Webhelp and Harambee hire 500 unemployed young people

By Simon Garabette

Chief Operating Officer at Webhelp South Africa, Simon Garabette discusses the company’s successful partnership with Harambee.

Building on its successful partnership with Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, leading customer experience provider Webhelp will hire approximately 500 unemployed youth for a peak period campaign to service Shop Direct customers.

The Harambee model has worked very well for Webhelp, previously having hired 267 unemployed youth to work for several different clients in South Africa, of which just over half went into the Shop Direct campaign. The business success has been evident as measured by improved employee retention, excellent performance and high levels of customer satisfaction (NPS). And for young adults entering the world of work for the first time, there has been a significant positive social impact.

The first group are currently undergoing training and will go live in October, gaining valuable work experience during Shop Direct's peak trading period.

Mark Billingham, Group Customer Operations Director at Shop Direct, said:

“Shop Direct is committed to assisting the Webhelp initiative of youth employment in South Africa. The relationship between the UK retailer and the SA-based BPO has been exceptionally successful thus far. We have found that the SA youth identify positively with the UK-based customers’ mind-set and attitude towards client service offerings.” Further adding, “Experience vs youth?? Often a debate, I had the privilege recently of being shown it doesn’t really matter, it’s about attitude, dedication & never giving up.”

Suzanne Edmondson, Head of Global Customer Operations at Shop Direct, said:

“I had the immense pleasure & pride recently to meet our first cohort of new Harambee trainees. Setting off on their journey to support the Shop Direct 2019 peak, in partnership with Webhelp & Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator.”

Also adding, “the energy, passion & enthusiasm is incredible. I am super proud of their commitment & excitement for day two into their programme. I genuinely cannot wait to see their journey unfold & be part of something super special for them, their communities, South Africa & our customers!”


Cathy Kalamaras, Managing Executive, People at Webhelp South Africa, said:

 “Positively impacting youth unemployment is at the heart of our CSR strategy, which is about giving back to the communities from which we recruit. Developing skills, removing barriers that keep youth locked out of the formal sector and creating sustainable employment have all become paramount in the fight against youth unemployment in our country.” 

Stephen Shields, Harambee’s Executive for Global Business Services, said:

“Harambee partners with business, government and young people to tackle the global challenge of youth unemployment by training young people to get and keep thier first job. Our work readiness programmes help orient them to the world of work – a model particularly effective for the contact centre industry as evidenced by our enduring partnership with Webhelp.”

The Webhelp-Harambee partnership dates back to an extremely successful 2016 Shop Direct pilot designed to determine if the Harambee model would work for international contact centres, help increase employee retention, protect labour arbitrage and have a positive impact on youth unemployment. Results exceeded expectations with 90% of recruits staying more than 12 months and maintaining exceptional behavioural metrics – including speed to competence and promotions in under 12 months.

The partnership has gone from strength to strength since – and this year, Webhelp has partnered with Harambee to source and prepare 500 fresh recruits for Shop Direct’s peak period. The intention is to permanently transition a large proportion of these candidates into Webhelp’s business and operations after the peak period has concluded. Webhelp and Shop Direct have also jointly created a work seeking fund, to support those that they cannot absorb into the business with finding other job opportunities.

To date, the Webhelp-Harambee partnership has positively impacted 130 families and 520 lives in the Shop Direct Campaign.


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