Maria Purcell has worked at CCI South Africa since June 2016. Her role of Chief People Officer covers every aspect of the employee lifecycle for the CCI Team. We caught up with Maria to find out her thoughts on working for CCI South Africa and exactly what her job entails.

Q: Can you tell us exactly what a Chief People Officer does?

MP: I’m responsible for every step of the employee journey. That means from recruitment to people leaving and everything in between! My remit includes all of the policies that affect people working at CCI South Africa, as well as employee wellbeing, talent development, company culture and much more.

Q: What was your career path before joining CCI South Africa

MP: Banking – for 37 years! I started as a bank teller in my hometown in the north of England. Working my way up I became a Trainer and then moved into Human Resources (HR). My roles have taken me all over the world – I’ve lived in Barbados, Botswana, Johannesburg and now I’m here in Durban. I also travelled all around Africa, India and the Caribbean for previous roles.

Q: How has COVID-19 affected your role specifically?

Our entire operating model had to change practically overnight. It’s been a huge test of resilience, agility and adaptability for my department and for everyone. We had to completely stop lots of normal work activity so we could refocus on dealing with the immediate challenges caused by the pandemic.

Many of our people had to work from home, which is very different operationally. Everyone who continued coming to the office needed permits, which meant we had to work very quickly to meet these new logistical demands. Just as importantly, of course, we had to quickly put in place processes to ensure we were communicating with all our people, specifically those who were either unwell or had been in contact with a COVID patient. Our duty of care means we worked really hard to ensure everyone was and is getting the help they need.

We also needed to support all of our ‘new normal’ protocols through working closely with Government officials and local partners.

Q: What does a typical day look like for you – and are you working from home?

Aside from a week in early April, I’ve been in the office pretty much every day throughout. Fortunately, our working rhythm is as much back to normal as it can be during these tines. Our focus has returned to growing the business – we’re recruiting again for new campaigns, which is very exciting. So much of my time is spent coaching the team and joining the dots between all of the different elements to make sure things remain high quality and land on time.

Q: What made you want to pursue this career path?

My mum used to tell me to do what I’m passionate about! Happily, I figured out what that was pretty early on. I strongly believe that any company’s biggest asset is its people. I believe equality and diversity and seeing people develop and grow. If you believe in something and want to influence it, you have to do it from the inside and get involved – so I did!

Q: What are your thoughts on the future of BPO contact centres in South Africa particularly?

I would include Kenya in this as well as the rest of the continent. We are in such a strong position here to challenge the traditional destinations – it is all about the people! It is important, I think, that we all have an “abundance” mindset rather than one of “scarcity”. Here in South Africa we have an abundance of high potential young people waiting for opportunities. South Africa is also easy to do business with. We have leading technology so are perfectly positioned to be the next big destination of choice.

Q: What are you most proud of in your role?

Putting in place all the people foundations to support the business growth. This in turn creates careers for our unemployed youth and enables job security. This is more important than ever in these challenging times

Q: What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

Balancing all of the business priorities and supporting people though increasingly difficult times in their lives. Many more of our employees have become the sole breadwinner in their families during COVID-19. I am seeing the stress this is causing people, both financially and on their mental health.

Q: If you could sum up working for CCI in three words, what would they be?

Energetic, opportunities, diverse.

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

Hopefully still helping CCI to grow – no plans for retirement just yet!