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Case studies

Below are selected case studies featuring ‘good practice in people management’.

If your agency has a ‘people management’ success story it would like to share, then please contact us and we would be delighted to bring it to the attention of your peers, and give you the recognition you deserve.


Mercy Corps - An 'Office in a Box' (Worldwide)

Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps (MC) has developed Office in a Box (OIB) to expedite program start-up in emergency contexts and to ensure comprehensive, compliant and consistent implementation of operational procedures. Currently in use in 6 countries, OIB has proved a reliable, robust system which allows field managers to concentrate on programming issues and maintain accountability to stakeholders.

Speaking of OIB, CEO Neal Keny-Guyer praised it as a “fantastic package of tools required to set up and operate a field office” and applauded the way in which it freed staff from a systems focus and enabled them to become “social entrepreneurs”, able to “take the risks necessary to design innovative program strategies”.

Office in a box

With programs in 39 countries providing humanitarian relief transitioning into development, Mercy Corps (MC) has developed its Office in a Box (OIB) as part of its drive to enhance the overall impact of response efforts. The goal was to offer MC staff fluid and flexible tools that provide for rapid response and programme start-up, and effective, compliant management of entrepreneurial programming. In use since March 2006, the OIB has already proved an invaluable tool in emergency response situations.

The Office in a Box (OIB) is a cost-effective solution primarily designed for use at the program start-up stage, as well as being available to strengthen the operational capacities of existing field offices. Accessible via the internet, in CD format or hard copy, it contains the guidelines, manuals, practical tools and templates that are essential for rapidly establishing a new program and for ongoing operations management.

A set of manuals, each accompanied by relevant documents and tools, provides all the necessary information regarding set-up and maintenance of administration, finance, logistics, security and IT functions. The OIB also contains a Field Office Checklist, and a helpful tips section.

Designed by combining best practices of MC field offices with requirements imposed by donor regulations, the contents were then vetted by HQ and field staff and field tested in six operational countries. The OIB was formally rolled out in March 2006, supported by formal training, and is currently in use in six additional countries in Africa and Asia.

Since its introduction the OIB has reduced the amount of time and effort spent by programme managers on developing operations systems, allowing them to focus on programming issues which have an impact on quality. Its rigor in ensuring more robust systems which are consistent and compliant, has improved accountability and transparency with external stakeholders and with staff. By incorporating best practices and lessons learned from around the organisation, the OIB also functions as a development tool for national and international staff as they work with the system. This in turn has facilitated internal transfer and promotion, and impacted retention rates.

The OIB took two years to develop and involved a team of eight people at the design stage. After gathering extensive input from the field they guided the OIB through a thorough vetting process by HQ and field staff. Five staff members have a part-time responsibility for keeping the system up-to-date.

The success of the OIB lies in its simplicity, low cost and adaptation for use in situations with limited back-up resources. It makes effective use of technology to enhance consistency, organisational learning, responsiveness to donor requirements and program quality.

Speaking of OIB, CEO Neal Keny-Guyer praised it as a “fantastic package of tools required to set up and operate a field office” and applauded the way in which it freed staff from a systems focus and enabled them to become “social entrepreneurs”, able to “take the risks necessary to design innovative program strategies”.

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World Vision - Regional Response Team (Africa)

World Vision

World Vision’s Regional Response Team (RRT) was first set up in Africa seven years ago. Its objective is to be the first line of response in category 2 emergencies – i.e, emergencies that can be contained within the region.

The RRT targets national and regional staff and, since its foundation, has involved over 58 people. All those on the team are members of regional or national offices. The initial group of 20 staff were identified through a series of visits to all the national offices in Africa as well as through a series of regional workshops. These visits also focused on relationship building and helping people see the value of the RRT. Those selected were chosen on the basis of ‘right attitude rather than right skills’: at the time the relief group in World Vision had developed a somewhat negative image as ‘cowboys’ which led the agency to the focus on the sorts of behavioural competencies already mentioned.

Staff involved in the RRT undergo 10 days training every nine months. This includes training in their technical areas; humanitarian standards and principles; and physical simulations, among other things. Training as a team was found to encourage cohesiveness, which helped when members of the group were either deployed together or in sub-groups into emergencies.

Many RRT staff have gone on to senior positions within World Vision, which views this mechanism as a leadership feeder school and a way of building future relief managers. Staff have to have been deployed numerous times before being promoted. Old members of the team move into an ‘alumni’ and are invited to coach and mentor new members. Some alumni therefore always attend the annual training workshops.

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Building Leadership for Transition (Afghanistan)

Building Leadership for Transition: The Challenge of Afghanistan.

The continuing conflict in Afghanistan is described as the British Government’s most important foreign priority. Ten years since war first broke out, and with 2014 looming as the anticipated date for transition to full Afghan control, the challenges faced by policy makers, diplomats and advisers on the ground have never been greater.

In early 2010, Hamish Wilson, Consultant and Director of Wasafiri Consulting, was engaged by the UK’s Stabilisation Unit – a specialised agency jointly owned by the Ministry of Defence, Foreign Office and Department for International Development – and deployed to Helmand’s remote northern districts as a Stabilisation Adviser, working on behalf of the Provincial Reconstruction Team.

The war-torn districts of Musa Qala and Now Zad had become infamous as 'the heart of darkness' throughout the years of drug lord and Taliban rule. The Afghan Government and NATO wrested back control and with the support of advisers such as Hamish, are helping restore normality for the local population

Embedded with US Marines, and responsible for managing a team of international and Afghan civilians (known as a District Stabilisation Team or DST), Hamish was specifically tasked with coordinating efforts to establish a functional district government and to oversee all reconstruction and development activities.

Experiences and reality on the ground

“We as civilians play an unlikely intermediary role – we sit firmly between the US Military and the Afghan political and community leadership. This is the space in which we operate to find ways to generate concerted action to drive the recovery efforts forward coherently.” says Hamish.

He goes on to describe the context in more detail; “Insecurity is high, our movements are limited, people shift their allegiances without warning, and the events of the moment can be utterly unpredictable. Out here the consequences for poor judgement can be extremely high… "

Hamish describes an average day in the Musa Qala ‘Forward Operating Base’, painting a vivid picture of weighty issues and relentless demands for attention: dealing with the aftermath of an attack on the local market, working with the Governor to improve taxation, meeting with the Director of Education to re-open a school closed by fighting, drafting the Governance and Rule of Law aspects of the campaign plan, hosting a team of journalists from Kabul and planning for the coming Community Council elections.

His tales evoke a sense of the leadership dilemmas that must be confronted daily; Where do you draw the line with corruption? How do we best allocate our limited funds? How do we support Afghans to take the lead? How do we manage the incessant competing demands? How do we re-establish a ‘humanitarian space’? How do we address human rights abuses? The list goes on.

Hamish describes some of his keys to success: “Successful leadership in this context is one founded on how well you manage an extraordinarily complex set of relationships between a wildly colourful range of people and institutions – many with competing pressures and interests… If I am respected by the US Marine commander, if I am trusted by the District Governor, if I am valued by the village elders, listened to by the Police Chief, or the farmer who sympathises with the Taliban… then we have a chance of moving forward together. Its fragile and painstaking…”

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CARE International - Global Leadership Program (Worldwide)

CARE International

Global Leadership Program: Leading with Impact.

Introduced in 2003, CARE’s Leading With Impact (LWI) program takes a highly strategic approach to developing the leadership capacities necessary to achieve the organization’s vision and move it forward. Significant changes in leadership style, contributions to organizational initiatives and the transfer of learning to others, have all resulted from the LWI and are re-shaping CARE’s culture and operational ability.

“Leading With Impact is only the beginning in creating a culture that is flexible and adaptive to change at CARE,” says Patrick Solomon, Senior Vice President of Human Resources. “We want all staff to have every opportunity to strengthen their leadership potential and become fully involved in our fight against poverty. This requires new ways of thinking at all levels and an openness to new ideas as we tackle complex challenges.”

Based on the premise that leadership development builds community and shapes organizational culture, CARE’s leadership program Leading With Impact (LWI) is designed to build mission-critical skills, enhance leadership capabilities and foster global standards and knowledge-sharing.

With over 12,000 employees dispersed among 70 countries, the challenge for CARE was to institute a system of leadership development which would create a common vision of organizational purpose, and the ability to deliver this in complex environments.

Launched in November 2003, by the end of 2007 LWI will have reached reached 206 leaders and emerging leaders. The program centres around four leadership capabilities identified as critical to achieving CARE’s vision and mission: leading from within, creating the future, managing complexity, and building human and knowledge capital.

Delivered by the CARE Academy, the LWI is founded on self-directed, self-owned learning, blending classroom and peer-to-peer consultation over a period of nine months. A 360° leadership assessment tool is used to identify and track areas of development, and individual coaching, peer consultation sessions and implementation of personal leadership commitments all foster ongoing reflective practice. Themes running through the program concern questions of leadership style and meaning, alignment with the vision, worldview, productive interactions, and adapative challenges facing CARE.

The LWI has been well-received by CARE staff and data demonstrates how it is supporting change. One participant commented: “…I learned that some of my unit members think I have a tendency to micro manage. This led me to change how I structure my interactions with them… I now try to ensure that I give them enough room to breathe, make mistakes, learn and grow.” In addition, some of the personal leadership commitments have contributed to developments in other key areas such as gender and diversity, and global compensation, thus supporting the aim of connecting and shaping culture.

The program was championed by the Executive team and development, in partnership with Duke Corporate Education, took 10 months. First delivery of LWI for 44 participants cost approximately USD 450,000 in total. Each subsequent delivery requires a 5-month planning schedule involving a program manager, program coordinator and design support person, all on a part-time basis. On-site support for the six-day classroom component requires a total of 12 people and the cost of each delivery is USD 200,000.

Focusing on strategic capacity and using a range of methodologies to engage participants in reflective learning, the LWI is highly effective in developing the leadership capabilities necessary to shape and deliver CARE’s shared future.

“Leading With Impact is only the beginning in creating a culture that is flexible and adaptive to change at CARE,” says Patrick Solomon, Senior Vice President of Human Resources. “We want all staff to have every opportunity to strengthen their leadership potential and become fully involved in our fight against poverty. This requires new ways of thinking at all levels and an openness to new ideas as we tackle complex challenges.”

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Christian Aid - Senior Leader Capability Development

Christian Aid

This case study explains how a team of senior leaders at Christian Aid used capability development interventions to improve how they were working together as a team, and to support them in achieving their three-year strategy. Working with an external Leadership Consultant recommended by People In Aid, the approach they took involved a mix of coaching, workshops, and a review of existing operational and strategic meetings.

The first step was to understand the requirements and expectations of the team. The Leadership Consultant and Christian Aid’s Strategic Business Development Partner, International, carried out a series of 1:1 interviews and team discussions to identify the key themes to focus on in a workshop. Following further discussion, a number of capability development interventions were identified including:

  • Restructuring meetings and agreeing principles
  • Individual coaching
  • Mediation
  • Workshops on giving and receiving feedback, and coaching or mentoring

“The programme is currently underway, however, the team has already come together to discuss how to work better with each other, and that learning and development of core capabilities is essential to the delivery of the strategy.”

