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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

Business on the Frontiers: Creating Jobs in Nepal

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. We are currently highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out above the rest. Below is the “Staff Pick” for the spring of 2015.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

A landlocked nation hedged in by the Himalayas, Nepal is an isolated frontier. With high shipping costs, an unstable government and corruption cascading from the top down, Nepal presents a challenging climate for incoming foreigners to start a business – to put it mildly. Yet there are huge needs and opportunities. There are deep labour issues, with low minimum wages, a societal caste system that gives little hope for advancement, and 40% of the workforce currently unemployed. Many are vulnerable to the deceptive promises offered by human traffickers, whose main target is children from ages 5 to 14 years. Hundreds of thousands of Nepali migrants are already working as migrant laborers in the Middle East, often in dangerous or abusive situations. There is a great need for employment and job creation in Nepal.

Jimmy and Donna

Donna saw Nepal through the eyes of an 8 to 16 year old as she lived out these formative years in Kathmandu with her missionary parents. Returning to the United states she got her Bachelors degree at the University of Colorado and later took classes at Harvard, with a view to eventually work in the nonprofit world. Jimmy grew up in an Air Force family, attended the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) and went on to graduate school at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Jimmy and Donna met on a spring break mission trip while Jimmy was at USAFA in Colorado. Altogether Jimmy had 7 years of active duty service, including an assignment teaching at the Air Force Academy. During that time, they also volunteered at a Youth With a Mission (YWAM) training center.

Peter and Marit

Peter’s business story begins with chickens. It was the chickens he raised and sold on a farm growing up, to make his own money, that helped develop his mind for business. From those small beginnings, the seed for business grew and after high school Peter ran a small construction company. Read more

Business on the Frontiers: Creating Jobs in Nepal

A landlocked nation hedged in by the Himalayas, Nepal is an isolated frontier. With high shipping costs, an unstable government and corruption cascading from the top down, Nepal presents a challenging climate for incoming foreigners to start a business – to put it mildly. Yet there are huge needs and opportunities. There are deep labour issues, with low minimum wages, a societal caste system that gives little hope for advancement, and 40% of the workforce currently unemployed. Many are vulnerable to the deceptive promises offered by human traffickers, whose main target is children from ages 5 to 14 years. Hundreds of thousands of Nepali migrants are already working as migrant laborers in the Middle East, often in dangerous or abusive situations. There is a great need for employment and job creation in Nepal.

Jimmy and Donna

Donna saw Nepal through the eyes of an 8 to 16 year old as she lived out these formative years in Kathmandu with her missionary parents. Returning to the United states she got her Bachelors degree at the University of Colorado and later took classes at Harvard, with a view to eventually work in the nonprofit world. Jimmy grew up in an Air Force family, attended the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) and went on to graduate school at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Jimmy and Donna met on a spring break mission trip while Jimmy was at USAFA in Colorado. Altogether Jimmy had 7 years of active duty service, including an assignment teaching at the Air Force Academy. During that time, they also volunteered at a Youth With a Mission (YWAM) training center.

Peter and Marit

Peter’s business story begins with chickens. It was the chickens he raised and sold on a farm growing up, to make his own money, that helped develop his mind for business. From those small beginnings, the seed for business grew and after high school Peter ran a small construction company. Read more

10 Characteristics BAM Recruiters Are Looking For [Infographic]

BAMer Ingredients

Created by Evan McCall for The BAM Review.

With thanks to Peter Shaukat – The Right Ingredients: 10 Essential Characteristics of a BAMer.

The Right Ingredients: 10 Essential Characteristics of a BAMer

Interview with Peter Shaukat – Part 2

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. Continuing our interview, we asked him to share what he sees as essential characteristics of a BAMer.

Tell us more about those character traits or criteria that you identify and look for in a potential BAMer.

This is where the rubber hits the road. We have developed an interesting questionnaire for potential BAM practitioners which get to some of these criteria. Here are ten of the top ranking criteria in our experience:

1. Well-rounded thinking
We look for a genuine, thoughtful understanding of work as ministry, with the experience and capacity to grapple with ethical issues, able to live with a certain degree of ambiguity – i.e. they are not black and white in their thinking.

2. Servant leaders
BAM practitioners, fundamentally, are called by God to a ministry of exercising servant-leadership in the marketplace – the arena which is, in our time, the most influential, agenda-setting nexus of human activity.  Understanding how to be an agent of redemption and transformation in such a context – and bringing some tangible experience to the table in doing so – is indispensable. Read more

Lessons from the Edge: Human Resources

Insights from a BAM Practitioner

‘Julia’ has been a business owner in Mongolia for 12 years.

