SPOTLIGHT: Motivated to Make a Difference
Wednesday, 7th October 2015 at 11:28 am
Offshore outsourcing of business processes is on the rise in Australia, with many companies taking advantage of a globalised workforce. But one organisation saw the growing industry as an opportunity to lift communities out of poverty, writes Ellie Cooper in this week’s Spotlight on Social Enterprise.
DataMotivate is a management, consulting and business process outsourcing (BPO) firm, with offices in Australia, the UK and the Philippines, that has partnered with local NGOs to provide employment opportunities to disadvantaged communities.
“BPO is one of the largest industries in the Philippines and in India as well. Large Australian corporates do some of their back-office work in lower-cost destinations, and the Philippines is the premier destination for that work for Australian companies,” DataMotivate co-Director, Tim Surgenor, said.
“For example, Telstra has something like 30,000 employees in the Philippines doing the kind of back-office admin work that you don’t see in the day-to-day.”
DataMotivate was established two years ago by Australian finance professionals who were already working in the BPO field. Surgenor was a corporate lawyer at one of London’s largest mergers and acquisitions firms, and co-founder Sam Dharmapala was an executive with Deutsche Bank.
After seven years working in BPO, partially on location, Surgenor was inspired to assist the ultra poor within these communities.
“I’ve worked in BPO in countries like South America, South Africa, Eastern Europe and the Philippines, and travelling to these countries, working on behalf of large corporations in the West was quite a confronting experience,” he said.
“For me it was an eye-opening experience to be working in these lower-cost countries and getting to see behind the veil and see the disadvantaged communities we were working amongst.
“We just developed a passion to really try to do something with our careers and our business that would be the benefit for the communities that we were working in, travelling to those countries we could see how business in Australia could have an impact.
“We made a conscious proactive decision to prioritise our business activities around making a social impact.”
While Surgenor considers DataMotivate a social enterprise, he explained that the industry specific term is “impact sourcing”.
“We set up under the ethos of social enterprise in that we can provide a highly capable, committed and stable workforce to our clients, while at the same time helping alleviate poverty in the Philippines,” he said.
“BPO is generally resourcing your business from lower-cost destinations, so our business sector is called ‘impact sourcing’ because we’re resourcing from disadvantaged communities.
DataMotivate partnered with local NGOs in the Philippines – World Vision and International Justice Mission (IJM) – to reach out to the most disadvantaged people.
“We prioritise the recruiting of our employees into our entry-level to the graduates of the educational programs run in the project communities of World Vision and IJM,” Surgenor said.
“Basically our junior level employees [are] kids who’ve come through the sponsorship programs and need a hand up into the modern economy.”
One of initial challenges in establishing DataMotivate was learning to partner with NGOs, who Surgenor said “traditionally speak a different language than corporates”.
“The first step is recognising what our roles are and playing to our strengths,” he said.
“So we’re looking to the NGOs to connect us with their project communities where at the same time they’re looking at us for guidance for how we can create employment, and the next step for their graduates.”
Surgenor said DataMotivate has achieved a service equal to or better than other BPO companies through combining leading finance professionals at an executive level and an engaged workforce.
“We can provide a more stable and consistent higher-level of service because our workforce is extremely committed because of the gratitude that is created from focussing on communities that might otherwise be overlooked in the BPO industry,” he said.
DataMotivate currently has 20 employees but is growing rapidly, with core clients in insurance, banking, healthcare and logistics. The high-quality service allows the business to be financially sustainable, which Surgenor said is vital to providing their workers with stability.
“People know they’re going to get excellence in service because they know the leadership is all established BPO professionals so consistent service is the first thing, that’s a priority and the social impact is the icing on the cake,” Surgenor said.
“One of the issues some of the larger BPO firms have is a high attrition rate, so a lot of employees are leaving every year and it can be up to 30 per cent whereas we don’t really experience that, we almost have a 0 per cent attrition rate, so almost full retention because the people are treated so well and given a lot of opportunity for personal development.”
The company relies on feedback directly from their employees to ensure their social outcomes are achieved.
“We have a social impact scorecard that we keep by doing regular anonymous questionnaires of our employees and also by the continued partnership with the NGOs for our employee care programs,” Surgenor said.
Surgenor said DataMotivate was also looking to expand their services to provide employment opportunities for candidates who weren’t suited to BPO work.