A Potluck Approach: Engaging the Marginalized with Meaningful Work

by Stu Minshew

Work is good, and we are called to glorify God through the work that we do, but what does that look like in our day-to-day lives as entrepreneurs and Kingdom businesspeople? A new book by Michael Rhodes and Robby Holt, Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give, has challenged me to intentionally consider how I can provide employment opportunities for those on the margins of society. Today, I want to share two key takeaways for as we seek to engage those on the margins through our work.

Where Do We Start: Potluck vs. Soup Kitchen

No matter where we live and work, we are surrounded by those in need. Many individuals, and even entire groups of people, live on the margins of our society. There are those who have committed crimes and served time in jail, those treated as inferior because of their race or ethnicity, members of low-income communities, single moms, and the elderly. Almost everywhere in the world, these individuals are afforded less encouragement and fewer opportunities for work, and are often prevented from even pursuing meaningful work.

How should Christians respond? We must start by realizing the value inherent in each individual, a value that comes from the fact that they are created and loved by God. As His followers, we are also called to love them and we demonstrate that love in the way we engage them.  Read more

Workplace Relationships: Loving Your Employees

by Michael Thiessen

As a business owner, you provide many amazing things for your employees. You provide financial security for their families, a sense of belonging, and the emotional well-being and satisfaction that comes from doing good work. However, if Jesus were running a business, do you think he would stop there?

I believe that we are called to much more than that. We have so many more opportunities to bless our employees and care for them – to love our neighbors as ourselves. We can learn leadership lessons from Jesus, think more deeply and compassionately about who we are hiring, find ways to engage spiritually with our employees, plus some other great ways of caring more for our employees.

Leadership Lessons from Jesus

In true biblical fashion, it turns out that the best way to lead others is to serve them. Stephen Covey, who wrote one of the best-selling business books of all-time, was an advocate of this style of leadership, aptly called Servant Leadership. This is also the style of leadership that Jesus used throughout his ministry. We see this in how he washed the feet of the apostles, humbling himself to serve them even though he was their King. In fact, one of the people I have interviewed for Marketplace Disciples has based their entire business on teaching others how to lead in this way. Jannice Moore coaches the boards of businesses and non-profits, and gets to share the story of Jesus with all of her clients:

“The model of governance in which my business specializes is Policy Governance ®. One of its fundamental principles is that the board is not there for itself, but for its owners, those on whose behalf it governs, and that the board’s relationship with those owners should be one of servant-leadership.

So I build the concept of servant-leadership into every presentation, and use it as an opportunity to note that the concept was one taught by Jesus Christ.” Read more

Three Female BAM Owners Tell Us Their HR Stories

Three female BAM owners share their Human Resource stories from around the world – from Mongolia to Turkey to Puerto Rico! People issues can make or break a BAM company. Listen in to these real-life experiences.

hospitalityJulia in Mongolia – Hospitality Industry

Keeping staff steady has been a major challenge! We have had a 10 year saga of people leaving just when we have them trained or half trained. We have also had struggles with people who don’t show up for work, some legitimate, some not. Many have had pressure from family to get work elsewhere for a better salary. This is understandable as many of my workers, mostly young people aged 19-24, are the only providers for their families, parents, and siblings. But what I don’t understand is why they often quit before they find another job!

On the other hand, we have had a pretty good success rate building staff loyalty by setting up flexible schedules that were doable for mothers and students. We have tried to prioritize strong families and build staff schedules that are hand-tailored to their needs. They stay on because no other business takes these things into consideration. We have built very loyal workers from this. Read more

The Risk of Making Assumptions When Hiring Christians

by Jim Nelson

Making the right hiring decisions is crucial to a company’s well-being. From a BAM company perspective, I have sought to hire local Christians to work for me. By our shared faith, we can understand each other better and seek Kingdom values in the company and surrounding community. If proper research, interviewing and trust building is cut short, the consequences I have experienced have been less than ideal. Here are a few stories of lessons I learned in hiring Christians to work for my business.

Caught Off-Gaurd

In 1999, I had a chance to open an office in a new business area. An older Chinese Christian recommended I hire Zhang, a Chinese Christian who could speak the local dialect. I interviewed him on his business thinking and agreed to let him manage the office. I felt the older Chinese Christian who recommended him knew about his faith, so I did not bring up the topic during the interview.

