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. 

I had several acts of dishonesty and theft from “Christian” employees. And one time when caught, there was no legal ramifications against the thief other than paying the money back. I don’t have a good solution for that one other than really tight control mechanisms. – Brian, Kenya

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

5. Setting salaries

Compensating appropriately for the context and goals of the company along with meeting salary expectations among a wide range of employees.

A major issue in recruiting to BAM is that people hear the word “business” and they think it is the solution to funding. I have received many resumes from young people, many fresh out of university, and most with no overseas experience, all very excited about being able to use their business skills, but expecting that they will be ‘hired’ and paid expat salaries. Few want to hear that a good route would be to go overseas with a sending agency, as this gives them flexibility and time to learn. – Krista, Global Recruiting

6. Hiring and promoting non-believing staff

Handling the hiring and development of non-Christians within the company in an appropriate way.

The next challenge we will soon face is how to handle the promotion of highly competent non-Christians. – Duncan, India

7. Firing in an honoring manner

Terminating employment in a company that is about more than the financial bottom line – and avoiding hiring the wrong people in the first place.

During times of rapid growth, the propensity to hire quickly to fill spots to respond to demand, rather than waiting for the right person can be an issue. We should always hire slowly and fire quickly. Often, businesses wanting to epitomise Kingdom values will do the opposite – hire quickly and fire slowly. This can be a recipe for trouble. – Liam, Australia

8. Cultural tensions between national employees

Difficulties that arise when people with different social status and cultural values work together in the same company.

A big problem has been working relationships between various ages and status. We have been much more careful what age person we hire. Age is very important here and we try not to put a younger person over an older person if we can help it. It causes more problems then we are ready to deal with. – Julia, Mongolia  

9. Staying legal

Conforming to government regulations, especially for a small companies or those that are in areas of high corruption.

Legal issues are a major headache, getting permissions, licenses and so on, and in the midst of that dealing with corruption, bribery, extortion, etc. – Rob, Asia

10. Staff reliability

High staff turnover, lack of loyalty and high absenteeism.

Logistics of staff getting to work is a challenge in a city of 5 million where people spend 2 hours in the traffic, each way. Most of them live far away and it’s a challenge to help them so that they can do a good job. – Hans, Angola


To unpack these Top 10 challenges further and hear more HR experiences of BAM practitioners from around the world:

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

Read: In the Shoes of a BAM Practitioner: More HR Challenges

With Thanks to all the BAM Practitioners that responded with insights into their business experiences.


A version of this post was first published on The BAM Review in March 2015.