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IRC - Human Resources Management Training (Worldwide)

International Rescue Committee

Given its imperative to respond to humanitarian crises with speed and efficiency, International Rescue Committee (IRC) has equipped managers with thorough Human Resources Management Training (HRMT) based around the organization’s guiding principle of respect. This initiative has resulted in a productive, open work environment, with significantly improved employee relations and partnership between departments, and a direct impact on staff retention. It has also transformed the role of the HR function.

The ability to manage teams effectively and to retain staff with relevant specialised skills is critical in an organization that, since 1996, has responded to 80 humanitarian emergencies in 37 countries, and launched 23 new country programs. Designed to equip managers with the basic skills and HR knowledge they need to manage people in this dynamic environment, the HRMT was introduced in 2000 and rolled out to all managers.

Consisting of a set of training modules covering various aspects of HR and incorporating the guiding principle of respect, the HRMT addresses:

  • Hiring
  • Teambuilding
  • Stress management
  • Communication and performance management
  • Transparent management and promoting respect

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Oxfam - Pick Up & Go Training (Worldwide)

Oxfam GB

Oxfam’s Pick Up & Go packs are proving a fast, cost-effective way to equip staff with essential knowledge and skills. Designed as complete, self-contained training kits, the specialised material can be delivered within a day by competent facilitators at country level. Pick Up & Go offers a tested and consistent response to learning needs.

Testimony to their success is the experience of Oxfam’s Director Barbara Stocking: "I ran a 'pick up and go' training workshop on gender mainstreaming. I was quite nervous about it, as I have never done one before. I recommend it. They are so well set out, they are easy to run, and for me it was a way I could work with staff in-country much more closely"

Oxfam’s Pick Up & Go packs are proving a fast, cost-effective way to equip staff across the organization with a range of basic skills required to fulfil their roles. Originally conceived as a response to facilitating improvements in people management, the approach has already been applied to other areas, specifically HIV/AIDS and further topics are in the design stage.

Each pack is a complete, stand-alone kit, designed to be delivered by staff at country level who are capable facilitators but may not have in-depth knowledge of the subject. The material is thorough and clear enough to be able to deliver a good quality version of the module first time round. Principally formulated for staff in their first 18 months with Oxfam, it aims to familiarise them with knowledge and skills to a basic level of competency.

Pick Up & Go packs are designed to a standard format. Each course takes half or one day to deliver, and is participative in style. Drawing on input from specialists across the organization, content includes information for the region and for the facilitator; objectives; timetable; detailed facilitator notes with step-by-step instructions for each session; flipcharts and handouts.

Packs are readily accessible on the organisation’s intranet and are available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. They are offered as a tool which regions can elect to use as appropriate to address locally-identified learning needs.

Within the topic of Managing Self and Others, examples of individual courses include Recruitment and Selection, Coaching and Feedback, Performance Management and Time Management. Other topics available are Understanding Project Financial Reports, Gender Mainstreaming, and Campaigning, with more courses in the pipeline.

Oxfam develops the packs largely in-house, and includes the design and piloting processes. Direct costs are limited to translation expenses and, for some modules, outsourced writing.

Led by the Learning and Development function and championed by senior staff, Pick Up & Go has advanced Oxfam towards achieving corporate objectives in the area of people management. It offers a relatively low-cost response to an organizational need, delivered in a way that is appropriate for the culture of the organization. Success in its use has caused other NGOs to recognize the value of the Pick Up & Go concept. Modelling an empowering, ‘can do’ approach, it provides a complete and easy-to-use tool for fast, effective training of staff.

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Oxfam Australia - Leadership Development (Timor-Leste)

Adrian Prouse

To meet the four key goals listed above and achieve lasting change in Timor-Leste, the Oxfam Australia Timor-Leste office recognises it needs to be “an effective, rights-based organisation with human, financial and other resources”. To achieve this internal goal, major organisational changes have been instituted:

  • Oxfam Hong Kong and Oxfam New Zealand’s presences in Timor-Leste have been brought into the management structure of Oxfam Australia; &
  • Oxfam Australia’s programs in Timor-Leste have shifted from being directly implemented to being run through local counterparts.

Consequently, key HR strategies and indicators relating to staff and management development are outlined to ensure skilled East Timorese staff will be managing and implementing programs for their communities.

Analysis of problem

The senior management team (SMT) in Timor-Leste has consisted of expatriates for many years. To achieve greater presence of East Timorese on the SMT a leadership and management development program has been outlined as a key strategy. This strategy clearly recognises developing the skills of future leaders has important internal benefits. However, it also links to the external context. By developing the management and leadership skills of East Timorese managers, Oxfam’s ability to support and develop the skills of their staff and the staff at local counterparts will lead to better programming in local communities.

Solution to problem

To deliver on the goal of a country office run by East Timorese staff, a long term and contextualised leadership and management development program was designed by the Oxfam Australia Timor-Leste Human Resources and Organisational Development (HROD) unit. With support from the HR, and Learning and Development teams in Melbourne, the program aims to build the leadership and management skills of Oxfam’s East Timorese managers. 

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Save the Children - Building Capacity for Emergency Response (US)

Save the Children US

Save the Children (SC-US) develops local staff capacity to deliver effective emergency response through opportunities for deployment, formal training, mentoring, and provision of support to Field Office by Regional Emergency Preparedness Advisors. Key results of this strategy include improved speed and appropriateness of response and a larger pool of national staff with emergency response capabilities.

Committed to responding to any emergency that endangers the well-being of children, Save the Children (SC-US) has increased the speed and appropriateness of its response in the 45 countries where it operates by placing local staff at the heart of its strategy.

Whilst relief programs can be implemented within hours by deployment of its Global Emergency Team, SC-US recognised the many advantages of being able to mount a local response. Focusing on developing the capacity of national staff to achieve this, SC-US’s strategy involved several key elements.

  • Deployment of national staff on regional REDI (rapid response) teams has enabled those with less experience to work alongside more experienced counterparts. This provides opportunities for apprenticeships and mentoring, with additional formal training provided as required.
  • Regional Emergency Response Training is provided for one point person selected from each Field Office.
  • Regional Preparedness Advisors work with Senior Management Teams in each Field Office to develop emergency preparedness plans. This approach has built awareness and capability while also offering a process for delegating responsibility for preparedness to national staff.
  • Temporary Duty Assignments of 3 – 6 months enable local staff, especially those from countries where emergencies occur infrequently, to gain experience and skills in an emergency context alongside more experienced staff. Performance evaluation during the assignment informs plans for further personal development in relevant skills.
  • Simulation exercises have proved extremely successful in situations where deployment with a mentor is not possible.

Evolved over a period of about five years, the strategy required an initial investment of time in developing the formal emergency response training program. Essential staff key to ongoing implementation are Regional Emergency Preparedness Advisors; qualified mentors; and trainers with practical knowledge of emergencies. The annual budget includes $90,000 per Regional Advisor plus the costs of formal training, and travel and living expenses of Temporary Duty Assignments.

By shifting away from reliance on roving global expatriate teams and focusing on nationalising its relief response SC-US now has the capacity to respond to emergencies more quickly and appropriately. This strategy has created a wider pool of technically qualified staff to draw on, strengthened skills in Field Offices around emergency preparedness planning, and more broadly, increased awareness of all staff as to the required shift in mindset and approach when the focus of their work changes from development to relief.

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UNICEF - Using Simulations to Improve Emergency Response

People In Aid

UNICEF expects its entire staff to be ready to respond to humanitarian emergencies
whenever they occur, and yet, for many years, the organisation had no standardised method for testing the readiness of its country offices around the world.
Research has shown that emergency professionals perform better after undergoing “trial run-throughs” and problem-solving drills as a form of active learning. Simulations constitute only one of the many emergency preparedness tools in use, but they have been demonstrably effective.

UNICEF’s simulation was an office-based, day-long exercise, employing a realistic scenario that could be easily adapted to the context of any country. Based on prior agreement with the head of office, a small team of facilitators would typically arrive in country, quietly establish a base from which to work, load a series of prepared messages or “injects” onto the office server, and then spring the “emergency” on the unsuspecting office staff. During the initial meeting called by Senior Office Management, the facilitators would explain the ground-rules to participants, provide a list of outputs to be achieved during the course of the day, and proceed to bombard the office staff with a surfeit of information, via e-mails, phone calls, documents, meetings, and other sources. Participants were not required to play any “role” other than the job that they normally carry out in a crisis. The next morning, participants would take part in a half-day “no-fault” debriefing, to identify strengths and weaknesses.

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Induction & On-boarding

Save the Children - OnBoarding for new hires (US)

Save The Children

Save the Children-USA (SC-US) is committed to responding to any emergency that endangers the well-being of children.

According to a senior manager at Save the Children, “new employees provide an opportunity for the organisation to cultivate and propel its growing workforce to a higher level”. Save the Children believes that a robust OnBoarding programme will help them meet their goals by strengthening the engagement of its workforce.

Engaged employees are defined as “employees who know what is expected of them, have the materials and support needed to perform, understand the importance of their work, and believe they have opportunities to learn and grow at Save the Children and receive recognition and praise for their results”.

Rather than a single “orientation” event, the OnBoarding programme is designed to promote the induction, assimilation, familiarization and knowledge sharing of new employees into the organisation over an extended period of time. This process improves retention and raises the level of engagement of new employees into Save the Children, with the ultimate goal of enhancing the impact and performance of each employee.

The OnBoarding programme primarily consists of three components.

  • Peer Sponsor – A peer sponsor from the new hire’s department is assigned to help the new employee get acquainted with their new work associates and surroundings.
  • New Employee Orientation Program (NEO) - This is a one day session that provides an overview of the role, mission and structure of the organization.
  • New Employee Lunch and Learn Sessions – Additional modular sessions provide a closer look at the specific divisions, business units and initiatives of the organisation which supplements the one day New Hire Orientation Program.

An important aspect for success of OnBoarding is the participation of the Senior Management Team in both the introduction and implementation of the programme. Senior managers need to regularly participate in and sponsor OnBoarding events as a part of the New Employee Orientation or Lunch and Learns to demonstrate the importance of OnBoarding and their commitment to it.

The process requires that all stakeholders play an active role in the process. The OnBoarding programme has 4 key stakeholders: the new hire, the peer sponsor, the hiring manager and human resources. Each has a set of responsibilities to accomplish in the OnBoarding process.

Another important part of the program is the concept of colleague affiliation. The OnBoarding Program is designed to encourage new employees to meet each other and forge relationships.

Save the Children is beginning to see how the programme achieves improvement in: reducedturnover; reduced hiring costs; quickened internalization of cultural attributes; standardized content and process; enhanced new hire’s navigation of the organisation; and, accelerated contribution of new staff to the organisation.


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World Vision International - Rapid Induction (Worldwide)

World Vision International

Supporting a commitment to respond to any major emergency around the world, World Vision’s Rapid Induction process has succeeded in widening the pool of available candidates and made long term deployments possible earlier in the emergency program cycle, with consequent benefits for teams, stakeholders, knowledge management and program quality.

