Contact centres are one of the largest sectors of Business Process Outsourcing and South Africa has become the destination location for contact centres in support of job creation, particularly for unemployed youth. Young people are ambitious, learn and grow fast, therefore opportunities to climb through the ranks makes the contact centre environment attractive.
Digicall provides career progression for their people, especially with its largely female workforce, where they develop their own talent and can now boast a senior management team made up of thirteen women. Candice Oliver, Operational Director of Digicall’s Sigma SA Contact Centre began her career as a junior at Digicall. She was supported by her colleagues and leaders to grow and thrive. Talent and hard work do not go unnoticed and unrewarded at Digicall where staff are coached and guided into senior positions.
Candice Oliver, Operational Director of Digicall’s Sigma SA Contact Centre
Candice Oliver says, “I was managed by a male colleague who challenged me on my development areas which taught me to take initiative, to withstand job related pressure, and be curious.” This environment and approach have yielded positive results and the investment made in people is ploughed back into the company. The accumulation of skills and problem solving is beneficial to clients and the business.
Work related study opportunities are offered to staff through a bursary scheme and based on their performance and how they apply it to their roles is where the true development happens. Candice Oliver took advantage of this opportunity to get a Credit Management qualification under her belt which boosted her confidence with the profit and loss responsibilities and enabled her to drive work performance through her team.
Irene Nel, General Manager of Digicall South Africa’s Insurance and BPO Division
Irene Nel, General Manager of Digicall South Africa’s Insurance and BPO division, joined Digicall as a Contact Centre Manager and expanded her knowledge by assisting other business units, and this is where she gained great insight into the diverse operations and services within the company. She applied for the General Manager position, which meant moving to another province, where she is settling into her new role of coordinating and leading a team of dedicated business unit heads and Contact Centre Managers.
Irene cautions that the path to success is not a bed of roses and recalls some lessons learnt before joining Digicall. “I learnt what type of leader I don’t want to become. Not all leaders are great, but we learn from them, we learn how best to do things or how best not to do things. Being in a leadership role is a big responsibility and I plan to lead with an agile leadership style which is necessary for leading today’s talent,” shares Irene Nel.
A key area to growing a strong team of women leaders is their exposure to critical areas of business, and at Digicall all aspects of the role are entrusted to the capable women who are accountable for these tasks. “Too few young women are exposed to business acumen and executive level decisions. I believe it is imperative to involve women in these areas of business, especially when we are bearing in mind the new generations that will be leading companies to greatness in future,” says Irene.
Both Candice and Irene feel that businesses can do more to ensure that women get a fair voice when career-critical assignments are made. This can be achieved through giving credit when a job is done well, allowing women to share their perspectives and giving them an opportunity to market their work. To better identify and leverage high-potential female leaders internally, businesses may consider creating gender-neutral environments, flat management structures and incentives to retain and develop female leaders. Once we get this right, then we will start seeing more female representation at board level.
The most important advice the next generation of female leaders should think about is that feedback does not necessarily mean failure, in fact, it will positively impact on personal and professional growth. We challenge women in business to test their limits and always remain flexible.