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.
Julia 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.
A major challenge 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. There is also a problem with asking workers, for example, to sell product on the street, in public places because it is demeaning for them. There are many cultural status issues to consider. I used to think it was good to push them in this, however, now I think it is more respectful of the person to work with them while also considering the good of the business, since it is only the Lord who can teach real humility.
I wish I was better at firing people. I think it would be better to let go of those who are not even trying to work well but I am not good at it because it feels like giving up on someone. One of our best workers today is a guy I fired two years ago. He learned from it and came back a much more responsible employee!
We have a hard time finding staff among the body of Christ. Often they are not well enough educated or come from too poor a background. When we do employ Christians, other cultural challenges come up. Many don’t have a good view of work or a good work ethic, they have been spoiled by foreign missionaries or have ‘split thinking’ about what is worldly and what is holy, they see work as negative. Punctuality and the slow pace of work has been an issue. People come late to work, then start to have breakfast at work, then do their make-up, half of the day is wasted from a Western perspective! In business things often happen quickly and many people have problems adjusting to the pace.
We deal a lot with communication in a culture that learns by hearing, rather than learning by reading. You send emails, but employees don’t understand, you still have to sit together with them and tell them in person what you wrote about. This is very time consuming.
Turks are very dramatic and we deal a lot with family situations spilling into work. A partner moves out, drama… he wants to kill the wife, drama… and all the friends or family at work are jumping in! You suffer with someone who has lost a family member. This can go on for weeks. If someone has a severe sickness, everyone is expected to come for a visit. Owners are not just ‘the boss’ they become ‘Dad and Mom’, help in a crisis is expected. This all takes a lot of energy, attention and time!
In our host culture mistakes are bad and everyone covers them up. This is not a culture of learning from mistakes, forgiveness and taking responsibility. Instead there is a culture of honour and saving face, which often results in blame, shame and fear. White lies are quite common. This can mean employees are not self-reliant at work because of fear and insecurity. We get interrupted a lot, with employees asking very simple questions to avoid mistakes.
Being a BAM business we face huge pressures in many ways in the area of HR. For instance, 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 hesitate to hire or promote people that won’t “follow” the vision of the company.
Through the years, and with our share of mistakes, we have learned that business is a opportunity for fellowship and discipling and having a well balanced team of people, Christians and non-Christians. This helps us follow the vision and mission of the company and still open up opportunities for work to non-Christian qualified employees.
There are new laws passed in our island recently against discrimination in the workplace for gay people. We are in the fashion industry so our stores are a very attractive workplace for gays, and our corporate culture – because we are Christians – makes them feel super-safe. We can’t discriminate against them, we have hired them, they currently work for us, and they are awesome employees. But since we come from a very traditional Latin culture, the Christian community that knows that we are a BAM business have occasionally expressed discontent about that.
As founders we deposited a lot of our passion and love for people in our top management, but as the company grows our middle management passes these values on often without the same passion. When you grow, it is harder to keep employees as motivated and engaged like the top management that works with the founders.
Involving our employees in our BAM initiatives has been a blessing and a challenge. We actively involve them in our community initiatives even if they don’t share our faith.
This is a repost from March 2015.