Feedback for the rapid induction tool has been very positive: “... an excellent tool... that guide[s] us through the hand-over process. ...This is a tool to build the institutional memory…” (Senior Relief Co-ordinator, Global Rapid Response Team)

With a commitment to respond to any major emergency around the world, World Vision (WV) developed a Rapid Induction package to speed up recruitment of fully operational teams during the initial relief response phase. As a large, complex organization operating in over 100 countries worldwide and with approximately 23,000 employees, WV has gained agility in quickly assimilating new staff and facilitating their contribution at an early stage of the response effort.

Until recently, a general reluctance in sudden onset crises to hire managers lacking in WV or relief experience resulted in long term staffing being put on hold while existing experienced staff rotated in and out of the program on short-term placements, with consequent negative impacts on teams, stakeholders, knowledge management and program quality.

In response to the challenge of staffing emergency responses after the initial 90-day phase, the Rapid Induction package is designed to equip new staff with the essential knowledge required to function effectively within the organisation’s structures, systems, style, values and culture, and to represent WV appropriately with all stakeholders. Confidence in a fast, robust induction process enables hiring managers to appoint candidates knowing they will be equipped to operate successfully from the outset.

Rapid Induction takes place in the field or regional office before deployment to the project or program site. Delivered by WV relief professionals, it takes approximately 2 days in total. The package includes modules covering:

  • Understanding the context in which you are operating
  • Your role
  • Decision-making and influence in your context
  • Systems
  • Programming
  • Policies and standards

Tools created to support the Rapid Induction consist of a CD Rom, database, and hard copy prompt cards in a slim manual.

The Rapid Induction package has enabled WV to draw on a far wider pool of candidates outside the organization to meet its critical staffing requirements. This has resulted in teams being established more quickly and with greater long term stability, with positive knock-on effects on staff morale and retention rates. Continuity within the teams has promoted more effective knowledge management, and improved relationships with external networks and stakeholders. Collectively these outcomes have enhanced program quality and impact.

Feedback for the rapid induction tool has been very positive: “... an excellent tool... that guide[s] us through the hand-over process. ...This is a tool to build the institutional memory…” (Senior Relief Co-ordinator, Global Rapid Response Team)

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People In Aid Certification

ActionAid HR Audit

Leigh Thornycroft

ActionAid is a global movement of people working together to further human rights for all and defeat poverty. They work in over 45 countries, and have their head office in Africa, because it’s important to them that the people whose lives they support and who they work with feel connected to them.

ActionAid’s International Secretariat underwent a restructure in 2011/2012 in order to enable them to deliver on their new international strategy. Through this restructure, HR became an integral part of Organisational Effectiveness; focusing on key projects to enhance the value of HR capacity, systems, policies and processes. The HR Audit Tool was one such project.

In many of the 45 countries where ActionAid operates, HR functions have either never undergone a full audit or they haven't been audited for a number of years. As a result, the International Secretariat were unsure of the standard and quality of many HR policies, practices and procedures across the Federation. They needed to ensure these were aligned to ActionAids Global HR Standards (which are themselves aligned to People In Aids Code of Good Practice) that they adhered to local labour.

To address this, while also working towards People In Aid Accreditation across the whole federation, ActionAid developed an HR Audit Toolkit.

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CAFOD UK - Verified Compliant with the Code


CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development) have expanded rapidly over the last five years. They established offices in various African countries as well as one in Latin America employing a mixture of ex-pat and national staff. They also dispersed their head offices within the UK.

As they grew, it became increasingly clear to them that it was crucial to their continued success that they develop ways of working to ensure their staff had the appropriate capacity and support and the high quality of their people management practices .

CAFOD wanted to examine their people management practices, engage with their staff and make improvements where they were needed. Central to this was to ensure that all the systems and tools already in place were fit for the whole organisation, no matter where staff were based in the world. Obtaining People In Aid’s Verified Compliant to the Code of Good Practice status was a means for this to be achieved.

“Delivery of our mission depends on being as effective as possible and maximising impact were it matters most. We wanted to test ourselves both through consultation with our staff but also through the scrutiny of a People in Aid appointed auditor.“
Lorraine Walsh, Head of HR, CAFOD

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CESVI Italy - Committed to the Code


CESVI have been demonstrating their commitment to the improvement of their people management practices since March 2004. CESVI retained their committed status again in September 2010.

Below Stefano Piziali, Policy Partnership and Security Advisor, comments on how they renewed their Quality Mark in September 2010.

Why did CESVI want to retain their Quality Mark?
"People In Aid membership is important for us as an organisation. Being awarded the first People In Aid Quality Mark and being able to declare ourselves Committed to the People In Aid Code of Good Practice helps us stress the importance of HR to our employees and keep them involved. With this compulsory obligation to retain the Quality Mark, it strengthens the case to improve one significant issue in Human Resources Management year by year, which gives CESVI the opportunity to improve in our management of HR."

How did you achieve Committed status?
"The following activities helped us to achieve our renewal of the first People In Aid Quality Mark:

  • Reviewed safety & security and training policies
  • Introduced  security plans for high risk countries and safety plans for all other countries
  • Introduced high-risk database to analyse risk in different countries
  • Introduced the competence model in recruitment & selection processes to help identify needs more clearly
  • In collaboration with a University, providing important research for the June 2010 on Recruitment & Selection procedures (inspired by the People In Aid Code of Good Practice),
  • Adopted Rest & Recuperation procedures in high-risk countries such as Somalia, Congo & Afghanistan
  • Reviewed local HR practices (we had already collected data from the field for this): data collected and research drafted on July-September 2010"

What were the main challenges?
"The main challenge we faced was the global financial situation. Due to the current economic climate, the Italian Government cut support to NGOs by 95%. This impacted the implementation of some projects.  For example, we could not use external stakeholders, so to reduce costs we instead used internal resources and internal audits. We tried to reduce at minimum the impact on staff and projects.  Stefano is optimistic this will be resolved by the end of 2012."

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EveryChild UK - Verified Compliant with the Code


By achieving a People In Aid Quality Mark, EveryChild is seen as demonstrating good standards of practice. As EveryChild expand their programmes and reach, collaboration is becoming increasingly important.

By becoming Verified Compliant to the People In Aid Code of Good Practice EveryChild are confident potential partners will recognise the Quality Mark as a nod towards their professionalism and will see them as a preferred partner.

“Becoming certified by People In Aid will put us on a higher platform in terms of professionalism and ensures we are recognised as such. Certification is seen as a hallmark of good practice within our sector.”     Mahmood Noman, HR Partner

What went well?

Meetings with People in Aid and the auditor at the outset provided guidance and insights to possible approaches. Once our approach was agreed the EveryChild HR team assigned tasks to HR team members. Each member then took the lead on a number of Principles. This combined with regular update meetings proved a winning formula.

What were the challenges?

Finding time to pull all of this together in a concise enough manner for the auditors to assess was challenging. Like all organisations, data was not held in one place and in a uniform format. It was all available but needed to be presented in both a concise and a structured way. This took some time.

The other challenge was being able to commit to the timeframe given the priorities of the HR team within EveryChild. Fortunately, with the full support of the Chief Exec. and the Director’s Team the HR team were able to re-prioritise and give this process the attention it needed.

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HIJRA Somalia - Committed to the Code


With the outbreak of the civil war in 1991, most of the qualified and experienced people left Somalia. This meant that the recruitment of staff with relevant skills remained a major challenge. Staff started acquiring skills in different aspects of project implementation and some were fortunate enough to receive capacity building from the agencies. Over time these skilled people understood their skills were in high demand and they were marketable. They began to seek better paying jobs within non-governmental and governmental organisations. Agencies with limited funding like HIJRA found it difficult to retain experienced and qualified staff.

Since 2000 HIJRA has expanded its programmes tremendously. It is now able to generate internal resources to fund some of its activities ensuring HIJRA can offer stable employment for some positions. However many positions are still funded by short term project funding. Staff still leave the organisation after a short period.

To effectively manage its human resources, HIJRA established an HR Department and with this in place, was able to analyze its retention situation.

HIJRA concluded that retention was affected by amongst other things:

  • Poor remuneration due to unstable funding from the donor community:
  • Lack of learning, training and staff development
  • Weak HR systems
  • Lack of staff recognition
  • The absence of salary scales
  • No adherence to qualifications and experience impacted negatively on staff wanting to remain in HIJRA for longer duration. Therefore they looked to other organisations for career progression.
  • Lack of staff policies and practices

Addressing retention through the People In Aid Code

To address these staff retention problems, it was critical that HIJRA'S new HR department had the full support of the senior management. Their support led to the inclusion of the department's new HR strategy as an integral part of HIJRA's overall strategic plan. A primary objective of the HR strategy was to obtain internationally recognised human resource accreditation. HIJRA began to implementation of the People In Aid Code of good practice.

“This improved their current HR systems and tremendously increased staff confidence in the organisation paving the way for hard work and open communication within the organisation”. HIJRA Somalia Mohammed Ibrahim Nur, HIJRA Human Resource Manager

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IAS - Implementing the People In Aid Code

People In Aid

International Aid Services (IAS) is a relief and development organisation based on a biblical foundation with the goal to meet all the needs of a person and restore him/her physically, psychologically and spiritually. IAS is involved in the sectors of water and sanitation, agriculture, education, health, Christian Ministries and emergency response.

Although IAS had many staff policies and practices in place, many of them were not communicated clearly to the teams they affected. Though the policies implemented were sufficient, the documentation surrounding them was not. When reviewing these procedures, IAS indicated reporting, tracking and documenting as areas for improvement. It was not only the HR Policies themselves which needed to be improved and made clearer to employees; job descriptions and inductions also suffered from this problem. This resulted in staff being unclear on their individual responsibilities and duties, as well as that of their colleagues.

IAS have worked with People In Aid in implementing the People In Aid Code of Good Practice and are certified Verified Compliant. The process of auditing and implementing the Code and achieving this level of certification, has improved IAS policies, practices as well as the way IAS is seen as an employer and as well as an organisation.

“Ensuring our policies are in line with the People In Aid Code gives our staff confidence that the policies are applicable and standard in the sector”

- Juliet Namukasa, Country Director

Since implementing the Code IAS now have a policy handbook which they regularly review to ensure that it is still applicable. For example, a recent review found policies on recruitment did not detail development following internal promotions. This is now included and is a deliberate procedure for all Country Director roles. The IAS Country Director has benefited from this change, and now is mentored by her predecessor.

There has been more focus on internal staff development since implementing the code– for example the North Uganda Project coordinator came in as a graduate with no project experience. Over the years IAS have developed her, which has had a direct impact on her effectiveness in her role and increased motivation in her team of 10. Vitally, the impact is also evident in the community she looks after – the organisation is communicating more clearly and has a fuller understanding of the community.

“The reaction of the community towards her indicates her impact – songs include her name and a baby was named after her recently. Not only has the training she received helped her do her job better, but she also passes these skills to her staff, is appreciative of the investment IAS are making in her and has been retained in the agency. “

- Juliet Namukasa, Country Director

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Oxfam Novib: Implementing the People In Aid Code of Good Practice

Frans Pakvis

As the Code of Good Practice recognises, human resources are key for an organisation but to extend that line to partner organisations is not always so easy. It is important to remember when implementing the Code that it is not so much the implementation of the Code and its procedures that is of highest importance, rather it is to improve an organisation’s effectiveness through better HR and people management.

