Connecting communities – why Impact Sourcing makes a lasting difference – by Ben Jones
With a mounting number of outsourcing businesses carefully studying how they can operate in more socially responsible ways, the Impact Sourcing recruitment model is emerging as one way to continue to access talent in fast growing destinations across the world.
For those who are unaware, or intrigued to know more, Impact Sourcing is essentially a recruitment route for businesses to provide job opportunities to those from economically disadvantaged or marginalised communities which have limited employment prospects.
As an employer which has embraced Impact Sourcing in the UK, especially through partnerships with universities, colleges, charities and by fully welcoming the nationwide hybrid working model, over the past four years we have made it our mission to make a significant difference to lives in our Cape Town-based South African business where we currently have over 3,500 employees.
In South Africa, over 60% of 15- to 24-year-olds are unemployed, yet many of those attend, complete and graduate through school. Often, this demographic just needs a chance to get on the career ladder and then the support to build their skills. Jobs are more than just fulfilling tasks, they are about computer literacy, intra-personal skills, empathy, context and understanding, as well as teamwork and sharing common goals and values. All things that this cohort have not necessarily learnt yet but something we have made our mission to help them with.
Actions speak louder
We have laboured for a while now to put into words what Impact Sourcing means to us and to the global landscape of outsourcing. The reason for this is that one word just isn’t enough to sum up what we see as the moral, economic, human, kind and brave decision-making that commits to long-term sustainable benefits for lives and communities. And for those outsourcers who operate in countries with disadvantaged communities, or who are considering doing so, we would implore you to put these outcomes at the heart of everything you do.
From a commercial and business development perspective, in South Africa and the UK it is becoming more commonplace for bids and tenders to include scoring and weighting towards sustainable business practices. That is positive, however, it’s ‘real’ actions that matter and not paragraphs in bid materials. Making a difference takes time, investment, and a willingness to create careers for individuals that wouldn’t normally have the opportunity. You cannot half do Impact Sourcing, you either commit or you don’t.
Choosing the right operational location
As one of the pioneers of offshoring to South Africa, we have 15 years’ experience of operating in low economic regions in the Western Cape. Our offshoring credentials have helped drive a tranche of international clients coming onboard. However, what many don’t see is that those clients are serviced from our offices based outside of the CBD and where most contact centres operate, but are based closer to where people live, which in most cases are large townships.
The offices are staffed by people who have been recruited from those areas, creating very short commutes to work every day – increasing time available to spend at home with their families and reducing the need for expensive childcare or transport costs. By using this location strategy, we immediately open up our career opportunities to a wider group of people who wouldn’t have been able to commute to the CBD. In 2022 we were the first BPO in the Western Cape to open a call centre in the township of Mitchells Plain. We have further ambitions to open a larger call centre to accommodate 2,000 people there.
In the UK, there is still a recognised north-south divide in terms of equality of pay. However, due to the pandemic, more and more people are now able to work from home, enabling them to find jobs with better salaries. For example, a company could be based in London but the person lives in Glasgow, all helping towards creating prosperity in the north.
The private sector has done much to move the dial on that over the past three years but I believe more can be done. Creating a working from home model enables organisations to not only have access to the whole of the UK’s recruitment pool, but also allows companies to target recruitment into areas where there is high unemployment, and therefore high potential to recruit untapped talent.
Partnering for success
Many of our South African employees have been sourced through our own recruitment drive but we also have partnerships with organisations working to support disadvantaged communities.
One of those is Cape Town based Shadow Careers who we have been working with since they were founded in 2019. Shadow Careers helps prepare people for the world of work and we took on their very first graduate. They have just celebrated placing 500 people into work and we also took on their 500th – 270 of those have come to work at Sigma Connected.
Similarly in the UK, our work with BMet and PeoplePlus has been vital and it makes us exceptionally proud that approximately 20% of our UK employees are recruited through Impact Sourcing.
Real sustainability and future locations
What is vital is that these people aren’t just entering into jobs, but if looked after by a fair and responsible employer, then they are also embarking on long-term careers, backed by training, development and guidance.
Here at Sigma Connected we go one step further to give them the best possible chance to succeed. People get exposure to our operating environment before they formally join us so they know what to expect, and when they are here, they work with leaders and specialist teams who are educated on how best to support someone coming in through the Impact Sourcing route, including around knowledge, coaching and bespoke classroom-based training.
This year, following the growth of our US business, we also hope to open centres in the south-central state of Oklahoma and in Honduras – both as on-shore and near-shore destinations. We have made some very specific choices on why we have chosen those areas, decisions which have Impact Sourcing at their core.
Making the leap
This is just an outline of our work and success through Impact Sourcing as we try to highlight why other outsourcers should be thinking more broadly on the subject.
We are throwing that challenge out to the industry as we believe it’s right they consider more about what is really making an impact, and even what their priorities are when entering a new market.
One of the leadership mantras we have here at Sigma Connected is Be Bold, Be Brave and Be Kind.
That really resonates every single day in the conversations we have and the direction we are taking the business in, where we are determined to deliver great outcomes for people and their communities.