Employees of Caurie Microfinance can be characterized by three traits: they work hard, long and passionately! How come?
Whatever branch of Caurie Microfinance I visit, from Louga in the north of Senegal to Vélingara in the south, the identification of employees with the institution is remarkable. Loan officers who work on loan contracts and Kiva profiles till midnight, supervisors who forget almost to eat because they are working that focused, and branch managers who go a step further and even sleep in their office: these are the kind of people I meet. What drives them? In a country with an unemployment rate of 48 percent, the risk of dropping out the formal sector and not finding a new job imposes a certain pressure to work hard, no doubt. But the answer lies deeper. In the two months I spent in Senegal, I found that their work ethos is based on the following aspects:
- Caurie’s employees are utterly convinced of their employer’s social mission! Caurie’s approach of granting access to credit for the poor has been working well for 15 years. This reinforced everybody’s belief in their approach. What’s more, many of the early clients had remarkable success, last year’s microentrepreneur of the year just being the cherry on the cake! Caurie MF is an acknowledged institution in Senegal and therefore an interesting employer for microfinance workers.
- Managers are leading by example! The majority of management staff consists of former loan officers. These were the people who shaped Caurie MF in the early days, when equipment was poorer and distances (due to the absence of branches) longer. Stories of two loan officers travelling hundred miles each day on a shared motorbike and on bad roads are impressive and give them “street credibility”, believe me! These people are still the heart and soul of the institution and are passionate in everything they do.
- Chances for promotions are high! As stated above, Caurie’s management consists mainly of promoted employees. Whether a secretary or driver is promoted to loan officer, a loan officer to supervisor, or a supervisor to branch manager or HQ management: it is announced publicly. Each couple of weeks there’s a “note de service” (a memo) posted in the agencies, reminding all employees of their chance for promotions. The prospect to climb the ladder is a often cited motivation when I talk to loan officers.
These factors are not only driving Caurie’s employees to outstanding performances, they also assure the continuity of the institution. They are good preconditions to enable Caurie’s rapid growth while holding up its core mission of helping the poor.
Sam Trauffer is a KF10 Kiva Fellow at Caurie Microfinance, a partner of Catholic Relief Services, in Senegal. Make a loan to one of Caurie MF’s clients on Kiva.