Oxfam Novib recently held a regional partner consultation on a number of issues such as feedback on the performance of Oxfam Novib by its partners and vice versa, and suggestions on how to improve the cooperation and to build better mutual trust. One of the elements was a workshop on how to approach HR. All partners, big and small, were very enthusiastic and eager to learn.

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RedR UK - Verified Compliant with the Code


RedR were a founding member of the working group for "People In Aid" which, in 1997, produced the Code of Best Practice in the Management and Support of Aid Personnel, a document which would eventually become the People In Aid Code of Good Practice.

Their mission is to train, support and provide aid workers to relief programmes across the world. Given that their ethos fits in with capacity building and promoting best practice, it was a logical step for them to adhere to the People In Aid Code of Good Practice and as such, in April 2009 RedR again renewed their Quality Mark ‘Verified Compliant to the People In Aid Code"

How did you do this?

The renewal of their Verified Quality Mark was done through three key steps:

  • An employee survey
  • Consultation with trustees
  • A review of policy structures and practices

What were the main challenges?

The employee survey proved to be the most challenging of the three steps.

Since renewing their Quality Mark, RedR has implemented another employee survey and, in doing so have evaluated the success of the one used for Certification.

The changes identified as needing to be made included the length of the survey; people felt there were too many questions. Also given that the survey was disseminated to those in countries of operation and included national staff, the English used was too complex and this hindered all staff from filling in the answers to their true extent. This has been combated in future surveys through designating responsibility of the survey to in-country managers: managing it locally means more control and support being able to be offered.

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Retrak - Committed to the Code

A 2010 employee survey identified several areas for improvement within Retrak. Among the issues raised were the needs to consider an improved financial package, to improve internal communication as well as to increase the opportunities for staff to develop their skills.

In order to achieve the first People In Aid Quality Mark and become Committed to
the People In Aid Code of Good Practice, Retrak undertook a comprehensive
audit of their policies and practices. The review concluded that of their 36 policies
covering six HR activity areas (Planning; Recruitment; Deployment; Management;
Development and Transition), 30 of them were present, with the other six either not
present, or incomplete.

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Sierra Leone Red Cross - Committed to the Code


SLRCS wanted to obtain committed status in order to demonstrate that it values its work force who collectively contributes to the achievement of its objectives. Achieving organisational objectives is possible if the work force is well-managed, motivated and empowered to carry out their functions.

The society has been moving gradually towards an improved human resources management system by adapting best HR practices and obtaining a committed status would demonstrate its willingess to continually improve on its practice in people management.

Analysis of the Problem

The HR/Movement Relations Department had set a target to obtain this status and one major challenge was getting prompt feedback from employees on the staff satisfaction survey conducted. Another challenge was developing the Department’s three year plan in line with the Code of Good Practice as some of the indicators were not applicable to their situation.

Solution to the Problem

SLRCS was linked to People In Aid by the British Red Cross, one of SLRCS’ major Partners. Christine Williamson was assigned to the Society as People In Aid focal person and she took their HR Director through the process.

They achieved the status through the following steps:-

  • A written and public commitment to the People in Aid Code of Good Practice
  • A staff engagement exercise - conducting an employee survey

An integration of the SLRCS’ HR Policy and Practice with the People in Aid Code of Good Practice

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TEAR Australia - Committed to the Code


TEAR Australia joined People In Aid in 2008 and immediately set about the task of implementing the Code of Good Practice. They saw the implementation process as a wonderful opportunity to review their HR policies and practices with management and staff. The national staff conference in 2009 provided the opportunity to start the process and engage directly with all staff. TEAR Australia share with us how they went about achieving their first Quality Mark.

Why did TEAR decide to take this path and go through this process?
HR policies and procedures had developed in an ad-hoc way over the past 10 years and were a very mixed bag. Some were highly developed and 'good practice' (e.g. Child Protection) and others were embryonic (e.g. People Management). We also had had some HR pain over the past year, relating to TEAR's rapid growth and inadequate HR processes.

We had been aware of the People In Aid Code and had used it as a reference as we worked on some areas but we felt the need for more rigor and for more external accountability. Aspiring to become compliant gave us that opportunity.

How did TEAR kick start the process?
I (as HR Coordinator) prepared a short presentation to the leadership group outlining some of the failings of our systems and how the Code would help that. I did the same to the Board. We then developed a budget and a working group and the leadership team approved both. We were off and running!

How did TEAR set up the logistics of getting questionnaires completed?
We asked People In Aid for use of their questionnaire and the working group adapted it for TEAR. IT staff then converted it to an online survey program. We set up computer stations around the site of the annual staff conference and cajoled people into completing it while they were all in Melbourne. We also invited People In Aid to send a staff person (Lucy) to come and introduce People In Aid to all the staff during one session, which went down very well.

What was the response from staff?
We had a very high completion rate on the survey. Most of the staff, especially younger ones, could easily see the value of it. It would be fair to say, however, that there was some skepticism about the value of formal HR practices; some concern about losing the informal spirit of TEAR. That is still there and change management is one of the things the working group is taking into account.

Were the results surprising?
Not to me. I had observed some of our weaknesses first hand and knew we had work to do, especially on managing performance. I was surprised that in some questions, there was a clear divide between older and newer (younger) staff members. The latter clearly had much higher expectations of being actively managed and expectations that their career aspirations would be considered as they worked for TEAR.
Overall, there were some very positive findings which balanced the weaker areas. One finding that surprised everyone is how values-driven our staff is. Very few had anything to say about our modest salaries!

What actions are you now taking as a result of the process?
The working group then did a prioritization process to plan what it would work on first. Performance management will be worked on initially, then Health and Safety, then Learning and Development. That should keep us out of mischief for the year! We are developing an Action Plan with timeline markers for 2010.

How will you review the success?
The survey had given us very useful baseline metrics so we will re-survey after we have implemented some of the changes. We may also use other techniques such as focus groups e.g. of young staff members.

How have TEAR found the process so far?
Very user-friendly and quite manageable for a small organization. One of my fears was that we may be biting off more than we could chew and that People In Aid's expectations of us would be unmanageable. So far, we have found the support systems great and all the resources very helpful.

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Womankind - Verified Compliant with the Code

Womankind Worldwide

Womankind Worldwide is an international women's human rights and development charity.

"Organisations displaying a People In Aid Quality Mark can be seen as leaders within the humanitarian and development sector. By gaining verified status it enabled us to demonstrate to our staff that the organisation is working towards the highest standards of people management."

How did you do this?
In order for Womankind to achieve verified status it was essential for us to have internal buy-in from the Executive Director and Senior Management Team. This process was strongly supported by them and enabled us to achieve this.

What were the main challenges?
Applying the process to a medium sized NGO with limited resources.

What are the main benefits to Womankind Worldwide from the Quality Mark?

  • Recognition for the our HR function internally and externally
  • Peers and potential employees may recognise the organisation as a employer of choice
  • A tool to engage with staff
  • Improving our people management systems and helping us to plan for the future
  • Womankind can continue to use People in Aids HR services tools and support

What are the next steps for your organization with regard to HR and people management?
To continue our engagement with staff the next staff survey will take place in October/November 2011. We will also be exploring how People in Aid can support our partners and will be developing an HR strategy.

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People Management

ACF - Decentralisation of HRM (Burkina-Faso, Somalia & Zimbabwe)

Cécile de Calan

In 2010, ACF engaged in a review of head office and field responsibilities to strengthen consistency in work organisation in the field and at HQ level, to enhance mission empowerment and refocus the head office on strategy definition, support and end control. One of this review's stake is to dedicate more care to field human resources with the involvement of capable coordinators as recognised key players who can embed policies on their countries. Country directors become final decision-makers on all mission recruitments.

Analysis of problem

Until 2009, ACF HR were managed according to their types of contract : head office and international staff were handled by two distinct HQ HR units, local field staff were dealt with by the administrators, gradually replaced by HR professionals since 2005. These parallel processes were based on applicable statutory frameworks, but they limited opportunities for aligning practices and facilitating development and retention. In 2009 the HR department's reorganisation around competency areas (employee relations and monitoring, recruitment and career, learning) kick started a new dynamic.

In the field, perceived gaps between local and international staff were reinforced by the fact that the latter were distance-managed by HQ while the former were handled by a local HR coordinator. The organisation wanted to strengthen field team cohesion, and efficiency.

Solution to problem

The HR management decentralisation project is rolled out since June 2010 over 30 months in phases, each comprising a pilot before deployment on all missions. This phasing addresses the need for a gradual increase in HR coordinators workload, and for the mindset changes that the project will require. A launch workshop gathered all HR coordinators and their HQ key relations in Paris to jointly define the future distribution of responsibilities amongst them.

Phase 1 allocates expatriate HR management to voluntary HR coordinators in three pilot countries (Burkina-Faso, Somalia and Zimbabwe): administrative management, appraisal interview follow-up, support to international staff selection, training, global organisational chart analysis and advice on organisational change. In January 2011, the three pilot volunteers attended a detailed training on the HR policies they are taking over, and on basics of French employment law that applies to expatriate contracts, as well as broader organisational issues and conflict management.

The new activity distribution sends a strong signal of fair treatment of all staff regardless of status, and provides international staff with an HR focal point on the ground. Moreover recruitment interviews are now organised in each country for all ACF international staff needs.

Aimé Parfait Coulidiaty, ACF HR coordinator in Burkina-Faso, describes the transition as harmonious, particularly thanks to his admin and finance colleagues' availability to transfer information on the processes he takes over, and to re-direct staff queries to him. To establish his new role, Parfait dedicated a lot of efforts to internal communication, first at a staff annual meeting, and then on a daily basis over the 3-month transition. He feels he could have communicated even more to remote bases. His country director, who was very keen on this project, also provided strong support.

The January training was repeated in June 2011 for all field HR coordinators, with the opportunity to draw lessons from the pilot experience.

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ActionAid Brazil - Positioning Human Resources in ActionAid Brazil

Janaina Tavares

At ActionAid Brazil the HR function grew from being an ‘add-on’ task managed by the finance team to a professional department which responded to local staff needs. Human Resource Coordinator Janaina Tavares explains how ActionAid Brazil positioned HR within the country office and offers advice to those who are embarking on a similar process.

While the organisation was relatively small, policy work depended on translating global policies from ActionAid, and HR issues were dealt with on an ad-hoc basis as they arose. However, as the organisation grew, it became apparent that there was a strategic imperative to establish processes and procedures that were locally relevant, and supported the needs and requirements requested by the country staff.

With executive support from their new Country Director, ActionAid Brazil now has an HR department which is able to respond to HR needs in a local context, and has used tools and resources from People In Aid to further develop and improve its policies and procedures.

"For ActionAid Brazil being committed to the People In Aid Code means delivering effective HR management and affirming our commitment and recognition to staff, volunteers and partners within Action Aid Brazil."

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CAFOD - Competency Framework


CAFOD launched their new 10 year strategic framework, Just One World, in 2010. The organisation needed the competency framework to align with and support it. CAFOD wanted to, first, identify the knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitudes which would support the delivery of their organisational aims. Second, the aim was to embed competencies beyond recruitment into induction, performance development and learning.

