An outsourcing solution to accessing talent in Africa and the Middle East
Back in 2009, I began working on a first assignment as a consultant in Morocco. For the past 8 years, I have not left the region, working in countries as diverse as Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. From many discussions with business people in the region only one point came up as a common issue across all countries: The ability to hire, train, manage and retain talented personnel.
In many countries hiring and retaining talent is a major challenge given the scarcity of trained professionals, wage inflation, and heavy regulations on employing locals (like Saudization programs) or specific categories of population (like BEE in South Africa), resulting in high costs for the best resources and strong staff turnover due to opportunistic behaviour. Therefore, there is a strong incentive to focus these scarce and valuable resources where they make the most difference.
Consulting – The value and limitations of the model
As a complement to hiring, many companies and governments rely heavily on consulting, which is a thriving business in the region. As a former consultant, I am convinced of the high value of consultants to drive change, by bringing exceptional analytical skills, the ability to align organizations with best global practices and to put them under pressure to change.
However, I have seen some misuse of consulting. For example, some clients said that an increased awareness about research services allowed them to better use consulting services, either by having a first data cut done to refine the priorities or when closing a project with a consulting firm and then rolling out the analyses with a research firm.
Outsourcing to Regional Specialists – An effective way to access talent
Through learning about the region and through travel I realised that, on one hand, there were large pockets of talent in countries where the demand for talent was not very large, like Egypt, Morocco or Kenya, resulting in high unemployment rates even for graduates, while on the other hand, there were countries where demand was far in excess of supply, like in Saudi Arabia or Nigeria, where both costs and staff turnover were high. I also realized that in these countries where the supply of talent was large there was a lack of managerial skills, making it very difficult for companies to tap into that talent pool.
By starting and developing Infomineo, a company offering an outsourcing solution to the Middle East and Africa, we are trying to solve these issues.
– We hire from the largest untapped talent pools in the region (Egypt, Morocco, Kenya), essentially creating an opportunity for organizations to access qualified professionals without the need to directly invest in those markets.
– We train them to work with global standards of effectiveness, quality, and communication. By working with all the leading consultancies and 45 of the Fortune 500 companies we have been able to synthesize their best practices into an extremely effective inception program (one of our latest hires was qualified to start doing research for a major consultancy in 4 weeks while it takes 8 to 12 weeks to get to the same point with their internal training). The majority of our management team is composed of former consultants from McKinsey, BCG, Bain, A.T. Kearney, PWC etc, who disseminate their professional standards into the team.
– We manage our teams as per global standards, with clearly set career tracks, training programs, or international mobility, giving them opportunities to grow at Infomineo with no ceiling to their careers. As a result, our staff turnover rate is very healthy for the countries in which we operate and the level of seniority of our staff, at 20% per annum (a majority of which are leaving during their trial period).
– We offer our clients a retainer relationship model i.e. we guarantee permanent support with a high level of quality, without any disruptions to the service (we have backup team members, we are ISO certified which includes a continuity plan etc).
Finally, because we are at scale, leverage low to medium cost platforms and operate in a lean manner, we are able to offer our services at a lower cost than if our clients were to develop the service themselves.
Martin Tronquit, Managing Partner, Infomineo