An inclusive approach to recruitment: A South African Perspective.

South Africa provides a vibrant, enthusiastic and highly skilled base for many of Webhelp’s clients who chose offshoring to deliver their customer service. Here Kevin D’Allende, recruitment manager for the region, shares our commitment to provide opportunity for the youth of South Africa, and their pathway to employment, in their customer experience provider careers.

South Africa, behind India, is the second most popular global destination for offshoring, and as a location it is very attractive prospect for clients, due to our English language skills, time-zone compatibility with Europe, an advanced telecommunications industry, Government support for the industry and most importantly, reliable committed and cost effective workforce.

However, according to the World Bank, South Africa remains one of the most unequal countries in the World with unemployment teetering on 30%. Given this startling fact, it is understandable that the youth in the country may become disillusioned about the prospect of finding gainful employment and becoming economically active in society.

But encouragingly, there is growing recognition across the customer experience management sector, that despite this dire situation opportunities exist to play a more meaningful role to create positive impact. At Webhelp, we have a core commitment to make businesses more human and are a people-first organisation, so creating these opportunities to nurture youth potential is a long-standing and important priority for our organisation.

For me, this starts with identifying and attracting the best human talent by placing people at the centre, Webhelp can harness this untapped skill base and showcase to the rest of the world the innate ability of South African youth to excel in a customer service environment.

As the South African Youth make their way along the pathway to employment, the challenge is to keep these enquiring minds fully engaged and help them bring out their best.

As a result, we must make sure that their experiences in the pre-employment stage reflect how exciting and enthusing their professional journey at Webhelp can be.

Identifying, attracting and retaining the right new talent for Webhelp, and our clients can be a challenge which involves various strategies.

Firstly, we use our existing people (always our best advertisement!) to engage and educate our new recruits. Our brand ambassadors live and display the company values so passionately that others are drawn to the organisation.

We strive to create working communities that reflect the backgrounds and cultural touchpoints of our people, as everyone likes to work in a space that is more like them!

This dovetails with our organisational values too, and we are involved in various community initiatives like the Columba Leadership Programme, which aims to ensure that hundreds of thousands of young people realise their potential and recognize their ability to lead change in their own lives, their schools and communities.

This approach allows Webhelp an opportunity to actively participate in moulding and nurturing the future business leaders of the country. This ambition continues inside our organisation, with opportunities like the Deputy Team Leader Programme and Momentum training for middle managers.

We recognise that everyone has a unique set of financial and social circumstances that may have impacted their access to academic studies prior to their recruitment, so to help our people to realise their potential Webhelp makes Learnerships available that culminate in a formal qualification on completion.

These colleagues often start out as Customer Services Advisors at entry level but through the learnership and middle management training modules, they can become part of the team leader core whilst others venture into support roles like trainers and quality analysts.

Alongside this, close partnerships and strategic alliances with various external training providers are important to ensure that Webhelp is able to access talent that really have a yearning for learning, and will embrace our working culture. These prime candidates form a sourcing pool for Webhelp and their applications are fast tracked into the business; often as Technical Help Desk Advisors.

Finally, and something that is very close to our hearts at Webhelp, we support Impact Sourcing, via organisations like Harambee, to provide career development opportunities to people who otherwise have limited prospects for formal employment.

We work hard to remove the barriers to employment and bolster an inclusive approach to recruitment.

Acknowledging that the recruitment process can be a very daunting space for a first-time work seeker, this process allows for changes to be made to ensure the candidate feels comfortable to offer their best.

This atmosphere of transparency, involvement (inclusion) and mutual respect allows for a more relaxed and rewarding engagement. Positive feedback, whether the candidate is successful or not, becomes important, as we want to support everyone during their interaction with Webhelp.

At Webhelp we believe that recruitment should be ethical, transparent, fair and accessible and that the concept that ‘Our people make Webhelp’ is something that we live by every-day. Throughout our operation, its remains a priority for us to improve the experience of all our employees - at all stages of their career journey with us.

Look out for further blogs, sharing more of our people strategy, in the coming weeks.