Zhang then hired two local Christians to join the team. I learned that the local Christians he hired did not own Bibles so we eagerly provided them. We assumed all were Christian and ethical to run the business. The business soon had trouble and I realized that Zhang could not be trusted. We found he had stolen a few hundred dollars. I let him go.

Read more

Millennial Insights for the Intergenerational Workplace

Every year, millions of “millennials” (born between 1980-1996), are entering the workforce. A recent extensive Gallup Report on millennials reports that there are over 70 million millennials in the U.S. alone, making up 38% of the U.S. labor force. Without a doubt, employers will increasingly need to know how to best work with millennials in the years to come.

Unfortunately, many employers and leaders feel they do not understand the millennial generation or how to maintain their loyalty in the workplace, concluding that millennials are an “uncrackable code” or even a lost cause. This does not have to be the case. Here are some common themes among millennials as well as practical insights about how to strengthen communication with them:

Millennials…
  • Are highly relational. Having grown up in an era of social networking and instantaneous feedback, millennials are accustomed to constant communication. Work environments that have hierarchical, top-down leadership and only focus on the task (while neglecting social aspects) are unappealing as compared to work environments that are collaborative and communicative.
  • Want to have purposeful, meaningful work. Millennials are very purpose and values-driven in terms of where they want to be employed. Many are not just looking for positions that can earn them an income; rather, they want meaningful work at companies that align with their personal values and passions. They seek out jobs that offer the best options to hone their skill sets, give them opportunity for advancement, and resonate with what they find important.
  • Appreciate honesty and transparency. Millennials appreciate coworkers and supervisors who can offer honest feedback and be transparent in addressing challenges. Additionally, as determined by CliftonStrengths, two of the top five strengths among millennials are Learner and Adaptability, which demonstrate their teachability when they receive reviews and critique.

Read more

10 Critical Human Resource Challenges in Business as Mission

We asked 25 BAM Practitioners one simple question:

What have been the most important HR issues in your BAM business experience?

Here are the Top 10 issues that they mentioned the most:

 

1. Finding the complete package

Recruiting and hiring people with the right mix of business skills, character formation and mission-motivation.

The biggest issue is finding employees who are followers of Christ and have the skillset required for the job. I usually run into people who have one or the other of these two qualifications, but seldom have both. – Joseph, India

2. Cultural differences

Dealing with different cultural norms between expat staff or business owners and national staff, that significantly impacts the business operations.

It can be tough to implement systems and policies with people who believe all standards can be moderated or ignored. Learning employees’ real opinions in a high context language group is a challenge, where it is a cultural norm to say only what is expected or desired. – Robert, Turkey

3. Disappointment over Christian staff

Finding that Christians hired into the company do not have the right work ethic, competencies or even expected moral standards.  Read more

What Makes a BAMer? Identifying and Deploying the Right People for BAM Companies

Interview with Peter Shaukat

With 15 years of experience recruiting for, mentoring, and investing in BAM companies all over the Arab world and Asia, Peter has a unique perspective into Human Resources for business as mission. We asked him to share his insights on recruitment and hiring for BAM companies.

What skills are BAM companies typically looking for?

Virtually any! Management skills in various business disciplines are needed. Those with good financial management skills and experience are almost always in short supply. While bookkeepers can often be found aplenty, ‘Chief Financial Officer’ type skills are another matter. Founding entrepreneurs often lack the business building skills and experience of general management of the sort that a COO or CAO brings to the table.

Marketing and/or especially sales skills and experience are highly sought after. Often an SME-sized BAM company will have some national talent on this, but to trade well internationally they require those with expat credentials for (at least perceived) credibility, access to networks, and marketing/sales channels, etc. These are often in short supply.

BAM businesses often need specific technical and/or professional skill-sets which are particular to the business in question. For example, an environmental consulting company to the textile industry in Bangladesh needs experienced chemical, industrial or systems engineers, while a civil engineering company in Pakistan will be looking for a civil or mechanical engineer or architect. An educational business in Yemen looks for qualified teachers or other education specialists whereas an agribusiness in Iraq requires an agronomist, and so on. Read more

16 Years of Developing People in the Daily Rhythm of Business Life

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

Dear BAM Mentor,

I work in Human Resources in a BAM initiative in Nepal. We’re working on developing a discipleship program and ways to develop our staff as people. We’re exploring ideas for one-on-one mentorship and weekly values teachings, maybe going through a book together? Does anyone have any recommendations and/or resources they’ve used? Also ways they’ve made this kind of staff development work for employees who are illiterate?  