The original competency framework, the first CAFOD had developed, was out of date by 2010. More importantly, managers found it difficult to use as it had 21 competencies.
Although each competency had indicators defined, managers and staff rarely made
reference to them. The organisation also knew that although competencies were embedded well in recruitment, this did not follow through into performance development or their learning offer.
Furthermore, managers and staff did not connect their original competency framework to the strategic framework of the time. As an organisation, they did not talk explicitly about recruiting and retaining people with the competencies required to deliver their organisational aims.

Taking action: Developing our abilities to deliver Just One World is the new competency
framework. It is a simple, visual tool. CAFOD have identified 11 core competencies, which apply to all staff, in all functions, in all locations. There are 3 levels to each competency: ‘Being effective’, ‘Excelling’ and ‘Leading the way’. In addition, there are indicators that describe ‘Behaviours we should all avoid’. CAFOD framed Taking action as a tool to enable conversations about delivering Just One World. This ensured that they established its relevance to the core of what they do. CAFOD also framed it as a tool for managers and staff, not as an HR tool, which emphasised its relevance to everyday people management.

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CARE - Gender Equity and Diversity (Worldwide)


CARE's Gender Equity and Diversity strategy (GED) has had a transforming effect on the organization's culture and programming practice. Implemented since 1998, it has built awareness and understanding of diversity issues, and the capability to address them, both within the organization and in the communities where CARE is working. GED is now central to CARE's mission.

In an organization working with communities in around 70 countries worldwide and employing 12,000 staff, CARE’s Gender Equity and Diversity strategy (GED) has transformed the organization’s culture and had a marked impact on the design and effectiveness of its programs.

With the majority of CARE’s employees being national staff working in their own countries, the growth in understanding and capacity to respond to diversity issues has resulted in more sensitive, inclusive, and appropriate programming. For example in India, focused involvement of women has increased participation and sustainability, and led to greater livelihood security.

The first steps were taken in 1998, when leadership from the Board and Executive Team steered this initiative through a global organizational dialogue on Gender Equity and Diversity and CARE’s vision, mission and programming principles. The resulting strategy consisted of three interconnected strands.

Firstly, the process of building analysis and awareness was accomplished by means of a global Diversity Gap Analysis. The second strand involved building capacity and skill, achieved through global conferences and training workshops based on a specially designed diversity curriculum; use of a Gender Toolkit; and incorporation of GED skill building into management and leadership programs. Thirdly, GED was fully integrated into policies, systems and management structures, with Diversity competencies assimilated into recruitment and performance management, and HR policies reviewed. Gender and Diversity were also integrated into programming frameworks and operational strategies.

Standard tools to support GED implementation now include a 4-module GED curriculum, GED Gap Analysis Toolkit, and Inclusive Decision-making Toolkit, while customised GED interventions are produced as required by individual Country Offices.

A core team of 3 Senior GED Advisors takes the lead in ongoing development of the overall Global Strategy. A network of Change Agents in Regional and Country Offices have responsibility for ensuring that GED continues to be incorporated in policies and processes, both within CARE and in its programs.

Resources were committed to this project from the outset and development costs for GED over the last 8 years are estimated in the region of USD 500,000 – 700,000. The cost of implementation over the same period is estimated in the range of USD 750,000 – 1,000,000.

Implemented at global, regional and local level, GED has had a transforming effect. Having created a platform for dialogue and the ability to address difficult issues, such as the role of race at HQ, and of caste in India and Nepal, GED has facilitated the career development of CARE’s employees, with significantly increased numbers of women, staff from developing countries and US minorities in senior positions. This diversified profile is also reflected in new approaches to programming and broader, more sensitive, community involvement.

“Embracing diversity at CARE means valuing, respecting and fully benefiting from each individual’s unique qualities and abilities in order to fulfill and strengthen our vision and mission.” GED has succeeded in changing the culture of the organization, and therefore the way it does its work.

This case study originated from Care International and has been prepared by People In Aid in partnership with the Emergency Capacity Building Project (www.ecbproject.org).

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Islamic Relief Germany - HR Investment Management

Mahmoud Almadhoun

Since 2009 Islamic Relief Germany's staff-base has been growing at an annual rate of 20%, from 26 employees in 2009 to 59 in 2012. In such context of high growth and increased HR costs monitoring was needed to assess the return on investment.

Islamic Relief is an international aid and development charity, which aims to alleviate the suffering of the world's poorest people. Islamic Relief Germany was founded in 1996 and is part of the worldwide-operating Islamic Relief family/network. The headquarters in Germany is based in Cologne, with two further branches based in Essen and Berlin. The main purpose of the offices in Germany is to acquire donations in order to finance projects in countries where support is needed.

Since 2009 Islamic Relief Germany’s staff-base has been growing at an annual rate of 20%, from 26 employees in 2009 to 59 in 2012. For this reason, there has been an urgent need for qualified human resources personnel.

In such context of high growth and increased HR costs, there were many open questions from the CEO and the Board, such as:

  • How the organisation can quantify and measure the contribution of high HR costs to the yearly organisational performance measured by income?

  • Is it possible to measure the performance of each employee as a strategic value for the organisation?

The questions have challenged the organisation to seek new ways of measuring the bottom-line impact of HR performance on the overall organisational performance.

To answer the key questions mentioned above, Islamic Relief Germany adopted several key performance indicators (KPIs) not only for measuring the value added by HR and the contribution of HR to annual income, but also to measure several hidden costs of human resources such as the staff turnover rate, sickness & absenteeism rate, the HR cost per working day and staff performance per hour. Other important HR monitoring in this respect included the measurement of staff training and development’s contribution to the development of both junior and senior personnel.


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Operation Smile - Volunteer Mobilisation (Kenya)

Pamela Mokaya

The Operation Smile Mission in Kenya (OSMIK) is a medical non-governmental organisation with a unique mandate to provide free corrective surgery to children born with cleft lip/cleft palate deformities. The organisation has been successful as a result of its strategic focus on volunteer resources mobilisation. In the last decade the mission has made great strides towards mobilizing the power of humanity through volunteerism both locally and internationally to give these children and young adults a chance to live a normal life.

With the mission’s focus on volunteer recruitment initiatives, awareness campaigns and the commitment of management and team members, the mission has been able to garner support from referral hospitals, local communities and a host of international medical volunteers who assist in the clinical operations. 1 in 500 children in Kenya is born with cleft lip and/or cleft palate deformities, a condition that poses huge challenges to the children, ranging from breathing difficulties to the ability to laugh, eat or speak and as a consequence many of the children suffer from malnutrition, medical and psychological problems.

The Success

The mission has developed staff-friendly initiatives which have seen the organisation attract great people. These initiatives motivate and inspire volunteers, both internationally and locally, by establishing a governance Code of Conduct that ensures transparency and accountability by its leadership, the governing board, staff and volunteers.

To incentivise the volunteers the mission honours all participating volunteers with free American Heart Association (AHA); certified life support training in Basic Life Support (BLS); Paediatric Life Support (PALS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) at various government hospitals across Kenya. The volunteers are also given opportunities to participate in international Operation Smile missions outside Kenya and Africa.

These incentives are not limited to volunteers and OSMIK has developed staff-friendly initiatives to motivate staff and appreciate their contributions to the mission. This includes sending Programme Co-ordinators to the headquarters in Virginia US to share and learn from their counterparts and all other staff members are accorded an annual regional conference in Cape Town, South Africa to participate in the Operation Smile annual regional conference.

With more outreach and engagement with local doctors, formation of Operation Smile clubs in colleges and universities, establishing partnerships with county hospitals and local communities, OSMIK has greatly intensified and enhanced the service delivery throughout Kenya and in particular in the marginalised areas, bringing the total of children and young adults who have benefitted from reconstructive facial surgeries since 1987 to over 8000.

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The Value of Human Resources in CWS - P/A

People In Aid

Church World Service-Pakistan/Afghanistan (CWS-P/A) is an International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO) which implements humanitarian and development activities across Pakistan and Afghanistan. As part of its commitment towards continuous improvement, CWS-P/A regularly reviews HR policy and procedures.

One of the critical areas for CWS-P/A is ‘staff care and rewards’. In South Asian culture, people are often raised in a culture of extreme hard work and self sacrifice. The ability to take on more and more work is not usually recognised as a skill and therefore people do not necessarily think about compensating the efforts that their staff put into their work. This is often replicated within the private sector and staff are often not fairly compensated.

CWS-P/A takes this trend very seriously in its overall staff care policy. In an effort to ensure transparency and to ensure motivation levels stay high amongst staff, CWS-P/A have made strides in ensuring staff are fairly and equally compensated through both monetary and non-monetary rewards and incentives.

Considering that Pakistan/Afghanistan is a developing region with high inflation rates and risks, CWS-P/A believes that it needs to constantly strive to align organisational needs with staff needs. This is most applicable within its emergency response and rehabilitation programs, owing to the extreme resilience that humanitarian work demands in humanitarian settings

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Using People In Aid Resources in Disaster Response

People In Aid

 Concern Worldwide (often referred to as Concern) is Ireland's largest aid and humanitarian agency. Concern works to help those living in the world's poorest countries to achieve real and lasting improvements in their lives. Concern is engaged in long term development work, in addition to emergency relief in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

As Concern responded to the conflict in Darfur in 2004, there was an increased focus 

on how the HR function in the country offices could support and guide staff more 
effectively. As it stood at the time, there was often a lack of consistency across 
different field offices. For instance, across the different field offices, staff were being 
given different benefits in terms of whether travel time was included in their working 
hours, whether they were provided with transport to and from the office or how much 
time they had for their fatuur break (mid-morning breakfast). Individual managers 
were making these decisions as there was no consistent guidance, and staff were 
questioning their own benefits when they heard what other staff were allowed.
This lack of consistency added to the organisational challenges that Concern was
already facing in West Darfur: the ongoing conflict and insecurity often presented 
travel and access difficulties and the political constraints also presented travel, visa 
and permission to work issues. The employment law was very long, complex, and 
difficult to understand. Because of the huge scope of the crisis and the oftenchallenging environment, the HR function in those country offices tended to respond to current problems, rather than putting the correct systems and procedures in place to mitigate future staff issues.
“We knew this wasn't ideal, but the scale of the emergency, the many constraints that 
face you working in Sudan, and our lack of HR skills all conspired to keep us from 
actually getting the right systems and procedures in place in a pro-active manner.”
ex-Area/Camp Coordinator, West Darfur Region, Concern Worldwide
Concern hired an HR/Admin Officer who, as it turns out, heavily relied on materials 
like the People In Aid HR Manual.
“As soon as they arrived they were thrown into the deep end of a long to-do list which 
they somehow managed to prioritise and start putting into action. The complexities of 
Sudanese HR law were mastered and incorporated into contracts and procedures, robust recruitment processes were developed and implemented, our protection policy 
was explained to each of our large number of staff, managers were trained in HR 
procedures, and induction packages were developed. The fact that they were armed 
with such knowledge as the People In Aid Code of Good Practice meant that they
knew where to start in making sure that staff felt valued, and were protected in the 
work they were trying to do.”
ex-Area/Camp Coordinator, Concern Worldwide
The role greatly helped not only the HR function but also the organisation as a whole, 
as Concern became more supportive, informative and educative in the region.