 

 


WFH Best Practices – How to effectively manage a remote team

Currently most of us can relate to working remotely from different locations owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. A recent survey revealed that 76% of the Global Workforce prefer to continue working from home post Covid-19 (Source: globalworkplaceanalytics.com). Apart from escaping a noisy office, there are significant benefits gained from WFH such as an increase in productivity on one hand, and a decrease in absenteeism on the other.

And because the WFH model is the new normal, leaders need to remotely support their teams to ensure business continuity during this unprecedented situation. So let’s have a look at some of the best practices that have been proven to enable a remote team successfully achieve its objective under the leadership of a team manager.

Up-to-date equipment
Your team’s working culture flourishes when everything is under one roof. Ensure that the team members have the amenities needed to get their work done. This includes but not limited to working laptop machines and remote team management software in order to plan projects as well as people, mobile devices or a high-speed internet. As a team manager it is your responsibility to make sure that the team you are working with is promptly supplied with this equipment and timely replacements are done on the faulty ones.

Regular communication
This goes without saying. It is normal for your team to feel lonely and isolated because they are not in an office environment. It's therefore important to have a regular one on one every so often allowing room for small talk when possible. A good rapport is key in creating a bond between team members and their manager. From time to time find out how they are doing and also how their families are doing to show that you not only care about their work delivery but also their lives outside work.

Video conferencing
Thanks to technology advancement, we are now able to interact and connect better through electronic mediums such as Teams, Zoom, Skype, Google Meet etc. It is thus important to find the right collaboration tool that can be used with the whole staff. By helping to shorten the gap between the employer and employee, video conferencing is a powerful tool that fosters the connection and team spirit by enabling real-time, face to face communication. Researchers show that half of human communication is nonverbal. As team manager, your role is to ensure effective communication which will establish a connection with your members. Video conferencing helps to notice your team’s reaction to different situations in order to also understand the unspoken.

Set expectations
Conveying expectations early clearly helps in keeping your team members focused in working towards the same goal. Help them in figuring out what they need to prioritize by creating realistic expectations for their work. This sets up both you and the team for success as it helps in precisely stating both the tasks and the reasons behind them as a measure of achievement. Your expectation for your virtual team can be their, working hours, scope of work and the deadlines and deliverables for each task or project.

Watch out for part two...


Outsourcing content moderation: adding value to first and third parties with a human first approach

What are the main issues with content moderation today?

A recent report published by NYU, shows that there is over 3 billion pieces of content on Facebook (in the first quarter of 2020) that is the responsibility for content moderators to check; remove or provide a warning ‘cover’ of disturbing content before viewing.

Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg recently reported in a 2018 Whitepaper , Facebook’s review teams “make the wrong call in 1 out of 10 cases”, which can be a result of relying on AI to identify harmful content, or the pressure and lack of training with moderators.

With this type of role, comes a great deal of pressure and responsibility to ensure the safety of the community, 24/7 (2.6 billion active users daily).

One of the main issues content moderators face today, is the hundreds of items they are required to moderate within a six to eight-hour shift.    Therefore, expertise is essential, as it is up to content moderators to act with governance to uphold high standards. Content is not responsible of the platform,  this is the freedom users have for ‘free speech’, but the onus is on the moderators to control obscenity showcased to them.

Subsequently, the second issue is the pressure of fulfilling these number of items to moderate. Setting high targets and efficiency rates can prove to be unattainable and have the consequences of diminished performance and mental health and wellbeing.

Recommendations from NYU

The NYU report discusses recommendations major social media platforms can do to improve their content moderation.

While the main theme of the article is constructed on the basis “A call for outsourcing”, we can conversely demonstrate outsourcing is instrumental to content moderation, moreover how we align with these recommendations outlined in the report.

Human first approach when outsourcing content moderation

At Webhelp, we know many mistakes have been done concerning content moderation services, therefore we decided when we entered this ‘community service’, to adopt a completely different approach - 74% of our operators recommend Webhelp as an employer (NPS).

