Learning Journey: What works and what does not

Date: May 12, 2016
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“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” – Michael Jordan

Vivian BakainagaIn my seven years at Gender Links (GL) 2015 has been the most challenging time for funding and yet it has also been exciting. As the world economic recession hit GL was no exception. Donor funding became increasingly tight and Human Resources (HR) is the first sector that any institution will focus on when funds are reduced.  It has been exciting because it was no longer business as usual but business unusual.  Under the leadership and guidance of Mme Colleen, the CEO, we had to shift our mind sets and think out of the box. New phrases emerged in our working environment like “working more with less, rightsizing and not downsizing.  The CEO who was driving the change had to keep us all motivated and positive.

I worked closely with Bhekiwe Ncube, Head of Corporate Services, on the HR budget which was a learning curve for me.  Working on the HR budget is not about figures only because we are talking about people’s futures.  I had to make sure that each position had enough funds by aligning them with donors. It is all about re-inventing ourselves on an organisational and personal level.  A question that was posed to us at management level is to start thinking differently, exploring other avenues.  Sometimes hard times can bring the best out of a situation and that is where we grow, understanding the environment we are working in, following new trends and using social media.  I had to learn to remain current by having a presence on social media.

In the beginning of the 2015 financial year I had to start on a new SAGE VIP Payroll system.  I got training and this system has proved to be efficient.  GL now runs on one system for the payroll and HR module, becoming more of a paperless environment.

I enjoy going out in the field with programme staff. My trip to Zambia for the country summit was one of my highlights in 2015.  Participating in the summit and hearing first hand evidence from entrepreneurship participants brought me a sense of ownership of GL work.  It gave me a sense of pride to belong to GL which is reaching out to make a difference in women’s lives in Southern Africa.  Such interactions help one realise that those long hours put in are worthwhile.  I had to give a speech at the summit, which is not my comfort zone, but at GL you are trained to be versatile in season and out of season and with the help of Albert who is from Zambia and understands the audience, we coined good closing remarks.

The GL walking club was very active in 2015. We work hard and play hard, following in the footsteps of Mme Colleen.  My highlight was the hike in Swaziland when I turned the big 50, we had a wonderful, memorable time in Swaziland.  I will forever cherish those moments.

Corporate Services, as a support department, are the last to close at the end of the year. At the close of 2015, I was travelling for my Christmas holiday and at the same time there was general maintenance work to be done at HQ office, for which I am directly responsible.  There was no proper hand over to the officer who was going to supervise the work while I was away.  The service providers did not follow the schedule as agreed and this caused a lot of angst whilst I was away. The lesson is: do not assume that there is common understanding, draw up concrete deliverables and timelines with service providers.  Handover notes are very critical in such incidences.

Exciting times are ahead of us, we have learnt what works and what does not work.   GL will continue to grow and re-position itself in the changing environment.  GL could be about to make another leap, more is possible.

Written by Vivien Bakainaga, Human Resource Manager, Gender Links