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Jeffrey Puritt, TELUS International: CSR is Good Business and Good for Business!

Committed to supporting the communities where they operate, TELUS International invests in excess of 100,000 Euros in corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes and their employees volunteer thousands of hours in Romania annually. TELUS International has already seen remarkable growth on a global scale, and they have big plans for their Romanian operations.

2017-07-13 11:50:42 - From the Print Edition

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With more than 1,200 employees today, this segment of the company is looking to triple the size of their team in the region over the next three years while simultaneously contributing to the health and well-being of the local communities where their team members live, work and raise their families. Here, Jeffrey Puritt, president and CEO of TELUS International, talks to The Diplomat - Bucharest in an exclusive interview.

By Bogdan Tudorache

While attending the fifth annual TELUS Days of Giving in Romania, Jeffrey Puritt, president and CEO of TELUS International, pledged another 80,000 Euro to a local foundation that supports disadvantaged children and their families. He was joined by more than 350 TELUS International team members as well as their friends and family members, clients, and The Diplomat-Bucharest team. Together, we volunteered with our hearts and hands to help Hospices of Hope transform an old building into a state-of-the-art educational centre - a Tech House that will provide the latest technology (virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence) to enable advanced therapy for children suffering from a life-limiting illness. The large-scale renovation project, funded by TELUS International, also included building a new home for the caretakers of the property, located in Adunatii-Copaceni, near Bucharest.

"In Romania, over 5,000 children are currently suffering from a life-limiting condition. In response to the needs of these children and their families, TELUS International has partnered with Hospices of Hope, the leading palliative care charity in Southern East Europe to help make a true difference," said Puritt who travelled from Canada to attend the event.

In addition to their large-scale, annual volunteer events, TELUS International supports 17 different NGO programmes annually and has ambitious KPIs for the region: their Bulgarian sites have 2,400 team members and the Romanian business has approximately half as many. According to Puritt, in three years they have a goal of 10,000 across these Eastern European sites.

What is the importance of CSR in the way we do business?

CSR is good business and good for business. A lot of companies fail to recognize the linear correlation between being a responsible corporate citizen and running a successful business. My business, I think, has proved positive that if you want to do well in business, you have to do good in the communities where you operate: there is a symbiotic relationship. Our employees come from this community and the level of education and training continues to heighten every day. Everywhere, technology dominates the interactions between people and commerce. So the human populations enabling those interactions need to be capable of using those new tools and technologies. If I need to invest more in training and education, because the community is unable to support this need independently, that increases my cost of doing business. But if we help the community to support itself sustainably over the longer term, we have a labour force that can fuel future business success.

In Romania, a lot of people expected for years the government to take actions, and not the companies, but that has changed as of lateā€¦

Around the world, citizens expect the government to provide services whether it's in an emerging economy or a developed country. The question is, can the level of service provided sustain the growth of the population and the growing complexity of the demands such as education, health, technology, internet access as well as more rudimentary infrastructure services. What we are seeing around the world are governments failing more and more frequently to respond to these needs. And unless businesses step up to work in partnership with government institutions, ultimately more and more of our citizens will fall through the cracks, because there simply aren't enough financial capabilities. I believe the new standard operative procedure in this regard will be a public/private partnership.

What is TELUS International's CSR involvement to the region consisting of so far and what are the future plans?

Each one of our TELUS International operations around the world supports a Community Board that donates USD$100,000 annually to local charitable organizations. This is because we recognize that there are smaller grassroots organizations in need of financial support that are typically overlooked because of their size and ability to apply for larger funding opportunities. These smaller organizations are doing some of the best work for local citizens, like Hospices of Hope here in Romania. Our community board, composed of philanthropic community leaders as well as members of our local leadership team who know their community best, solicit requests for funding from various organization through an easy-to-use online application form. The board then evaluates each submission and distributes the funding. We recently launched our TELUS International Romania Community Board last fall and have already funded over 71,000 Euro supporting 17 different organizations.

So it's not just about planting trees

No, as you can see today with more than 300 team members from our Bucharest site here today, we have been painting walls, fences, and building and mixing cement for the Hospices of Hope children facilities. From my viewpoint, we are accomplishing two things here today: we put in the effort and the hours to get things done and we brought awareness to our team members of the immediate needs in their own community and of the opportunity and responsibility that attending events like this mean for the future success of their country. A by-product of today's volunteer event is the spirited teamwork it has engendered, strengthening their bond and driving loyalty, engagement, productivity and ultimately, profitability.

What are the past and future KPIs for the region? How much did you invest and what's next?

When we first invested in the region, I think I wrote the first cheque in September, 2012. We acquired the majority stake in a company called Call Point New Europe. The company was founded in 2004 in Bulgaria, and in 2006 they opened an office in Bucharest. In 2012, the company had 770 team members, of which 190 were in Romania. This past year, in 2016, we counted 3,600 team members. That's a five times growth in terms of employees and we matched that growth in revenue and profits. Our plan for the next three years is to exponentially grow the business again to have 5,000 team members in Romania and another 5,000 in Bulgaria. We currently have offices in Bucharest and Sofia, and also in smaller cities such as Craiova and Plovdiv, but we will open into secondary and tertiary tier cities as well as we grow.

How does the digitalization and the growing of the Internet of Things (IoT) affect the industry?

It's probably the most significant dynamic in our industry, not just in Romania, but worldwide. There is a bifurcation of philosophy that I hear many people in the industry expressing. One is with the proliferation of IoT that the automation and robotization of support is likely to eliminate the need for traditional live agent support. In India, the big IT companies are laying off thousands, because that was their traditional support model for application management and infrastructure support, so now many fear that the industry is going to suffer.
My view, however, is a contrarian one. At TELUS International, we are embracing automation and digitization because they are cost effective and many customers prefer self-serve options. Theoretically, at the end of the day, 30% of all transactions are simple, predictable, repeatable, and they should be automated. This, however, means 70% are too complex to be automated and require a higher level of skilled agents to support them. This means two things - there is an opportunity for agents to increase their skillset and have a higher age. Secondly, 30% of people would not lose their jobs, because, with the proliferation of technology, the need for connectivity will grow, and the number of interactions will grow tenfold. driving employment opportunities. Technology truly is an engine of growth and opportunity, and in Romania, because of the population's affinity to work with technology, their comfort level around IT and their fantastic language skills, it is a recipe for remarkable long-term success in the region.

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