Investing in people

A human first approach to content moderation is Webhelp’s understanding that people’s mental health and wellbeing is not to be disregarded when managing afflictive content.

Wellness is our differentiator, enabled through our Webhealth Wellness Programme:

  • Mental Health Awareness training is provided for managers to recognise symptoms of stress, and the coping mechanisms to support colleagues
  • providing a safe, working environment to ensure colleagues have a sense of security, trust, and reliability.
  • access to certified Psychologists, councillors, and trained coaches to support content moderators with mental, physical, financial, and nutritional health.

Wellbeing Analytics to take proactive action

As part of our approach to content moderators and their mental health, we monitor their performance using Wellbeing Analytics.

Using this tool enables us to identify issues through a combination of observing colleagues, using data analytics and machine learning for proactive action.

Team leaders and coaches will have daily updates on colleagues MTI score which indicates how colleagues are performing and  , identify ; this allows supervisors to take appropriate actions to support them, for example, reworking a shift or allow for longer breaks - 100% of our operators moderating sensitive content have shorter shifts which achieves up to 4 points of attrition reduction.

Improving content moderation

Managing content moderation is not to be taken lightly. It requires expertise and knowledge about this area and understanding there is a balance between the impact it has on individual’s wellbeing and the value it adds to first and third parties.

Outsourcing for content moderation is a way in which social media companies can employ experts within that field to deliver outcomes and improve performance.

As NYU have reported, content moderation should not be outsourced because it lacks on moderator’s health and wellbeing.

As we have demonstrated above, we have a strong focus on this. Not all outsourcing is conducted by ‘customer service centres’ that exploit their team without support, on the contrary.

Taking a human first approach with our Webhealth programme and Wellbeing Analytics tool enables colleagues to develop their understanding of mental health and is essential in proving a safe, healthy environment for moderators.


How the Yodel and Webhelp partnership faced the challenge of COVID-19

Partnership is a huge part of the way we deliver services at Webhelp, and one of our four cultural pillars is to put the client at the heart. Here we explore the strong collaborative approach that was undertaken during the COVID crisis with Yodel, a key logistics client for Webhelp. Joining the discussion were Michaela Simpson, Head of Customer Experience at Yodel, Kellyann McCafferty, Account Director at Webhelp and Cobus Crous, Head of Operations for Webhelp in India and SA.

Yodel is one of the UK’s largest delivery companies for B2C orders, serving many of the country’s leading retailers. Webhelp and Yodel have been working together since 2015, and have built up a strong alliance providing outstanding customer service management, which is delivered from Webhelp’s offshore locations in South Africa and India.

What was the starting position of the logistics industry, and Yodel’s outlook before COVID?

Michaela Simpson (Yodel):

We were just coming out of a very successful peak period, the six weeks over Christmas, is traditionally one of the highest delivery periods for the consumer market. Logistics is a highly competitive sector and as an innovative carrier, our efforts were focused on continuing to build a forward-thinking technology roadmap. We were in the enviable position of having well-established, technical and highly skilled operational and management teams in place, and an exceptionally in depth understanding of the day to day working of the business.

Do you have any feedback on what Webhelp were doing well before COVID hit?

Michaela Simpson (Yodel):

Everything.

Together we had had a run of at least three, if not four really strong quarters. And, this success can be measured by the fact that Yodel have been awarding Webhelp service credits for great delivery at the end of each quarter.

Like any partnership, you can drill down into detail to find areas to challenge, which is simply good practice. But, in my opinion, we had the strongest people we’ve ever had  and overall we were very pleased.

Do you have anything to share on the operational approach during COVID, for example how and when our partnership reacted – any stand out examples, or challenges?

Michaela Simpson (Yodel)

One stand out during the COVID crisis would be, just as we approached Easter, Yodel were awarded a UK government contract to collect COVID tests for the NHS, seven days a week. Webhelp delivered an eight person team specifically trained to support this essential service. We went from concept to go live in less than a week! They did an absolutely fantastic job delivering the first campaign and we now have two more on the horizon.

