Business Process Outsourcing, commonly known as BPO, is becoming increasingly popular, especially in the Asia-pacific region including Southeast Asia. The BPO market is rapidly growing because of the increased adoption of outsourcing by different organizations as part of cutting costs and improving their efficiency. With the development of digital technologies like AI, Machine Learning, automation and so forth, there is an increased expectation of the BPO market to boom in the SEA region. As per a recent study, revenue for the Asia-Pacific BPO is expected to surpass US $72.38 billion (about $220 per person in the US) in 2023. This further depicts the hidden potential of the BPO industry.
Having said that, now, let’s have a look at the chief components that add up to the BPO industry. They include customer care, sales, marketing, human resources, finance, and accounting. In each one of these sub-sections, one of the key soft skills HR professionals should consider while hiring new candidates in the SEA region is their business English communication skills. It is because this skill is integral in performing these roles efficiently.
Although English is a second language in most of the SEA countries, there is a difference in how it is locally used among people in the SEA countries like Brunei, Cambodia, Singapore, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and East Timor. For instance, in Singapore, the most common version of English spoken is Singlish, which is an English-based creole that differs from the British and the US version widely.
Therefore, to bring in standardization and to ensure that the BPO workforce has the right business English skills, HR professionals can rely on AI-EnglishPro. AI-EnglishPro is a pre-employment business English proficiency test that helps to quantify the English language proficiency of candidates. This test evaluates a candidate's speaking, writing, reading, and listening skills. This English proficiency test can play a crucial role in reducing hiring costs and time-to-hire by 40%.
Since we have laid the foundation, let’s now look at how the BPO sector is booming in the SEA region, different challenges faced while hiring candidates, how iMocha’s AI-EnglishPro can help and more.
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An overview of the booming BPO sector in the SEA region
When it comes to outsourcing, the Asia-Pacific, especially the Southeast Asian region stands out to be one of the favorites among different companies. For instance, the Philippines is emerging as a leading destination for outsourcing BPO-related tasks in the SEA.
Previously, as per a 2017 report from A.T. Kearney, there were only three ASEAN nations—the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam—that made the list of the top ten countries with outsourcing opportunities. However, things have changed now. As of the 2021 A.T. Kearney report, 50% of the top 10 countries to outsource are the ASEAN countries. Into this index, Malaysia and Thailand also got added. This further shows the growth in demand for BPO in the SEA region. Along with this, as of the second quarter of 2021, the Asia-Pacific BPO market increased by a whooping 148% from the previous quarter.
Along with these factors, the popularity of the SEA region as a primary spot for the BPO-industry is the increased availability of remote staff. These employees depict a willingness to work different time shifts, matching the requirements of the companies outsourcing these jobs. Additionally, in countries like the Philippines, it is indeed a cost saving for the organizations as they can find highly skilled, dedicated, and talented workers that won’t create a financial burden for the company.
What are the challenges in BPO recruitment in the SEA region?
Even though the BPO industry is rapidly growing in the SEA region and becoming a predominant industry, it is essential to find the right talent who can perform the required tasks on time and efficiently. There are different challenges or hurdles that impact BPO recruitment in the SEA region. They include:
1. Language barrier:
English is an essential language, especially to establish smooth communication with international clients. Since the BPO industry focuses on international clients, it is integral to have employees with high English proficiency to ensure that they can communicate well by following telephone etiquettes. They should also be efficient in bringing in the standard parameters of communication. This includes avoiding fillers, using correct greetings and closing lines, and so forth.
Since the SEA region has English as a second language, it becomes a challenge for organizations to identify the right talent with the best business English language proficiency. This can be achieved only by assessing the English language proficiency of your prospective employees.
2. Reliance on traditional methods of assessing candidates:
As mentioned above, assessing candidates for their English language proficiency is important. Similarly, it is also essential to assess other intangible and tangible skills of your potential candidate. But, even then, reliance on traditional methods of assessing candidates like manual tests can be challenging as it would reduce efficiency, increase errors, and the time taken to fill an open position. Most organizations, even today, depend on traditional methods of assessing candidates, which is yet another concern.
