When you think of the contact center and BPO sector in Colombia, you probably don’t think of Montería. Best known for its social problems and poverty, the city is the capital of the Department of Córdoba in northern Colombia, but it is also home to a joint impact sourcing project by Grupo Konecta and Bancolombia.
Konecta Montería was the first contact center to operate in the region and is the result of the union of government and private enterprise. “The project is, for example, empowering mothers who otherwise didn’t think they could get decent jobs because they were looking after the children; it’s reaching people who had limited choices of first jobs,” said Natalia Pelaez, Strategic Project Lead at Grupo Konecta explained in a recent webinar hosted by ProColombia.
The webinar was hosted by Mauricio Velásquez, Consultant and IAOP Latam Ambassador. The panel comprised Pelaez, Julio Cesar of Atento Colombia, and Juan Carlos Gaitan, Vice President of Human Resources of Teleperformance.
Impact sourcing is a business practice where companies prioritize suppliers that intentionally hire and provide career development opportunities to people who otherwise have limited prospects for formal employment, according to the Global Impact Sourcing Coalition (GISC). It focuses on creating opportunities for disadvantaged groups such as unemployed youth, persons with disabilities, refugees, and indigenous peoples, explained Sara Enright, Associate Director of Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) which runs GISC.
“I always think of this one particular woman who started out in our contact center in Montería and who now works in a good job at Bancolombia,” Pelaez said. She emphasized the need for clients to become allies for impact sourcing to really work. “We are lucky to have had a great ally in Bancolombia.”
Both Bancolombia and Grupo Konecta are reaping the benefits of the program they put in place to train and develop the impact workers in Montería. Pelaez says that as much as 95% of vacancies are filled internally. Most start off as advisors and many now work in administrative positions such as team leaders, internal customer service technicians, valuation technicians, help desk, and trainers.
Today, Bancolombia’s Konecta-run contact center in Montería employs 600 people. “When we started this project, we did not expect to get where we are, to be more than 400 people today, which makes us one of the largest employers in Montería. We are building a social fabric that will transform the lives of these people, because our focus was from the beginning and will continue to be to integrate our company to people who have had few opportunities, but manifest a strong interest in getting ahead themselves and their families,” José Roberto Sierra, president of Konecta Colombia, said in a statement at the launch of the second stage of the project in 2017.
“This result would not have been possible without the support and credibility of Bancolombia, who from the beginning have been willing to bet on a business model that generates results but also positively touches the fibers of people,” said Sierra.
Grupo Konecta and Bancolombia are not the only ones to target lesser known regions with their impact sourcing work. Atento Colombia has chosen to focus its efforts in impact sourcing on Chocó Department, which is known for its large Afro-Colombian population.
Similarly Teleperformance has used it work from home agent program to stretch its impact sourcing initiatives beyond its home cities of Bogotá and Medellin.
In partnership with non-profit the Pan-American Development Foundation, Teleperformance has embarked on an impact sourcing program that has resulted in their employing 2,700 employees with no experience and 1,300 employees from vulnerable conditions.
Gaitan highlighted the work from home program in the webinar, saying: “We have 350 work from home agents and they are working from many cities – not only Bogotá, Medellin where we are – they are working from Baranquilla, Tunja, Cali, Pasto, Pereira.”
Gaitan added that Teleperformance’s program offers a number of benefits beyond a decent wage for its impact workers; they also offer easy access to loans, growth and development opportunities, including internal vacancies, and education and training.
GISC has challenged its members to employ 100,000 new impact workers by 2020. GISC has also developed an Impact Sourcing Standard, in which businesses need to meet requirements in five sections, covering the entire employee life cycle. The process involves both self-assessment and a review by the GISC secretariat. The Standard also offers guidance on getting started with an impact sourcing project.
Pelaez stressed the importance of understanding the laws governing impacts sourcing and the requirements that need to be put in place to create a truly accessible and inclusive workplace for impact workers. “It’s not about making them [impact workers] feel different; you want them to be part of your organization and to feel that they are the same as the rest of the workforce.”
The webinar panel stressed the need to get the culture right, to breaking paradigms to create inclusive places, and to get people at all levels within your organization ready to embrace this way of working.
While Colombia continues to be a talking point in terms of growth in the BPO sector, hitting 10,3% in 2017, the fastest-growing in the region, it is also ripe for leveraging the benefits of impact sourcing. The threads of inequality, poverty, conflict and social problems still run through the country, despite its positioning as a leader in BPO in Latin America. ProColombia hosted the webinar on impact sourcing to encourage more buyers and suppliers to consider the model for their own operations.