Kellyann McCafferty (Webhelp):

But there were challenges, and they were different depending on the country in question. In India, a curfew was announced on the 14th of March, and then the lockdown was announced on Mothers Day on Sunday the 22nd of March, one of Yodel’s busiest trading days of the year! We then had four hours to deliver desktops & laptops to our employees who were without access to technology. Working swiftly, our teams successfully managed to complete all actions on time and in line with the Indian Government regulations.

In South Africa, shortly before the formal lockdown announcement on the 23rd of March, we conducted an initial employee survey to understand the potential challenge of the home situation for our advisors in terms of WIFI, hardware, infrastructure and so on.

A staggered approach was then used to move our people to either supported homeworking, or for the small group where this was not suitable due to not having an appropriate home environment, supported working from a hotel venue.

The hotel solution was an industry first, which showed not only the strength in our partnership to act quickly and decisively around commercials and logistics, but also highlighted the commitment and dedication our people have towards Webhelp and Yodel.

Our advisors left their families and loved ones for 21 days, without hesitation, to support customers and clients from a hotel room during a very uncertain period. This is testament to our values and how our wonderful employees live the Yodel brand.

Michaela Simpson (Yodel):

Yes, the Indian lockdown happened incredibly quickly. And then South Africa was hot on its heels. One of the strengths we shared collaboratively was the ability to make some very decisive and quick decisions on how we were going to operate. This allowed Webhelp to deploy a robust plan at speed, which has been really successful, particularly in India, and remains so now.

Understandably, there were technical challenges to overcome, early in the process but, I think if you were a Yodel customer you probably wouldn't have noticed a significant difference.

We made the pragmatic, but firm decision to move away from phone services to Web chat until early August, and to manage that message to our consumers. Clear joint action gave us the freedom to plan our campaigns together, knowing the road ahead and the expected timeline.

Kellyann McCafferty (Webhelp):

This helped make sure that in a short space of time all our people, in both locations, were up and running from home, or hotel based – and while we appreciate the sacrifices our advisors made, the feedback was that they were delighted to carry on representing the Yodel brand during a difficult period, and maintained high enthusiasm in delivering great service.

Cobus Crous (Webhelp):

Absolutely. Taken together across the Webhelp estate, in both India and South Africa, Yodel was one of the accounts that were 100% operational within a 72-hour window.

And I think that's quite an achievement on its own.

Personally, I'm exceptionally proud of how my team reacted, to what was a very scary and unsettling scenario. Their attitude was: “OK, we're going for it, we're going to solve it!” From the moment they got their PC’s, they unpacked, connected and were ready to work the next morning! And I think that was remarkable, just how well they moved with the change. Our people are such a big part of this story.

Kellyann McCafferty (Webhelp):

In fact, this shows great resilience, as they were quickly functioning above normal business levels, when COVID actually brought much larger parcel volumes than usual.

Michaela Simpson (Yodel):  

Yes, interestingly, at Yodel we were initially concerned about the negative impact COVID could have on online retail, which forms a substantial part of our business.

However, the reality was completely different. China came out of lockdown just as Europe went into it, and the expected disruption to the global manufacturing industry didn’t impact us. Suddenly home shopping habits changed completely, so we have been effectively running at peak operation, which we usually spend a significant part of the year planning and laying out logistics for.

And we managed to switch this on in a just a few hours. And since then we have maintained very, very high numbers, well above our plan!

Webhelp is a people first organisation with a commitment to make business more human, did this approach effect delivery?  

Michaela Simpson (Yodel)

In the logistics industry, it's easy for us to think in operational terms, but despite the fact that we had to make some very critical business decisions, together we have considered and prioritised the people side of our partnership. This went above the usual checks and balance for any business and has come through very strongly from the Webhelp operational teams at a grass roots level.

Thoughts for the future?   

Kellyann McCafferty (Webhelp):

With Yodel, we are building a highly proactive approach to contact and delivery, which benefits from the joint operational traits of flexibility, clarity of decision making and the right balance between people and technology.

Our partnership will continue to change the way that brands look at outsourced customer service for the logistics sector, both during this crisis and as we move towards a more stable future.