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ACF - A LinkedIn strategy for recruitment


ACF's key objective was to engage with post-graduates to increase awareness of their work and secondly to increase the pool of experienced field staff while reinforcing the credibility of ACF.

This Case Study shares information on ACF's own experiences of utilising social media, what they changed and what challenges and solutions they found.

ACF wanted to target:

a) People with an interest in the humanitarian sector.
b) Technically competent post-graduates who want to gain experience.
c) People with the particular technical experience that they are seeking (e.g. nutrition,
sanitation, etc).

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CRS - Strategic Recruitment (Worldwide)


Catholic Relief Services (CRS) runs an International Development Fellows Program (IDFP) as a successful recruiting tool – people interested in a career in international relief and development can apply for a placement in a country programme, and successful graduates regularly go on to take up key management posts within the agency.

As the official international humanitarian agency of the US Catholic community, Catholic Relief Services provides humanitarian relief and development assistance in 99 countries throughout the world, and uses its International Development Fellows Programme (IDFP) as a successful recruiting tool.

IDFP gives people interested in a career in international relief and development an opportunity to increase their overseas experience and gain broad exposure to CRS programmes. Each year, around 500 applicants compete for approximately 30 one-year placements with country programmes overseas.

When recruiting for IDFP, CRS looks for candidates that have completed a master’s degree in subjects such as international affairs, development or health, professional proficiency in French, Spanish, Portuguese, or Arabic, work experience in a developing country or relevant US-based experience, strong cross cultural skills, and a commitment to its guiding principles of Catholic Social Teaching. Specific job responsibilities depend on the country program’s focus, be it agriculture, health, peace building HIV and AIDS or microfinance.

The IDFP goal is to place fellows where they can draw upon their previous education and work experience while at the same time broadening their skills. Many fellowships lead to regular CRS positions. Since the program’s inception, CRS has been able to promote over 95% of the fellows into program manager positions with country programmes overseas. Many fellows continue to work with CRS overseas for many years, becoming agency leaders.

The program itself took around 10 years to develop and requires a budget in the order of USD 75,000 to run each year, with each fellow ‘costing’ the organisation around USD 30,000. The IDFP is now firmly established as a valuable recruitment tool for CRS, and fellows typically come from a range of universities and academic institutions with whom CRS has developed strong links.

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Oxfam GB - Reference Checking

Helen Evans

When a serious allegation of misconduct is made and investigated, it is common practice to then identify any opportunities for organisational learning.  One such “lessons learnt” review identified a need to strengthen our reference checking process to ensure we weren’t unknowingly hiring staff with prior disciplinary warnings.  This review also identified a need to more rigorously apply any reference checking policy during humanitarian scale-ups.


CARE - Market Driven: Professional Allowance Supplement (Ethiopia)

CARE International

CARE Ethiopia recognises it has to address a range of push and pull factors if they are to improve retention including: limited management and technical capacity for some positions, highly competitive market, competitors with more secure and longer term funding, inhospitable and insecure operating environments and short term funding.

Many of these factors they cannot control however they have successfully developed short and long term strategies to improve the retention of key professionals. The short term strategy, Market Driven - Professional Allowance Supplement is a pragmatic and flexible approach to a complex problem. It has a specific purpose and when used appropriately can improve retention without undermining the existing remuneration and reward systems.

Introduction to the organisation
CARE is an international non-governmental organization operating in over 70 countries globally. CARE has been working in Ethiopia since 1984 undertaking large-scale emergency and development programming. At present, CARE Ethiopia's Country and Field Offices staff over 700 employees operating in South Gondar Zone and Bahir Dar in the Amhara Region, East and West Hararghe and Borana Zones in Oromiya Region, Zones 1, 3, 4 and 5 in the Afar Region, Dire Dawa and Addis Ababa. CARE's programs are grounded in household livelihood security framework and rights-based approaches, which are aimed at addressing the underlying causes of poverty and vulnerability. CARE Ethiopia's mission is to work with poor women and men, boys and girls, communities and institutions, to have a significant impact on the underlying causes of poverty. CARE implements a range of rural and urban based programs, addressing:

  • Emergency Preparedness and Response
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Sexual Reproductive Health
  • Food and Livelihood Security
  • Pastoralist Livelihoods
  • Education
  • Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

CARE's funding comes from a wide variety of donors including the Governments of USA, Canada, UK, Norway, Netherlands, international bodies such as UN OCHA HRF and the European Commission, and private companies and foundations.

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FARM Africa - Regional Staff Development Fund (Kenya)

Farm Africa

Developing staff skills and supporting their career progression has been identified as an important factor in retention. Medium sized I/NGOs are not always able to offer extensive career progression opportunities or have sufficient funds to support staff development. FARM-Africa's Regional Staff Development Fund demonstrates that staff development can be supported within funding limitations to the benefit of employee and employer.

The first step was to formalise the development policy and procedure to ensure a transparent and systematic approach. The Fund application process was designed to highlight the potential and the necessity for alignment between the individuals goals and the organisations needs. This was especially relevant when targeting limited funds for employees

The Fund has made an effective contribution to staff development. The process has highlighted the challenges of maintaining equal opportunity access when motivations amongst staff differ, the difference between developing staff to improve their performance and making them more employable, and the realities of funding restrictions during an economic down turn.

Introduction to the organisation
FARM Africa reduces poverty through innovative approaches to natural resource management. Their vision is of a prosperous rural Africa where resources are efficiently utilised and sustainably managed and the benefits of development are shared equitably among all citizens regardless of gender, education, geographical location, ethnic origin or religion. FARM Africa believe that small farmers and herders can improve their own well being and focus on communities with a degrading resource base and poor access to markets. They have a track record of successful grassroots development and have shown spectacular results from investing modest amounts in alleviating poverty and building capacity of rural organisations.

Background to Farm Africa's Staff Development Fund
In mid-2004 FARM-Africa's new Kenya Country Director found that staff members were hard working and dedicated but there were some obvious areas needing improvement in terms of their skills. Many were also undertaking personal studies in the evenings and at weekends, but were receiving no organisational support in their endeavours. Staff development was mentioned in the staff charter but from previous experience, the new Country Director felt that having an official policy and guidelines and earmarked funding would help strengthen both staff motivation and their competence to do their work more effectively.

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HIJRA - Managing Retention (Somalia)


HIJRA is a national NGO in Somalia and a partner of an ECB member. The growth of its operations has in recent years increased its need to retain its skilled members of staff. At the same time its competitors for talent include large INGOs and the UN agencies.

Introduction to the organisation
Humanitarian Initiative Just Relief Aid (HIJRA) is a Non-Governmental Organization founded in 1992 as a collective response to the humanitarian crisis that erupted in Somalia following the fall of the Siad Barre government in 1991. Since its inception, HIJRA Somalia has implemented a range of programmes from humanitarian relief and recovery to development programmes mainly in South Central Somalia.

With the outbreak of the civil war in 1991, most of the qualified and experienced people left Somalia to neighbouring countries. Others sought refuge in Europe, Asia and America. This meant that the recruitment of staff with relevant skills in Somalia remained a major challenge. Staff started acquiring skills in different aspects of project implementation and some were fortunate enough to receive capacity building from the agencies. Over time these skilled people understood their skills were in high demand and they were marketable. They began to seek better paying jobs within non-governmental and governmental organizations. Agencies with limited funding like HIJRA found it difficult to retain experienced and qualified staff.

Since 2000 HIJRA has expanded its programmes tremendously. It is now able to generate internal resources to fund some of its activities ensuring HIJRA can offer stable employment for some positions. However many positions are still funded by short term project funding. Staff still leave the organization after a short period. To effectively manage its human resources, HIJRA established an HR Department in April 1st, 2009.

Background to implementing the People In Aid Code of Good Practice
With the HR department in place HIJRA was able to analyse its retention situation. HIJRA concluded that lack of retention was caused by:

  • Poor remuneration due to unstable funding from the donor community:
  • 90% of all HIJRA recruitment is due to project implementation. This means without continuing programmes HIJRA cannot hire many staff for long. Consequently at the end of a specific program staff contracts would also come to an end
  • Lack of learning, training and staff development: With such a working environment based on projects, proper training and long term staff training and development is lacking because HIJRA could not guarantee the costs for staff training and development due to lack a of funding
  • Weak HR systems- poor recruitment procedures, staff orientation and job placement:Though HR systems were operational they remained weak since staff supervision was the preserve of programme officers in various sectors. This reduced the role of HR to that of an observer waiting for the contracts to end before recruitment began again.
  • Lack of staff recognition- lack of staff grading based on qualification: The absence of salary scales and non adherence to qualifications and experience impacted negatively on staff wanting to remain in HIJRA for longer duration. Therefore they looked to other organisations for career progression.
  • Lack of staff policies and practices: All staff policies and practices were not in place and this meant staff were not well informed and created poor communication and within the organization

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Trocaire - A New Manager's Impact on Retention (East Africa)


A New Manager's Impact on Retention after Organisational Change.

For Trócaire's East Africa regional office new strategies and programme approaches brought significant upheaval and change. It was recognised that the changes affected staff morale. Uncertainty and anxiety increased turnover. Senior managers were conscientious of staff needs and support was provided. However it was the arrival of a new regional manager and their different style that transformed the team.

The new regional manager was openly acknowledged by staff to have related to them as people, offering personal disclosures and empathy to build rapport, empowered staff and directly involved them in issues that affected them. As a result staff engagement was improved as there was new energy and positive attitudes. Turnover was seen to improve; demonstrating that a managers style can be a catalyst for improved retention.

Introduction to the organisation
Trócaire is a non-profit making relief and development agency set up by the Irish Catholic Bishops in 1973 to address the concerns of the Irish Catholic Church on the needs and injustices affecting developing countries. Trócaire has two main aims; to help those in need in the developing countries and to make Irish people more aware of these needs and its duty to justice towards them.

Trócaire works in solidarity with local development actors in over 30 countries throughout the developing world. Trócaire Horn and East Africa Regional Office in Nairobi work in six countries namely Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia.

Background to change in leadership
From 2005, Trócaire faced major changes which coincided with the formulation of a new strategic framework. Subsequently the new strategic plan (2006-2016) introduced a new organizational structure and a change from 'projects approach' to a 'programme approach'. This shift entailed a move from funding individual discrete projects (or 'baskets of projects' in a country or region) to supporting and financing a more coherent range of interventions, spanning a number of partners, all contributing to a common objective and platform of action. .

These changes introduced new approaches to work. It also had a significant impact in the programmes approval system, new staff positions, reorganization of some existing staff positions, and in some cases, staff redundancies. The changes directly affected staff morale and increased anxiety to the extent that some staff left the organization. The Horn and East Africa Regional office in particular was affected by the staff departures and the challenges of staff retention.

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Trocaire - Mitigating the Impact of Restructuring on Staff (Somalia)


A midterm evaluation recommended restructuring Trócaire's Consortium Somalia programme. Trócaire was committed to implementing these changes according to good practice and to minimise the impact of this negative experience for staff. Planning, communication and leadership were considered the key to its success and the retention of the best people for the new programme.

