An upskilling approach that changes the mindset from a job to a career

Thomas Sibanda

Thomas Sibanda

Published Jun 21, 2024


Thomas Sibanda

Impact hiring is an effective way for companies to show their commitment to positively influencing employment in their communities, and even far beyond their own communities, through business process outsourcing (BPO).

Socially responsible outsourcing strategies can make an economic impact in under-resourced communities, particularly in emerging markets that have untapped talent pools. However, there is no disputing that for many organisations, gaining long-term value from impact sourcing can be challenging.

With the fastest-growing youth population globally, it’s no surprise that many African countries have a high youth unemployment rate, with far more youth looking for employment than there are opportunities. Many young South Africans show a genuine drive to find employment yet are dismissed because they lack experience or digital skills. This is where impact sourcing can make a tangible, valuable contribution to youth employment figures, but to maximise the opportunities that come from the impact sourcing model, companies must be intentional about the need for investment beyond the initial hire.

On boarding youths with few to no workplace skills takes time and requires companies to allocate resources to training. In following the impact sourcing model, companies are helping the new team members make an immediate positive impact on their families and the societies they live in. When combined with an intentional focus on skills development post-hire, organisations are also investing in building expertise for the broader BPO industry across South Africa and the continent.

There are many steps along the training journey

The BPO industry is somewhat unique in that it offers an entry into sustainable employment for young South Africans from under-resourced communities, with a low barrier to entry. That said, for entry-level team members to thrive and grow, organisations must embrace an embedded learning and development culture that is about empowering people with core skills, that help them create long-lasting and fruitful careers for themselves.

As a starting point, it’s important for companies to work with impact sourcing innovators who understand the needs of the BPO industry and who provide the workplace readiness training programmes that feeds the Street to Seat employment model. The training programmes are critical in providing the necessary basic training and opportunities for highly driven skilled young people who come from under-resourced environments.

However, to ensure the success of the Street to Seat employment model, companies must then invest further in a holistic training ecosystem where skills can be built from an entry-level low base, with the goal of layering skills throughout the team member’s development journey. The opportunities and necessary training help young people set out a career for themselves rather than seeing the BPO industry as just a springboard to another job.

One of the key learnings for organisations is that one size does not fit all. Different industry verticals within the BPO industry have varying skills and training requirements.

Another challenge that the BPO industry must address is upskilling individuals from under-resourced backgrounds with the knowledge and skills to engage and interact with customers who come from very different backgrounds.

This is of particular importance in the luxury goods and travel environments, where a young person may be expected to assist a customer with, for example, flight ticket changes. Understanding, for example, the travel industry, is a key element of successful customer engagement, and it is vital to provide the employees with the tools and resources to understand the customer’s needs and pain points.

Iteration based on experience

We have discovered this ourselves. Through an outcomes-based training approach, our organisation continuously strives to ensure that people have the skills and knowledge to provide world-class service to partners and customers. Continuous development programmes identify areas or opportunities for customised training to enhance this service delivery, while an iterative refinement process has helped refine each cycle of training. We help each individual with a possible career journey, so they are able to change their mindset from a job to a career path with different possibilities along the way.

Across Africa, the BPO industry is a growth industry, and the entire BPO ecosystem can only benefit from the development of skilled professionals within the sector. South Africa is globally recognised as a centre of excellence for Impact Sourcing, championing transformation, diversity, equity and inclusion, while being acknowledged as a leading customer service offshore delivery destination. There is great opportunity for industry expansion locally. The South African BPO market size was valued at $2.16 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach $6.49 billion (R117bn) by 2031, expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 13% between 2023 and 2031.

By committing to a culture of continuous learning, our youth can see how, with the right commitment from themselves in partnership with the upskilling opportunities provided by their organisations, they can build a successful career in the BPO industry.

Thomas Sibanda is managing executive: training at CCI.

The Star