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

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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).

A 40 lesson plan of Life Skills and Values is started as part of employee training. This begins with exploration of feelings and develops safe ways to express those feelings in creative ways, through art therapy, dance therapy, role modelling etc. This helps the women explore the inner-self, leading into developing life skills and values where the focus slowly takes them from being inward-looking to being outward-focused on the wider community. Once the training period is completed then weekly group therapy sessions continue as part of the commitment of the business to them as people. One-on-one counselling is also available from our trained Social Worker, so that any issue that might be raised within the group setting can be followed through on a personal level. Literacy is not a prerequisite for any of these sessions, just the trainer needs to be literate.

Literacy training is also an integral part of the initial training period. Each day, time is set aside for that and is tailor made to the level of each trainee. For those already literate, then English (through TESOL) is also introduced. Daily lessons are important, especially with those who have experienced trauma. Basic maths literacy is vital, from counting, to money handling, to weights for daily shopping etc., all is of value for life and work. Giving budget advice and helping with debt management is also imporant training given on a one-to-one basis. Training sessions also include basic health care, nutrition, the importance of safe drinking water and hygiene.

Our business has also recently introduced a 6 month “Freedom Opportunity Course” which is a leadership development course. Issues of faith are introduced daily, in a similar way to the Life Skills and Values course. Leadership and practical training is given in a small group and discipleship is introduced as a daily start to each day and becomes part of the natural rhythm of life.

by Annie


More Responses on this topic:

From Philippa Nelson:

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. […Read more]

From Christa Crawford:

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. […Read more]

Annie is the co-founder of a freedom business in India and has been working alongside men and women for freedom and justice in their community for the past 16 years.

Annie is serving as a guest mentor for the Ask a BAM Mentor column this month.


Picture via Flickr