End of the assignment

Thursday, 4th of October: the next days I will fly back home to Switzerland.

Time to look back: it seems to me, a very long period, that I have been here. From the other side, it passed quite fast. For a long time this year this assignment was part of my life. First the decision to apply, then waiting for an answer. After that, the great joy to get this special opportunity! Then the time of preparation with vaccinations, work and team tasks to be completed and all the things to do from the personal side.

Middle of July, the day of my arrival here in Accra. It was a big culture shock for me and I was not sure the first days, if I would be able to stay. Everything has been so different, than what I was used to know or had seen before.

I will never forget the moment I was driving the first day through Makola Market to my office. All this market traders, village women and hawkers. This new african world!

And now, looking back, I am proud and very happy, that I took the opportunity to stay and to develop this new culture, this country and myself for the last months.

Ghana is a very peaceful and lovely place with generous and affectionate people. But it is also a developing country where a lot of people are struggeling daily with challenges we do not even think about it in “our” world. The lack of electricity for example, or the lack of running water and a real “home” to live in.

Opportunity International is a leading Microfinance Institution in different developing countries. Here in Ghana, Opportunity Internationals Saving and Loans is committed to transform the life of their customers. The employees bring financial services to individuals, groups and communities.  This services are tailored to the needs of the entrepreneurial poors. And there is a strong culture and commitment to help people and bring this country forward. It has been a great experience and honour for me to be part of this institution.

During my stay here, I have been living in a luxury way compared with the majority. I have been to nice restaurants and places, meeting other expats or people from Ghana. And walking out of my air-conditioned apartment, I have been directly in another world. Having had contact with all different people, struggeling with many challenges, I believe, that I have done a great personal development.

I will miss this country, I will miss so many persons I built up great relationships. I will also miss the way of living and beeing together.

 

 

 

 

But now it is time:

….to say goodbye to friends and lovely people I meet

….to be grateful for all this experiences

….to say thank you Ghana!

And time to go back home…

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HR Training strategy / Opportunity International in Ghana – A review

Monday, 1st of October 2012: after 12 weeks in Ghana, it is time for a review of my assignment:

The first two weeks here in Accra, I was just listening and trying to find out the culture, organization and challenges of Opportunity International in Ghana. Then I have started to work with the training consultant and all the team members of the HR team.

In my role as a HR consultant, many feedbacks and coachings happened in an unplanned way. Now looking back, there is a bit of the feeling: “maybe I should do more”. And also the great confidence, that I have built up a very trustful relationship with the people I have been working together. I have been able to give inputs, advices or feedbacks which gave them from one side the security that they are all doing a great job and from the other side, showed possible ways of improvements. For Effie, the Head of HR in Ghana, I made the following overview of what I have done and attached all the including documents:

Overview of the different projects:

  • Review of the existing training materials
  • Review of the training reports
  • Review and structure of the training plan
  • Evaluation of trainings (questions)
  • Feedbacks and Coaching of trainers and HR-consultants

Onboarding process

The onboarding process of new hires is documented with different HR and IT aspects. A new checklist for Managers is created and can be implemented.

 Training Plan

  • The training plan has been discussed with the training consultant. The trainings are now structured in different functions or key functions.
  • The slides and overviews can be used for future discussions with the managers about the training needs of their employees. The structure also supports the training consultant to have a better overview of costs and dates.
  • It has to be adapted to further needs of the business.

 Training materials

  • Review of training materials : The existing training materials are on a high level and focus on all the necessary topics for the organization. There are a lot of existing materials in the professional and personal field. They can be implemented in the trainings. (Class room and e-learning trainings).
  • In order to reduce costs, it is an on going process to add some of the courses to the        e-learning Intranet Site of Opportunity International in Ghana.

 Training modules for branch managers

  • Training modules for new leaders exist already. Basic program is the Emerging Leaders Program (ELP). Interviews with the HR business partners and the training consultant identified the needs of few new themes the next year.
  • An overview of the actual situation, of the existing trainings and materials has been done.
  • This project has to be continued.

 HR- and training consultancy

  • Beeing part of the HR team, I had the great opportunity to work very close together with the team. In my role as a consultant, I have given feedbacks about training sessions of trainers and line managers and I have supported trainers and line managers in the preparation of their training sessiosn.
  • I have given feedbacks and have acted as a coach in different HR subjects.

My work here is ending soon. I am sure, that part of the documentations and feedbacks I have given will be helpful for the HR-department in the future. And I hope that people will remember the Swiss lady who has been worked with them.

I will leave Opportunity International Ghana, and specially the HR department,  with the confidence, that the employees of this Microfinance organization are doing a great job. Daily they are doing the best to improve their services and to give an added value to the life of their customers.

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Training Plan

Tuesday, 25th of September: Last week I was meeting Anastasia, the training consultant and we were looking at the training plan for 2013.

It was my task to give a structure to these trainings, planned for the next year. This will help from one side the training department, to plan and organize the trainings in an efficient way. From the other side it will support also the business partners. They are discussing regularly the training and development needs with the management team.

What are the core training and development topics of Opportunity International?

The training needs are depending on the different functions. And can be structured into a personal and professional training. Many of the new and young employees do not have a lot of banking experience. So the training fields are in basic banking Know How, basic IT trainings (e.g. excel), customer service and sales trainings.