Introduction to the organisation
Trócaire is a non-profit making relief and development agency set up by the Irish Catholic Bishops in 1973 to address the concerns of the Irish Catholic Church on the needs and injustices affecting developing countries. Trócaire has two main aims; to help those in need in the developing countries and to make Irish people more aware of these needs and its duty to justice towards them.

Trócaire Somalia programme was consortium of NGOs between Trócaire and Merlin and previously between Trócaire, CORDAID and AMREF. The consortium was transferred to Trócaire Somalia programme in August 2009 when the partnership arrangement with Merlin was dissolved. The Somalia country programme is one of the country programmes of the Trócaire Horn and East Africa Regional Office (HEARO) based in Nairobi.. Trócaire HEARO is responsible for 6 countries namely Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Uganda. In Somalia, Trócaire with support from donors, provide assistance to public health, nutrition and education services in five districts of the Gedo Region.

Background to the restructure
In February 2009 a mid-term evaluation of the Somalia programme was carried out. In response to the needs of the programme and the changing context in Somalia the evaluation recommended to restructure the organization. The Executive Committee of Gedo Health Consortium reviewed the recommendations and decided to dissolve the partnership. Under the new arrangement, a new structure was developed based upon the number of staff and technical skills required to support the future of the programme in Gedo. Consequently staff were to be directly contracted by Trócaire Somalia programme.

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Cordaid - Results Based Financing (Zimbabwe)

Frans Pakvis

In late 2010 the ministry of Health in Zimbabwe, the World Bank and Cordaid agreed on the implementation of a Results Based Financing (RBF) project, in order to improve the health system in Zimbabwe. By 2012 a nationwide RBF system was to be installed in order to enhance the quality and quantity of the Zimbabwean Health facilities and district Hospitals in rural areas. The emphasis lies on Mother and Child care.

Analysis of the problem

Along with the agreement came a very tight time path for implementation. Things had to be organized very quickly as a head office in Harare and two operational local purchase units in Marondera and Gweru had to be staffed, trained, equipped and operational by May 2011. It meant less than 2 months to go! In the meantime, interim expatriate staff were already present in Harare in order to prepare the start up phase. However, these staff members did not have time to set up a major recruitment project and no local HR staff were present to offer support.

So here we have the problem: how to get the required quantity of qualified local staff on board, set up a decent HR policy, a job rating and salary system, all within a very tight timeframe?

Solution to the Problem

To tackle the problem, Cordaid chose to hire a HR consultant who knows Cordaid well.

“I know Cordaid very well and had seen more RBF projects so, after an open tender procedure, they hired me as HR consultant with HRtogether consultancy. Within a week’s time I was flown into Zimbabwe. Upon arrival I made a short survey on what was present already and what was to be done before which date. Based on that information I made a sharp time frame of action points and prioritised them”.


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GRET - Reward policy (Mauritania)

Cécile de Calan

Gret has been in Mauritania for 20 years and is currently leading 7 projects (water, rural electrification, waste, community support, youth social integration and child nutrition) in 3 locations. The team is made of 50 Mauritanian employees and a few international staff. Gret Mauritania first set up a human resource unit in 2004. Yaghoub Kone, current HR manager, joined the team in 2005. Mauritania labour and tax regulatory framework is perceived as complex and open to multiple interpretations.

Analysis of problem

In the absence of a robust salary grid and dedicated HR professional, reward decisions had been ad-hoc, random and rarely documented. The reward package comprised many bonuses, also randomly allocated, and with an uncertain tax status. Employees did not necessarily bother to understand the details on their payslips but were aware of salary gaps, whereby for example some field facilitators could earn double the salary of others, and HR faced many queries on the rationale for some salary levels. In 2010 the arrival of a new country representative, Bernard Gay, alongside the launch of an international HR practice alignment project within Gret, created the opportunity to review the reward policy, in order to:

  • Ensure legal compliance,
  • Provide a salary grid both well-structured and understood by staff, and opening promotion opportunities,
  • Provide social insurance cover,

while containing staff costs in a tense funding background.

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Merlin - NGO Global Pay benchmarking Survey


For Merlin the context and background to participate in the NGO Global Pay survey, like many organisations in the sector, was to assess the competitiveness of the organisation in terms of salary and benefits. Assessing objectively where Merlin can position themselves with reliable information.

“Benchmarking yourself with strong hard data is essential to know where you stand in the sector and review it internally.”

The surveys also provide information about practices from other organisations and how widespread these practices are. For example, what do organisations include in their accompanied package? Another important aspect is to capture the reward changes in the sector, e.g. last year it seems that income tax policies were on the agenda of some organisations.


“It was very useful to see what the trends are and assess whether we should join the bandwagon and if so, how.”

Finally the context is also often another reason for Merlin to take part to the survey was that three years ago, Merlin had some recruitment and retention issues which seemed to be link to salaries. Many of the staff at the exit interviews highlighted that salary and reward would come up as some of the main reasons to leave the organisation. The survey therefore enabled Merlin to assess whether it was an actual reflection of the market.

To summarise, the three key rationale for their participation were:
1. Competiveness
2. Practices and trends in the sector
3. Operational issues linked to recruitment and retention.

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WaterAid - Global Reward Journey


A two tier contracting approach had evolved which distinguished between national/local appointments and international/expatriate appointments. This approach reflected thinking which is common across the INGO sector that some appointments require enhanced salary and terms and conditions in order to be competitive and/or compensate for the personal disruption associated with international mobility. Although WaterAid only had 12 staff on expatriate terms this distinction created disquiet and discomfort across the organisation through a perception of unfairness.

In exploring the issue it became apparent that the organisation was not clear what it meant by international/expatriate staff i.e. was it about the nature and requirements of the job, the nationality of the incumbent or a combination of both? There were inconsistencies inherent in the approach, for example staff relocating to its HQ did not receive the expat package. There was concern that WaterAid was paying differently based on nationality. It was found that shorter terms benefits were being offered for longer assignments e.g. staff who had lived in their assignment country for extended periods continued to receive benefits associated with short term mobility/relocation such as accommodation and education support and home leave. As a development organisation WaterAid, generally, does not expatriate staff for short term assignments. WaterAid were clear that they needed to be flexible, competitive and equitable whilst reflecting what is important to their stakeholders and being true to their own values and founding principles. They also wanted a solution that was simple to explain and manage.

Solution to the Problem

1. They revisited the organisation’s first ethos paper by WaterAid’s original Director David Collett. This said:
We are trying to increase the capacity and the confidence … So we are seeking to avoid
dependency upon us…Were they [our staff] to be highly paid, with a lifestyle quite different from their local colleagues, and with their leisure immersed entirely in expatriate groups, then again we would be taking them away from the essentially egalitarian relationships…They need sufficient income to live comfortably, but they also need a motivation for the ethos…We are not a commercial organisation, and the employment packages, which such organisations are able to offer, cannot and should not apply in our case.
2. Next they articulated the principles that are important to WaterAid in the way it rewards employees:
• To be fair and non-discriminatory
• To reflect the local context
• To be competitive
• To be simple, flexible and to tailor approaches to their context within a global framework of standards
3. After considerable internal debate a new employment proposition was agreed in which the starting point for establishing pay and benefits across the board is a clear understanding of the job that needs to be done and the skills and experience required to do it so that an appropriate rate for the job can be established which is competitive and relevant to the market. The international/expatriate designation was dropped and all salaries are now benchmarked against the relevant market for the job and it is recognised that that this can include the traditional INGO international market place to enable salary scales that are competitive and attractive. However, terms and conditions are consistent within the location which the post is based.
4. Most appointments are offered on an open ended basis and initial short term relocation support can still be made available if an employee relocates to take up a new post. This can include a relocation service.
5. WaterAid have taken an incremental implementation approach whereby existing staff have been allowed to remain on previous terms and conditions and new employees are offered the new package.

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Staff Care & Well-being

Christian Aid - Reviewing Staff Wellbeing

Christian Aid

All employers have a legal duty of care towards the wellbeing and safety of their staff. Christian Aid puts staff wellbeing high on the agenda, and undertook a comprehensive internal and external review to identify the current state in its organisation, what peers in the sector were doing, and where there was room for improvement.

This case study outlines how Christian Aid carried out the review, how it grouped findings into thematic areas, and the resulting actions and initiatives it put in place to improve staff wellbeing.

The wellbeing review including a mix of tools including reports, workshops and survey data analysis. Key findings included:

  • Supporting wellbeing is important at the organisational, management and individual levels.
  • Staff welcomed the initiative on the basis that it was ultimately benefitting them and their wellbeing.
  • While there were standard policies that all offices adhered to, many teams and country offices had implemented their own mechanisms to promote wellbeing, such as on-site yoga, celebrating birthdays, or lunches together.

"The area of wellbeing is huge and can embrace many areas, however, the team learned that it is best to focus and deliver well on a few simple initiatives at a time, taking into consideration resources and other organisational initiatives."

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MSF UK - Returners' Talk and Volunteer Link (UK)


Médecins Sans Frontières MSF (Doctors Without Borders) is an independent humanitarian medical aid organisation committed to providing medical aid where it is most needed, regardless of race, religion, politics or gender and also to raising awareness of the plight of the people they help.

The UK office was established in London in 1993. It supports MSF's field work through recruiting volunteers, collecting donations and raising awareness of humanitarian crises through the media. A specialist medical team works directly with the field projects to help solve urgent clinical problems.

MSF-UK has between 180 and 200 International staff returning from areas of acute crisis annually. There are formal and informal opportunities for returning staff to talk about their experience in the field and decide whether additional support is needed.

At the end of their assignment, each staff member is required to return through one of 5 Operational Centres for a “returners' talk”, offered by a qualified psychological practitioner who understands the specific pressures of working in unstable environments.

In rare cases where field staff do not pass through an operational centre, MSF-UK uses a consultant psychotherapist to ensure that all staff have received the returners' talk. The consultant psychotherapist is also available for confidential sessions for returning staff when the staff person requests clinical counselling.

When the worker returns to the UK, they receive a debriefing/exit interview in the office and are subsequently followed up through a system called “Volunteer Link”. This system includes a Volunteer Link Coordinator and ten Volunteer Link Representatives. All of the Representatives have previously worked with MSF and are selected by the Coordinator for their sensitivity to the emotional needs of returning staff. The Volunteer Link Coordinator is a staff member of MSF who arranges for all returned workers to receive a telephone call from a Representative six to eight weeks after return. The Representatives are not clinical but receive training by the Volunteer Link Coordinator and the consultant psychotherapist in supporting returning staff.

A senior HR manager said, “In terms of psychological health, the availability of an external and confidential follow-up phone call by Volunteer Link is one of the most helpful practices. Initiating conversation with the returning staff gives them an opportunity to talk about the re-entry experience and provides an avenue for professional psychological support though referral to a psychologist that they may not pursue otherwise”.

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OCHA - Surge Staff Care


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is the part of the United Nations (UN) Secretariat responsible for bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent response to emergencies. OCHA also ensures there is a framework within which each actor can contribute to the overall response effort.

During emergencies, OCHA draws on a number of surge rosters to supplement its country and regional office teams with the rapid deployment of experienced personnel. These personnel may already belong to OCHA as full-time staff members; they may belong to one of OCHA’s Standby Partners; or they may be selected from a pool of external associates.

