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

Managing the tension between capability of employees and character/value of employees is a challenge. Organisations representing Kingdom values express themselves through the lives of employees and stakeholders. Prioritising capability over character can diminish the Kingdom effectiveness. Prioritising character over capability can diminish the Kingdom effectiveness and profitability. An important tension to manage. – Liam, Australia

A challenge is finding those well developed character traits that are established in the context of spiritual formation through a walk with Christ. Another is finding people who are able to marry that mission calling and developing character with an appropriate business skill set – and who are passionate about doing so. – Peter, 10/40 window

Finding suitably skilled mission-aligned staff and balancing skill-set requirements with ethos/values requirements in new hires is a major issue. – Jai, Australia

Finding the right people to fulfill the needs of the jobs! I can find people with the right heart but with no competence to do the job, or people with skills and experience but no heart for what we do. My experience either way is not ideal. We can train people to do the job, but this takes a lot of time and energy (and money) and then they are not certified or have professional credentials to be able to do things like audits or other professionally prepared documents or reports. – Rob, Indonesia

The hardest thing is finding committed Christians who are also technically competent. – Duncan, India

We seem to get one of two extremes when it comes to new team members. There are those who know how to do business, but are not committed to sacrificing for the sake of reaching our national employees. Then there are those who make all kinds of effort serve and win people, but they don’t know how to work, and are poor models in the office. – Patrick, 10/40 window

2. Cultural differences

Dealing with different cultural norms between expat staff/business owners and national staff, that significantly impacts the business operations.

Find a local organization or person that will honestly tell you what the local cultural pitfalls are. These issues will significantly affect the success of your business. Do this before planning any business. You may find out that the local Mafia has a stranglehold of a particular type of business! This isn’t Kansas, that’s for sure. Be very, very persistent on soliciting advice. I did so in a difficult country and even then five years of work was put in jeopardy due to not understanding something about the culture. – Garry, Asia

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

Understanding difference in quality is important. While working on a project in Africa, the folks from Africa ordered some items from China which they thought were good quality. They may have been in the local context, but weren’t suitable for the USA market. We had to seek understanding for our quality standards and work more closely. – Charles, Global Investments

We have many verbal people to deal with, they make up their mind only when you talk with them. Decision making comes out of mood, a gut reaction, not so much out of logic. There is more of a short-term mentality, not really thinking ahead and staff change their minds quickly. You work together, invest in staff, and then suddenly they decide over a weekend to emmigrate to Canada…surprise surprise! – Mary, 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

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, so they see work as negative. Punctuality and the slow pace of work has been an issue. – Mary, Turkey

A challenge has been Christian managers hiring other Christians who are not competent. – Mark, Asia

Poor moral standards of employees. Even being Christian, they have to be taught the basics of ethics. – Hans, Angola

The assumptions I and many others have had when employing believers have been devastating. We have tended to take moral maturity and ethical work habits as a given for someone established in the church community. We have underestimated the need for discipleship training (read character development) at work. In retrospect that might have been the best investment in the Kingdom I could have made. Instead, even though we did at least some of that on the job, we found ourselves dealing with the backlash of character immaturity too late into the life of our company. – Hakan, Europe and Turkey

Read the Top 10 Critical HR Issues in BAM

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

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