I recently finished my degree and was blessed with being hired with a Fortune Five Hundred company by the name of Mercedes Benz Financial Services. I was blessed with receiving my first temporary assignment overseas. I was tasked with evaluating a problem that had developed in Kava. My first two weeks were submerged in a brief introduction to the company, receiving an overview of Kava, reviewing HR procedures and organizational processes, and making flight arrangements.
I received a great deal of help in putting the trip to Kava together, but no one knew exactly what I would be doing there. I only knew that I would be working with the Director of strategic planning, Alex. I was really looking forward to my first assignment outside of the United States. I was also looking forward to the beautiful beaches with tropical breezes. Within two weeks, I arrived in Kava.
I was certainly surprised… and disappointed. I realized when I landed Kava is located in the South Pacific where half of the population is under the age of 15. Kava has a unique ethnic mix, which consists of South Pacific Tribes, Chinese, Asian, African, Mexican, the French, and a small amount of Americans. On the island of Kava they speak many languages. Like numerous indigenous people of this area, they speak English, Spanish, and French. Half of the island follows the indigenous religion; other parts of the island follow Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism religions (Paul & Elder, 2006).
The country had been heavily affected by a series of natural disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons, floods, and tidal waves which had left the country in calamity. The country was also known for diseases such as HIV, Avian flu and petroleum spills. Kava is mostly noted for their limited workforce supply and they are heavily dependent on their revenue stream through exporting goods. A major problem with their exporting business is that the country is constantly being hit with natural disasters.
Our goal and mission was to start a new parts manufacturer plant for Daimler Trucks and for Mercedes Benz cars, making it a global operation. Currently the majority of our manufacturing was in Germany. Our goal was to grow our presence internationally, to grow our diversity base and to produce more jobs for the global economy. Due to the nature of calamites that continued to arrive, it caused major obstacles.
Another obstacle that we observed was the age of the population that would comprise our potential labor force and the governance issues due to their age. Our new found goal was to train a youthful labor force to fill positions that will require more mature skills. It was very clear that this challenge would require extensive planning, reasoning and logical thinking. We would have to continue to assesses and analyze all factors involved which would take collaboration and decision making.
After stepping off the plane and making it to my hotel the first day, I soon realized that my dream job would be one of the most challenging that I had ever faced. I’d settled in my hotel on the first day. My bags had been lost, of course. As I sat alone, quietly in my hotel room, I had slowly written out all of the obstacles that I would face and what I’d need to overcome them. I was going to have to organize each of the environmental obstacles so that my company could set up a viable business in Kava. It was one thing to read about problems on paper.
I was very young at the time. I had never really stepped foot outside of the United States. When I picked up the phone to order room service, a young 12 year old boy greeted me at the door with my food. I realized first hand that THIS would be the labor force that our company would have to consider when designing training material and making business decisions which would guide our company to success.
The other thing I quickly realized after arriving and placing that phone call for room service was the challenge of communication. The people native to this area spoke such a wide variety of languages that common communication there consisted of broken French and English.
There was no common ground when it came to anyone in the local area. Building a labor force with such a diverse language and cultural barrier was going to be my largest and first challenge. Another significant challenge would be the broken infrastructure from the natural disasters. With just a quick glance outside of my hotel room, I noticed a mixture of old and devastated buildings.
Our power, even on such a short stay, wasn’t consistent. Although my time in Kava was short, only two weeks, the powerful report I would take back to our stakeholders would determine the viability of opening manufacturing facilities there. The first thing we would need to put in place would be an educational program specifically addressing the diversity of language and culture. We would need to provide a common environment for our youthful labor force to collaborate in a manner that be productive, and regulate that labor force to maintain compliance with local laws.
My report also contained some of the significant infrastructure challenges to building manufacturing facilities in a country with so many natural disasters. Steady power, stable land choices and of course the financial risk assessment to all of the stakeholders involved would need to be considered. After taking in account all of these factors, I compiled a report. After arriving back home, I presented my data to the board of directors. As a young college graduate, I have to say I had second thoughts as I presented my recommendation. The local demand for our product was low, and there were a significant number of challenges preventing a viable factory being opened there.