~ Needing Advice in Nepal

Dear Needing Advice,

When any new employee joins any of our businesses, they begin a 3 to 6 month training course. Integral to this is an introduction to faith and as part of this, each working day begins and ends in a devotional time. At recruitment, it is mentioned that we have this daily devotional time open to all. Those joining are then introduced to our faith from the beginning. Once a week this time is led by a local pastor and once a month a special service is held, on a Saturday, at this local church. Discipleship on a one-to-one mentorship basis is also available whenever asked for. The language that we use is contextualised, e.g. Hindu and Muslim words are quite different for prayer, thankfulness etc., and we use different versions of the Bible accordingly. Resources for these are readily available from the Bible Society or Gideons International.

For those that are illiterate – and this is the majority – then spoken word, actions and songs are so important. Good storytelling is vital. We have held workshops on storytelling and using actions and these have really helped and encouraged women to then go on and tell others in the safety of daily company devotions. This further encourages them to repeat the stories at home. The Lord’s Prayer is recited each day and this has proved to have encouraged and modelled prayer. In this corporate setting, breaking up into groups of 3 to 5 women has encouraged others to pray with each other as well. Videos of the gospel stories in their own language, especially around Easter and Christmas time, have been powerful tools in our context. A Luke version is readily available in most languages and needs no explanation (the Hindi version is readily available, if Nepali is not). Read more

Investing in Your Staff: Resources for Staff Development

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

Dear BAM Mentor,

I work in Human Resources in a BAM initiative in Nepal. We’re working on developing a discipleship program and ways to develop our staff as people. We’re exploring ideas for one-on-one mentorship and weekly values teachings, maybe going through a book together? Does anyone have any recommendations and/or resources they’ve used? Also ways they’ve made this kind of staff development work for employees who are illiterate?  

~ Needing Advice in Nepal

Dear Needing Advice,

Firstly, I want to commend you on investing into your staff. So often groups focus solely on the their client group, as that is where the need they are trying to address lies, and neglect their staff’s growth and development. Investing in your staff will ultimately benefit your your clients through staff become more skilled, wise, engaged, appreciated and will lead to less staff turnover. As Richard Branson said, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”.

You asked the question about resources for staff development and discipleship and there are a number out there. There are Christian foundations courses like Christianity Explained, or the Alpha Course that can be beneficial for those very new in their faith. There are Christian ‘Bible Study’ Books either on books of the Bible or on topics or you can even just take a book of the Bible and read through it and discussing things together, such as one of the gospels. You can also just pick a topic and create something of your own. In one of my past roles I would each week use a passage or principle from the Bible and link it to a principle in business, organisational operations or relational wisdom and ask staff to discuss and come up with applications for their context. Read more

Imagine This: People Are An Organization’s Best Resource

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

Dear BAM Mentor,

I work in Human Resources in a BAM initiative in Nepal. We’re working on developing a discipleship program and ways to develop our staff as people. We’re exploring ideas for one-on-one mentorship and weekly values teachings, maybe going through a book together? Does anyone have any recommendations and/or resources they’ve used? Also ways they’ve made this kind of staff development work for employees who are illiterate?  

~ Needing Advice in Nepal

Dear Needing Advice,

People are the most important part of any organization. This is the case for both the employees of the organization, as well as the clients which the organization is seeking to serve. Effectively valuing people is always a challenge in practice. This is even more so the case when the organization employs the very people it seeks to serve – people who are worthy of dignity and respect, and yet who may not yet have the hard and soft skills needed to succeed.

One way to deal with this gap in where they are now, versus where they need to be to succeed, is to have a dual-structured company in which the employees who are ready to face customers work on the front line, whereas employees who are still early in their healing process work in a more private space – where greater emphases can be placed on their personal development though discipleship, mentoring, etc. and where greater grace can be offered as they learn the soft-skills such as showing up to work on time, work ethic, etc. This can help at a practical level to help the business succeed without having to sacrifice employees who aren’t yet optimal, as well as not making the business suffer because of its commitment to patiently helping employees mature. And yet, in doing so, it is important not to make certain employees feel like they are second-class citizens, but rather to communicate that all employees are valued members of the team no matter where they are in their personal and professional development process. Thankfully, modern human resource development theory supports the value of developing employees – all employees, not just those who are also “clients.” Read more