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.

By Lizelle Strydom, MD of CareerBox Africa

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) found that in 2023, more than 72-million youth in Africa are NEET – not in education, employment or training. And concerningly, the research indicates that the majority of these unemployed youth are women, who already face additional barrier to entry into meaningful employment because of cultural and social pressures that make them disproportionately more likely to shoulder the bulk of household responsibilities.

Tackling youth unemployment is essential if countries are to achieve SDG Goal 8 on decent work for all by 2030.

This is where impact sourcing can make a tangible difference to our world. 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 disadvantaged sectors of the population, particularly in emerging markets that have untapped talent pools. Impact sourcing can also play an important role in promoting diversity and closing the gender gap in the workplace.

Impact sourcing isn’t just about demonstrating commitment to social good. To be successful and provide business value to the company, it also demands competitive performance. Service providers in the BPO sector must deliver high-quality services at attractive rates, and adding impact sourcing into the mix often results in an economically secure and loyal workforce who are committed to providing positive outcomes for brands.

For many people recruited through impact hiring practices, an entry-level BPO position is likely to be their first formal job opportunity and has a massive impact on their income and their entire family’s wellbeing.

Recruiting individuals with a strong desire to work can lead to higher retention rates, competitive performance and other positive social and financial outcomes. This is particularly important in the BPO industry, which traditionally has a high turnover rate and intense competition for labour.

It isn’t always easy, but it is worth it

Impact sourcing offers many benefits to companies, but it can be challenging to implement successfully. Many companies don’t engage in impact hiring because of a lack of understanding of the value of impact sourcing beyond being a tick-box item to include in their ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) reporting.

Equally, measuring the social and economic impact of impact sourcing measures can be complex, with companies struggling to develop clear, quantifiable metrics to evaluate the success of these initiatives. This in turn can make it more challenging to justify ongoing programmes.

However, with a strategic approach, businesses can harness the full potential of impact sourcing, and even influence how consumers view their brand. The hiring diversity that comes from impact sourcing can also deliver a business upside beyond ESG reporting. The Harvard Business Review found that companies that put people first with above-average diversity and inclusion at the core of their business reported improved financial performance.

Equally, in a competitive market, skills are a valuable commodity. By creating jobs in communities or emerging markets where employment opportunities are scarce, organisations can build their own skilled workforces of the future. Getting into labour wars will always be costly and attritional for companies.

Meaningful impact sourcing, and working with HR teams to ensure that employees have the right support structures, training and skills development, ensures that the company retains employees and grows a skilled labour pool that is also diverse and focused on performance.

Find the right partners for the journey

It’s important for companies to partner with service providers that have a proven track record with the ability to deliver high-quality services, with the express goal of producing an economically self-sufficient and loyal workforce that delivers positive outcomes for brands.

The clear-eyed view is that many of the people coming into impact sourcing have lacked the opportunities for further education, and in the case of Africa, their secondary education may not have imparted all the necessary skills needed to succeed and thrive in the workplace. It therefore isn’t enough to simply place the person into a position – there must be an equal focus on providing those individuals with the workplace skills that will enable them to succeed.

Workplace readiness programmes are a vital cog in the impact sourcing process, and must provide not only the technical and digital skills to master the functions required, but also the soft skills necessary to compete on an equal footing – skills such as mastering emotional intelligence, social skills and communication skills. Choosing the right partner for a company’s impact sourcing programme is critical to long-term success.

When companies move beyond the perception of impact sourcing as an ESG tool or a philanthropic exercise, there is a solid business rationale for investing in impact sourcing that can deliver value for many years.