3. Cultural concerns and barriers:
The SEA region is extremely diverse with people belonging to different cultural backgrounds. Therefore, while hiring employees, it is essential to be inclusive, which might become a hurdle while following traditional hiring practices, especially with the prevalence of systemic and other forms of biases.
Similarly, since the BPO employees will be working for international clients, it becomes vital for them to have an in-depth understanding of the cultural differences of these regions. Through this, they can avoid making any form errors while communicating with international clients.
Thus, these are some of the many challenges faced in BPO recruitment in the SEA region.
What is iMocha’s AI-EnglishPro?
iMocha's AI-EnglishPro is a business English evaluation platform that can help global organizations, BPOs and others in evaluating their candidates’ communication skills. This will help them in making better talent decisions and getting the right talent mix, who can perform the duties efficiently.
While relying on AI-EnglishPro, you can evaluate the listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills of your prospective employees. When it comes to listening, AI-EnglishPro can assess your candidate’s listening comprehension by basing it on lexical linking, accent, tone, and language understanding. The speaking test helps in evaluating oral fluency of your candidate while detecting critical pronunciation mistakes and also by performing detailed vocabulary analysis. The reading test offered by AI-EnglishPro can assist in gauging reading comprehension in specific business scenarios with inference checking, memory, attention span, language understanding, grammar, and lexical linking. Lastly, coming to writing, you can gauge your candidate’s writing ability by making the best out of AL/NLP. You can also gain clarity on your candidate’s email writing skills, grammar, and also benchmark work counts with CEFR score of written vocabulary.
Thus, with AI-EnglishPro, BPO organizations in the SEA region can hire the best candidates and make smarter and faster talent decisions.
What role can AI-English Pro play in Assessing Business English Communication in the SEA Region?
Incorporating AI-EnglishPro for assessing business English communication skills in SEA’s BPO sector can benefit your organization in multiple ways. They include:
1. It helps in saving costs with less effort to up to 60 % and improve accuracy by 90%.
2. It assists in autoscoring of written tests, which can be highly beneficial in reducing any manual errors and identifying errors based on structure, punctuation, and typography.
3. It provides adaptive tests that can be helpful in measuring your candidate’s active listening, reading, and listening skills. These are vital skills, especially while working in the BPO sector and interacting with international clients who are native speakers of the English language.
4. It aids in assessing all the four critical skills—listening, speaking, reading, and writing-- required when it comes to business communication.
5. As recruiters, it aids in bringing in flexibility as you can tailor these assessments and set their difficulties based on your requirement. You can also reduce any form of biases and prevent malpractices while relying on AI-EnglishPro.
Along with this AI-powered solution, having a skills intelligence platform can further enhance your talent acquisition and management activities. You can learn more about skills intelligence from here.
How has AI-EnglishPro helped the BPO sector so far?
As we have looked into the role played by AI-EnglishPro in assessing candidates, let’s now explore a case study of how AI-EnglishPro has helped ContactPoint 360, a global BPO with presence in eight locations.
ContactPoint360 was facing issues with assigning weightage between resumes and interviews to decide the true indicator of business English skills. They didn’t have a holistic assessment solution to shortlist candidates with effective language skills and wanted to reduce their turnaround time.
But, by relying on AI-EnglishPro, they were able to objectively evaluate the business English skills of the candidates and generate CEFR-based reports with concrete metrics. Through this, they could drop the attrition rate by 15%, save 24 hours per candidate in shortlisting, and hire 500 to 600 employees every month globally. ContactPoint360 has also expanded the adoption of AI-EnglishPro to their Asia-Pacific division.
The demand for skilled professionals is increasing in the dynamic landscape of BPO in the SEA region. As this sector grows rapidly, it becomes crucial to address challenges like language barriers, cultural diversity and traditional assessments while assessing candidates. Among them all, ensuring your candidate has proficiency in business English skills is essential, especially in the BPO sector. With a proven track record, iMocha's AI-EnglishPro can be a comprehensive solution for assessing business English communication skills and enhancing hiring accuracy and efficiency.