South African businesses are more partial to making use of outsourcing than the global average, says the recent Grant Thornton International Business Report.The study, which conducted interviews with over 3 300 key decision-makers across multiple industries and geographic locations, reveals close on 50% of South African companies surveyed outsource their back-office services, or intend to, while 40% of global companies do so.

South Africa has also expanded the services it outsources, the survey states. Where this was once confined to areas such as tax, secretarial and bookkeeping services, it now includes information technology and advisory services such as internal audit, says Dr Madelise Grobler is the MD of Bytes People Solutions, a professional provider of talent management services.

However, despite the number of companies making use of outsourcing, it is unlikely that most are making use of this business alternative to maximum effect. The report identifies the major obstacle to outsourcing as “an unwillingness to lose control of a key process”.

Rather than be perceived as a loss of control, however, outsourcing should be viewed as a cost-effective opportunity for companies to introduce fresh and innovative talent that improves efficiencies and allows them to focus on central operations and future growth strategies.

The introduction of this fresh and innovative talent is one thing; the opportunities it presents to contribute meaningfully to the development of South Africa’s unemployed workforce is quite another. Outsourcing effectively, particularly in the call centre space, provides employers with a platform from which to make a tangible difference to people’s lives by proactively upskilling them and setting them on a career path that has a real and viable trajectory.

An intensive skills development programme and some practical hands-on facilitation by a competent outsourcing supplier is all that is required.

Individuals within the outsourcing space need to be invested in and nurtured to ensure that they are happier, less likely to fall prey to attrition, and more likely to contribute proactively and productively to their environment. A proper
career path fuels this, and within the ICT space particularly, a job in a call centre can quickly lead on to roles in customer services or sales.

Outsourcing companies are responsible for ensuring that a reputational shift takes place, and that call centres specifically, and fields that are outsourced more generally, are viewed as incubators of human potential.

While South Africa is making use of outsourcing service providers, misconceptions about the industry need to be remedied. Local businesses would benefit greatly from making use of outsourcing service providers that value their business, and the people conducting it, as much as the company concerned does.

Consolidating the outsourcing sector with the talent development sector enables organisations to focus on their core processes and develop South Africa’s economy simultaneously, making a meaningful impact every step of the way.