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

5. Setting salaries

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

Compensation parity is a challenge, setting compensation for expats and locals and people working in different cultures. – Mark, Asia

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

It’s a challenge to decide what financial incentives should be linked to when operating with a quadruple bottom line. – Jai, Australia 

Setting salaries for expat employees can be a challenge. Younger employees feel “called” to our people group and to business, but do not wish to raise any support. A couple of our businesses are still small and struggling. We can pay local salaries, but an expat salary with benefits is beyond us. Rightfully so, these young people believe if they are growing my business they too should benefit.  So do we give equity?  Risk paying higher salaries?  What to do? – Patrick, 10/40 window

Salary and compensation is an issue, especially performance bonuses or pay when there are no secrets, lots of gossip and little trust. – Robert, Turkey

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

There is much to be learned in how to balance our core values and not discriminate when hiring or promoting employees. When the vision and mission of the company includes Christian values that are hard for non-christian to understand or execute it can become a discriminatory issue because you don’t want hire or promote people that won’t “follow” the vision of the company. – Merari, Puerto Rico

We want to avoid working within a Christian bubble of hiring only Christian staff and only having trusted Christian service providers. – Jai, Australia

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.

Discipling people and talking about the love of Jesus is wonderful in the workplace, I love to be able to do it. But when tough decisions like correcting with memos and even firing people because it is the right thing for the business, it then becomes super-difficult to put aside that fellowship time. Again, we have to have structures in place, policy manuals and rules to be able to be objective when making these tough decisions. – Merari, Puerto Rico

A big challenge has been terminating an employee in a manner that is honoring to God and to the person being terminated. – Joseph, India

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  

There is a ‘family’ structure in companies that we need to be aware of. The older colleague needs to be treated with respect, even if their position is lower. So for a younger person who has higher responsibilities, we have issues with respect and who is listening to whom. Staff address each other with titles like my little brother or my older sister. In Turkish culture usually the older one has the right to give orders and to be listened to. – Mary, Turkey

Dealing with social status can be very hard, and we have had to fire some people because they could not get over the social divisions. We tell everyone when they are hired that this is a level playing field, that there are no castes in the office and that all are equal. If the floor needs sweeping, everyone can sweep. – Katie, Asia

9. Staying legal

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

The most difficult HR task has been establishing policy and protocol as it relates to interviewing, onboarding, hiring and firing as a small business. – Jonathan, Global Distribution

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, punctuality and high absenteeism.

We’ve had struggles with people who don’t show up for work, some legitimate, some not. We even had staff call in sick to work somewhere else for a day. Imagine my shock when my worker who “couldn’t get out of bed” waited on me in a store! – Julia, Mongolia  

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


Read more:

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

10 Critical Human Resource Challenges in Business as Mission