For more experienced employees the trainings are individually discussed with the teamleaders. And depend on the field people are working. To give a structure, I organized the different functions in key profiles and groups.

The third part are the management and leadership trainings. The most important basic training is the ELP (Emerging leaders program) I was talking about it in the post “training modules”. This program covers many personal and professionl topics for future leaders. For exisiting teamleaders and the senior management team members, the trainings are often externally. For example at the National Banking College. This can be programs like: Micro Banking Strategies, Best practices in branch banking, delinquency and risk management e.g.

The training plan of Opportunity International Ghana is customized and offers various and different trainings for the personal and professional development of the employees. The existing internal materials are on a high level and one task for the future will be to add some of them to the elearning site. This also in order to reduce the costs of the training department.

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Global Citizen Program – Interview and video

Wednesday, 19th of September: This morning, Cynthia, the PR responsible of Opportunity International US made a video interview with me about the global citizen program, my challenges here in Ghana, my personal and professional development and the success stories. A very special morning. I had prepared some answers. But then, with the camera light in front of me, I just found it very difficult to give the appropriate answers. Afterwards, I went with Suzan, a great photographer, to make some pictures outside from the building, the streets and the small restaurant I use to go for lunch. Then we continued with the video session in the house and in a HR meeting.

To be in the middle of all this was a bit embarrassing for me. But the crew did a fantastic job. The video is supposed to be published at the beginning of next year on Credit Suisse and Opportunity International homepages. The interviews and photos maybe earlier. So I had an all new experience and I am looking forward seeing the results.

I hope that the publishment of interviews and videos will show the importance of Microfinance and the corporate citizenship of Credit Suisse.

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Trip to Kakum Nationalpark and Capecoast

Sunday, 16th of September: This weekend I made my first longer trip in Ghana to the Kakum Nationalpark and the city of Capecoast. After a four hours drive with a very polite driver in a safe car, I arrived at the famous Kakum Nationalpark in the rainforest. What is particular in this park and what attracts a lot of visitors is the canopyway walk. On seven “bridges” up to 40 metres high, you get a very special view of all this different trees and the fabolous nature. A great experience!

There are hundreds of different birds and a lot of snakes in this park. Other animals like buffalos you can just see by night. The National parks in Ghana can not be compared with the parks in Kenia or Tanzania. There are not so many wild animals like tigers, elephants e.g. here.

I did the tour with a school class and had really a lot of laughs and fun with this young adults (they were 20 and on a school expedition).

After the park I went to Capecoast. A famous city near the sea with a big castle. The castle was for many years one of the places, Europeans had for their slavemarket. I went to see the museum and on a guided tour a young man explained the history of this castle and the slaves. A very interesting and a very sad story. Hundred thausends of slaves were waiting sometimes for months in dungeons with no light and few food, before

they were transported to Europe or America, where they were sold at the market. It is the first time, I got so close in touch with this part of the history. And it made me feel very sorry about what happened this times to African people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After another three hours drive back, I came home with a lot of different and interesting impressions of this day.

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Mobile Banking in Ada

Saturday, 15th of September 2012: On Thursday I went with Effie, the Head of HR and Kwame, the new CEO of Opportunity International in Ghana to visit the mobile bank branch in Ada. We left early in the morning and arrived at Ada around midday. Lilly, the Relationship Manager and her colleagues showed us the infrastructure of this mobile van. The bus is since 7 months in this region and more than 900 new clients opened an account or asked for a small loan. Because it is based two days on the market place, many clients also from more far away can reach it. There are three of these buses in Ghana, two the same size and one a bit smaller. Credit Suisse is one of the donors of these buses. It is planned, that a new branch will open in Ada and the bus will go to another region.

There are different challenges working in a mobile bank branch in Ghana: the Internet access is often not available and causes waiting time. This means that the employees have to go sometimes to do their transactions in a branch nearby. The security is also a challenge. The bus in Ada is next to a police station and there are arrangements about security with them. And then there is the question of temperature. Without aircondition it is not possible to work inside. When there is lack of electricity, this causes problems.

But all in all, this mobile banking buses are a real success story. Many people can get access to financial services and change their lifes.

After the bus visit, we went to see some farms and clients and took part on a group meeting in a village close to the sea. The meetings are regularly every two weeks. Clients can ask their questions and talk about their issues. The staff of opportunity gives instructions or support about their personal or group loans.

Like it is usual here in Ghana, all the guests of a meeting are warmly welcomed and introduced.  And they were pleased to make a photo with all of us.

After a short walk, I could for a while look at the sea and make some pictures of the fishermen in this aerea. A very emotional moment!

Tired, but very happy about this trip, I came home in the late afternoon.

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Visit from Opportunity US

Tuesday, 11th of September 2012: In the next days a team from Opportunity International in Washington will come to visit Ghana. The new CEO from America will be here for some days to get an insight of the work in Africa.

Stephen and me, as the two CS Global Citizens were asked, to participate on an interview session the team wants to do with us. This means  that at the moment I am preparing this interview. Which gives me also the chance, to review what were the challenges and the success stories in the last 9 weeks with Opportunity.

I will keep you posted about this interviews.

And then I would like to share this link, I received today, with you. I think it shows in a very good way, what can be the impact of the collaboration between Credit Suisse and Microfinance Institutions.

www.credit-suisse.com/microfinance  (video is on the right hand side)

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