What organization doesn’t want to grow? But let’s imagine one better: What if you could increase your organization’s performance and ministry impact in a way that matched and actually solidified your Christ-centered integrity?
I want to let you in on a little secret of how one very humble ministry has done just this by increasing the value and immeasurable worth of its most precious resource ‒ its people.
HOPE International leverages micro-financing development to help hundreds of thousands of families in some of the world’s poorest communities stabilize household income, pay for household expenses such as school fees, provide a safety net in emergencies and start or expand businesses.
Jesse Casler, VP of Finance and Administration, remembers when he and two others made up the fledgling organization. Today, HOPE International stewards a $15 million budget and staff of 100 in the U.S. and beyond, serving in 17 developing nations.
As a growing, Christ-centered organization, we’ve faced a twofold challenge: How can everything we do to fulfill our mission move us toward greater allegiance to, and fellowship in, the Lord with quality and excellence?
That challenge became more intriguing, especially when the BCWI Employee Engagement Survey revealed HOPE International’s cultural strengths and its weaknesses. The predictable temptation to focus on the three lowest areas (which certainly didn’t go ignored) actually motivated leadership to intentionally build on two exceptional strengths.
David Wasik, Hope International’s VP of Operations makes it clear: “By valuing outstanding talent and inspirational leadership (two of BCWI’s eight factors of a flourishing culture and greater employee engagement), our people have sustained top performance while enriching their Christ-centered integrity during an extended decade of organizational growth.”
HOPE International has valued and developed outstanding talent by:
- Entrusting good, proven talent with more responsibility by promoting from within, thereby extending HOPE’s effectiveness and culture.
- Expecting excellence and holding one another mutually accountable, allowing HOPE to retain high performers.
- Rewarding employees with attractive compensation and benefit plans that include, yet go beyond, financial incentives.
- Extending authority and decision-making responsibilities to managers who are empowered to act.
- Giving employees a voice to interpret and develop action plans in ways that inarguably build greater trust in all corners of the organization.
But wait, there’s more: HOPE International fosters inspirational leadership that reflects the fruit of the Holy Spirit by:
- Developing healthy leaders (vs. senior or influential leaders), not striving for bigger goals or titles.
- Modeling humility that frees leaders to admit their mistakes.
- Recalculating action steps in open settings, thus building mutual trust and loyalty at all levels.
Casler and Wasik credit Malcolm Webber, founder of LeaderSource SGA, for the applicable wisdom of his framework in which a leader must:
- Have a deep, personal relationship with Christ
- Be in a regular community with other Christian believers
- Operate from a sense of calling
- Have an unassailable character
- Be competent in his or her area of expertise
The sustained, healthy growth of HOPE International’s culture can be seen in:
- The renewed commitment of a donor who, when told by a senior development officer that the outcomes of his generosity had fallen short, appreciated HOPE’s heart-felt apology and then became more financially involved because of the deepening trust that had now been forged.
- The ingenuity of a staffer who, when invited and challenged to grow the quality of relationships with her team, invited a staffer and her family over for dinner.
- The relatively low 5% turnover, significantly less than the industry average of 10-15%.
“Clearly,” says Casler, “achieving greater employee engagement has enabled HOPE International to not merely grow numerically, but to grow healthily as a culture.” And if I may add, HOPE continues to instill a fresh, new hope and trust in God among the world’s poor.