The bane of any contact center manager’s life is dealing with recruitment.  Not only has it become harder to find the qualified, enthusiastic labor needed to provide seamless end-user interactions, but keeping these same individuals is also a major challenge.  However, the example of Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, an organization headquartered in downtown Johannesburg, is a clear example of how the CRM industry can work in tandem with the non-profit sector to staff contact centers, while providing a hand-up to disadvantaged youth eager to enter the workforce.

As an organization, Harambee has been operating since 2011, and has a mandate to assist young South Africans from disadvantaged backgrounds develop the skills that are required to not only win a job, but to forge a career. Harambee’s training emphasizes what it takes to get hired, including resume-writing, interpersonal comportment and how best to attire for the workplace.  It also teaches the hard skills required to add value to an employer’s business once a recruit is on-boarded.  The organization has targeted several sectors into which graduates can be placed; to the credit of South Africa’s outsourced contact center sector, it has proactively engaged with Harambee by way of a partnership with Business Process Enabling South Africa (BPESA) to leverage this pool of talent in the domain of consumer management.

The experience thus far appears to have been a win-win for all parties.  From the perspective of Harambee, in BPESA it has found a willing partner that has been proactive in helping develop a curriculum encompassing customer experience, different technologies and administrative skills, one that continues to evolve in conjunction with the contact center space.  For the students, it provides a clear line of sight towards a career trajectory in customer experience management, and for the outsourcing industry it has opened an additional source of talent from which to draw.

There is also the matter of corporate social responsibility, of which the Harambee / BPESA partnership is emblematic, one that should serve as an example to outsourcing players in other jurisdictions.  Finding strong talent is important no matter the location, and in countries with tight labor markets, there is no reason why the Harambee example cannot be replicated.  However, what is crucial to any such initiative is the need for buy-in from across the BPO industry, including both vendors and staffing agencies.  Without having laid this groundwork, Harambee would have had a great deal of difficulty in developing the right contact center-specific curriculum and placement opportunities.  Strong backing from local and national governments cannot be understated either, in terms of providing the visibility and resources to help move such an employment project forward.

No matter whether onshore or offshore, contact center executives are constantly looking for motivated, skilled team members that can facilitate strong levels of customer experience.  The model that Harambee provides the world’s industry players is excellent, in regard to tapping into a labor source that, while not obvious at first, has proven to be a source of strong value for South Africa’s contact center sector.