact sourcing provides businesses and the country with an immediate and socially impactful way of starting to reverse the tide, says Lizelle Strydom, MD of CareerBox, a non-profit organisation that trains and equips disadvantaged young people and places them in the global business services (GBS) industry, in effect supplying ready-to-employ contact centre agents to businesses while providing the young people with an opportunity of formal employment.
“From a South African perspective, impact sourcing provides businesses with a meaningful alternative to a broad-based black economic empowerment box-ticking exercise. Rather, it is a BBBEE investment because of the value inherent in sourcing trained young people who have been exposed to international best practices. This has a direct impact on the early attrition so common in entry-level call centre jobs,” says Strydom.
She adds that beyond this, human resources find it difficult to manage dealing with the human capital, and associated admin, already within a business while still needing to source, train and onboard new staff. “We find that by engaging a third-party that’s a subject-matter expert, that understands the training methodologies that work in the industry, the business is able to free up its own resources while enjoying a lower attrition rate of new hires. It is an investment that is as much about value and professionalism as it is about social responsibility and BBBEE requirements,” she says.
Strydom says that some businesses are hesitant to try something different as they have been following the same recruitment route for years but that they may not be aware of the actual value and competitive advantage they can gain in the form of a pipeline of ready-to-use skills that are already accustomed to the industry by the time they walk in the door.
She adds that the government has taken note of the GBS industry’s potential to help address chronic unemployment. “We were part of an event recently with Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel, who has unveiled the GBS Masterplan, which is a process that brings together government, the corporate sector, social partners such as ourselves and labour, and sets out a vision and agenda to develop and grow the sector.
It is a sign that all stakeholders are acutely aware of the power of this industry to eat into the unemployment rate, while also being a good stepping stone for disadvantaged individuals to access opportunities.
“The way we fit into this plan is by developing the skills needed for the contact centre industry. And it is competitive, we are competing against hubs such as India, and so when international companies set roots down in South Africa, we have to ensure our skills and performance are of international standard. This is of huge benefit locally, and I think we should challenge local corporates to consider impact sourcing for their contact centre and customer service divisions,” she says.
Strydom says there is another, perhaps not as immediately obvious but equally crucial, role that organisations such as CareerBox play. Institutional inequality in South Africa means that school leavers are not on a level playing field. “Intervention and training are crucial; we must bridge the gap between the disadvantaged and the privileged, so that when a company hires new staff it does not have to settle.
“Instead, it can get young, trained, skilled people who are equipped to thrive in any environment. On the other hand, it provides those from disadvantaged backgrounds an opportunity to compete on an equal footing and build a career.”