Investing in people is challenging, but worth it
My husband likes to quote his habitat for humanity friend on this: “It is easy to build houses and so hard to build people”. Houses stay put where you build them and people are always changing – but the costly things are the precious ones. I have tried to be somewhat friendly with my employees and try to model respect, servant leadership, and creating a healthy work environment. I have also had to balance that by being firm in my approach and following up with consequences. Finding a healthy balance between respect and the friend who is the boss has been a key. Some of our oldest, most mature workers, have come back to me years later and thanked me for this model that they now understand but didn’t when they first worked for us.

Tread carefully with strongly held cultural-values
We’ve had lots of problems with staff not wanting to report to younger colleagues, or do certain jobs, because of their status in the culture. I used to think it was good to push them into this to learn humility. Now I think it is more respectful of the person to work with them in this up to a point. It is only the Lord who can work humility in people. I still have to consider the good of the business but as much as possible I try to work with my employees until they are ready for more. When I find someone willing and secure enough to take on cross-status challenges, I try to reward them and treasure their maturity with more responsibility and privilege.

It’s worth paying for good talent
We always paid minimum wage until the last two years when I found an over-qualified and competent worker. I just about broke the bank to get her a somewhat acceptable salary and she was worth her weight in gold! We never have to worry about our books going in the red with her around. I have learned that when you find a good worker it is well worth it to really do all you can to take care of them. I can’t afford not to, even if it is a stretch.

In the Shoes of a BAM Practitioner Part 2: More HR Challenges

Last week we unpacked the Top 3 biggest HR issues in business as mission – as related to us by 25 BAM Practitioners. We asked them:

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

Here are the rest of the Top 10 most frequently mentioned Human Resource challenges and some of the comments that business owners shared with us.

4. Lack of required skills in employees

The need for significant training and staff development when hiring locally, especially when targeting job creation for a specific group.

We employ adults with low literacy skills and chronically poor, with very complex lives  – this presents nested and multiple challenges – in a sense though this is why the business exists. – David, Asia

My biggest HR challenge is the critical thinking and problem solving skills within my Kenyan employees. They grew up in the rote educational system that didn’t develop it and they lack that capacity. There are few Kenyans that do have these skills, but they are typically already successfully running businesses and I can’t compensate them, or give them ownership stake in a way that will motivate them to join my company. – Brian, Kenya

Another challenge is building soft skills such as communication, creative thinking, team spirit, etc., among the staff. – Joseph, India

 A significant challenge is poor technical training. Usually it’s their first job. – Hans, Angola Read more

Steps for Working Through HR Issues in Your Company

Have you got any advice for me concerning HR issues that involve a clash of cultural or Biblical values? I want to pay my workers equally for doing the same job and in Nepal where I run my business, men and women don’t usually receive equal pay. It’s not so much an ethical dilemma for me, but a practical question about how I can approach this well. How do I best communicate and lead my Nepali team through this issue?

The first issue that needs to be discussed in regards to anything to do with money is how the local community views foreigners working among them. It has been our direct experience and that of other BAMers that we have talked to the mere fact that you are in the country – and can leave at will – indicates that you are filthy rich and can do whatever you want to do. Foreigners, therefore, are often viewed as walking dollar signs no matter who they are.

The Biblical point of view in Proverb 31 does give us the illustration of the industrious women in a Middle Eastern context going out and buying a field (which my wife did once when I was on a business trip, much to my surprise). The Proverbs 31 woman was not from a poor background as far as I can determine, so it’s applicability to this situation is uncertain. However, it is clear that women are encouraged to be industrious, be self-motivated and be allowed to manage staff if they are able and willing to do so in whatever culture they are in.

Since every situation is different there is no standard answer to making difficult decisions.

However, the following steps need to be followed in most decision-making situations: Read more

In the Shoes of a BAM Practitioner Part 1: Unpacking the Top 3 HR Challenges

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

That is the question we put to 25 BAM Practitioners. These are the three most frequently mentioned Human Resource challenges and some of the comments that business owners shared with us.

1. Finding the complete package

The issue that kept coming up again and again was finding people with the right mix of business skills, character formation and mission-motivation. This was by far the most frequently mentioned challenge among the BAMers we asked.

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

A challenge is finding management level people with the faith maturity and business skills. Another is locating skilled expats willing to live and work in a remote location to build local capacity. – David, Asia

Read more