The Surge Capacity and Logistics Section (SCLS), within the Emergency Services Branch at OCHA headquarters in Geneva, provides the platform and focal point for managing the deployment of surge staff in support of OCHA’s mandate for predictable and effective leadership of humanitarian response operations in the field. Note that this is a separate platform from the mainstream recruitment and selection of regular staff members, as facilitated by OCHA’s Human Resources Section.

Strategic guidance on general staff care issues has, for a number of years, been developed and articulated through various organisational documents, such as the OCHA Human Resources Strategy and the UN Framework of Accountability.

As surge staffing grew in both scope and complexity throughout the 2009-10 period, it was further acknowledged that, as a complement to existing guidance, here was an opportunity to strengthen the additional care provided to those personnel who were being deployed on swift, individual and short-term missions. In many instances, OCHA surge staff members were given substantive support before, during and after their assignments. However, this had not yet been systematically formalised within the organisation’s policies and procedures.


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Oxfam GB - improving staff wellbeing

Oxfam GB

At Oxfam GB, an increase in organisational stress-related absence was identified through qualitative and quantitative data such as individual staff risk assessments, and outputs from the staff survey on work-life balance. As part of its annual plan, the Office's Health & Safety Committee was tasked with finding mechanisms to raise staff awareness of stress-related issues and practical ways to support improvements in staff wellbeing.

Rather than taking the traditional approach of classroom-based training, a sub-group of the Health & Safety Committee developed a six-month long campaign-based programme of events and training focused on five strands of wellbeing: mental, emotional, physical, social and environmental.

The programme engaged all staff, at all levels, and through a variety of communications channels. A clear communications plan and a launch event in a central, communal space improved the overall impact of the programme. Events included an exhibition of staff-lead interest groups, a month of healthy eating options in the cafeteria, and pilates classes in the lunch hour.

“The programme has had a positive impact on stress-related absence. Six-monthly sickness and absence figures have shown an 8% decrease in stress-related absence.”

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SAFAIDS - HIV Workplace Policy (Southern Africa)

Pamela Mokaya

The Southern Africa region has borne the brunt of the HIV/Aids pandemic perhaps more than any other region in Sub-Saharan Africa. The consequences of the pandemic on the social fabric and the economic development of the region cannot be over emphasized. The effects have been devastating for the region’s workforce and SAFAIDS like any other organisation in this region has had its share of the devastating effects.


The introduction of the HIV/Aids Workplace Policy helped the organisation navigate through very difficult times by securing the general buy-in of the policy, altering employee perceptions and attitudes through regular communication and the introduction of incentives such as refresher peer training. The general attitude of the staff is more accommodating HIV/Aids is no longer a taboo topic at work and discrimination and stigmatization are well under control.

The organisation has experienced improved interpersonal relationships among staff members, irrespective of their status, and there is more acceptance, tolerance and better team synergy in SAFAIDs offices throughout the region.


The HIV/Aids pandemic is a great threat to populations in Sub-Saharan Africa and as long as a cure remains elusive and people’s lifestyles fuel its spread, previous gains are easily eroded. This means more demands on donor funding and increases the struggle for donor support with other equally deserving courses.

Scarcity of skills to deal with the pandemic leads to work overload for the few skilled employees and this situation is made worse by the fact that interns, volunteers and contract workers do not have access to the right information. The organisation is constantly required to keep training the volunteers and interns and this too requires commitment of resources. In the past such initiatives relied on the good will of volunteers but with the changing demographics, the younger generation of volunteers has a more entrepreneurial mind set. They are more aware of wealth creating opportunities so tend to be restless when confronted with a structured bureaucratic system.

Lack of time is yet another challenge SAFAID is grappling with in trying to attract interns and volunteers. The South African economy is expanding very rapidly and with that the cost of living is escalating so people must find gainful employment to make ends meet. This affects the possibility of people for volunteering their time for activities that do not add to their bottom line.

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Tearfund - Mandatory Medical & Debriefing Opt-out Policy (UK)


Mandatory Post-assignment Medical and Opt-out Policy for Psychological Debriefing

Tearfund is a Christian international aid and development agency working globally to end poverty and injustice, and to restore dignity and hope in some of the world’s poorest communities. They operate in roughly fifty countries around the world. As well as being present in disaster situations and recovery through their response teams, they speak out on behalf of poor people on the national and international stage by petitioning governments, campaigning for justice and raising the profile of key poverty issues.

Tearfund requires all returning field-based staff to attend a returner’s medical check-up at a pre-approved travel health clinic and has an opt-out policy for a post-assignment psychological debriefing with one of three psychologists or three professional counsellors: all of whom have received additional training by Tearfund to provide an appropriate debriefing experience. 

Tearfund’s psychological debriefing began as critical incident stress group debriefing but soon developed into individual debriefing for all emergency personnel. A Tearfund manager says, “It became a normal end-of-assignment protocol for our relief teams, developing it as an opt-out model rather than an opt-in one, so that it became accepted as a normal post-assignment appointment rather than pinpointing anyone as ‘needing a debrief’.”

Because staff must sign a disclaimer should they choose not to receive the debriefing, the opt-out policy encourages staff to receive a psychological check-up. The procedure also provides legal protection if psychological issues present after staff have left the organisation.

Tearfund subsequently decided to offer the post-assignment psychological debriefing to non-relief international staff and frequent travellers based in London, due to the inherent challenges and accumulative stress that all workers encounter. “We felt that staff would benefit from this type of individual and confidential support whether or not they felt, or others perceived them as being ‘high risk’. Staff share valuable insight on the positive and challenging aspects of their assignment. This insight needs to be woven back into the fabric of the organisation so that it can adapt and grow.”

Tearfund has found that almost all eligible staff (approximately 90%) voluntarily attend a post assignment psychological debriefing. They have created a culture that acknowledges the inherent stress of aid work. Currently, a small number of international staff are debriefed in Nairobi and Tearfund is in the process of identifying and working with psychologists and doctors in Nairobi who can offer services in line with those provided in London. Finding high quality medical and psychological services for staff that do not return through regional or headquarter offices was identified as a challenge for several organisations.

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UNICEF UK - Field-based psychological support (Worldwide)


UNICEF UK is a registered charity raising funds and awareness to support UNICEF's work to protect child rights worldwide, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Due to the high stress contexts of many UNICEF staff, a comprehensive system of field-based psychological support ensures that staff have access to internal and external professionals for preventing and mitigating psychological distress on assignment.

UNICEF has a multifaceted system by which staff in the field can access professional psychological support.

  • Global Staff Counsellor: UNICEF has a Global Staff Counsellor who is available for email and phone consultations and face-to-face counselling when in-country. Additionally, all staff have access to an international EAP.
  • UN Counsellors: UNICEF links with a global network of other UN agency Counsellors to cover the needs of psychological support to national and international staff. UNICEF also uses local counsellors through the agency-wide Critical Incident Stress Intervention Cells. The Intervention Cells are comprised of in-country professionals who are hired on a contract basis to support staff. Each of these mental health practitioners are vetted through the UNDSS (Department of Safety and Security in New York) by reviewing qualifications and credentials and phone interviews. The UNDSS then liaises with the in-country Security Management Team and advises on practitioner and institutional selection. This level of support is particularly useful in high stress, yet secure contexts that do not have UN Peacekeeping missions. The UNDSS has a Staff Counselling Unit that provides technical supervision to the in-country professionals when appropriate. There are around 85 professional counsellors in the UN system globally that can be accessed by UNICEF staff when needed.
  • Referral system: UNICEF has also identified a large number of private counsellors at the local level. UNICEF staff members, and their direct dependants who require ongoing professional psychological support, are provided with the contact details of these counsellors, where available. UNICEF’s medical insurance covers the majority of the cost of consultation with these professionals, with additional co-pay covered by the staff member.

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Working Towards a Holistic Approach to Debriefing

Norweigan Refugee Council

In a group session, during a Debrief Seminar in Oslo in 2013, a deployee, recently returned from her mission to South Sudan, said:

“What I would like to bring up is not about the harsh working conditions, or the continuous feeling of insecurity in South Sudan, but it is actually about me and my line manager. I´m not sure, but it is as if my line manager doesn´t count on me, or doesn´t see me. I´m never invited to meetings, which I should be. If I am lucky, they send me a summary, even though they have discusses topics within my field of expertise. And two weeks ago, she had a birthday party, and I was the only one not invited (starts crying). I don´t think I can handle this anymore, it´s just too much!”


Sometimes in our work it is not necessarily the security threat, or hearing bombs on a daily basis, that is the biggest challenge. It can be the sense of isolation and loneliness in the office that, together with all the other stressors, is the drop that makes the chalice overflow. The many stresses in the life of a deployee are the main reason why effective debriefing is crucial. During debriefing, staff share experiences on topics like the harsh working conditions in the field, unhealthy food, poor accommodation, heat, illness as well as conflicts in the office and the lack of interpersonal and communication skills. Many factors can strongly affect staff: living a highly transitional lifestyle – not knowing where or what a home is; the difficulty in maintaining good relationships with family, friends, children and partners; the security and risk challenges, threat of kidnap, hearing bombs, etc. as well as their experiences of coming from one particular culture and arriving in a new culture with a different language. There are also challenges connected with long working days, with staff often struggling to maintain a good work-life balance.

These experiences, and many more, were the backbone for why it was important for the Norwegian Refugee Council´s Expert Deployment/NORCAP Department, to look more closely into how they actually met (or did not meet) the needs of their staff.

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Talent Management

Australian Red Cross -Talent Management (Pacific)

Adrian Prouse

Australian Red Cross works in partnership with Solomon Islands Red Cross – local experts in community health, water and sanitation, and disaster management – to support their efforts in community health and disaster preparedness.

To improve the health and hygiene practices of some of their most remote communities, Solomon Islands Red Cross (SIRC) set up a community-based project, supported by AusAID through Australian Red Cross. Tugeda Uime Waka for Helti Komuniti (Together We Work for Healthy Communities or THK) aims to provide communities with the knowledge and skills to help them improve health and hygiene practices, as well as supply equipment and the technical support to help them change their environment. To date this program has been implemented in 26 remote communities throughout Malaita and Guadalcanal.

Analysis of problem

In 2009 in collaboration with Norwegian Red Cross, Canadian Red Cross and Fijian Red Cross, Australian Red Cross ran a field based training program on community health in a remote Fijian village. The purpose of the program was to instruct Red Cross delegates (expatriates) how to work through and build the capacity of local Red Cross National Society staff and volunteers to develop locally appropriate education material and strategies for disease prevention, control and monitoring.

As Australian Red Cross has been supporting the THK program in the Solomon Islands it had trained and developed numerous Solomon Island Red Cross staff in hygiene promotion and emergency responses. SIRC now has several fully trained PHAST facilitators as a result of the program. There was clearly a natural fit between the THK program and the field based training program.

Solution to Problem

The SIRC Health Promotions Officer had been identified as a staff member with a bright future and someone integral to the success of the THK program. While the field based training scenario was targeted at Red Cross delegates, Australian Red Cross recognised extending this opportunity to the Health Promotions Officer was a good investment in the THK program, in SIRC and in talent.

It should be noted this opportunity was not extended as a capacity development initiative; the Health Promotions Officer had capacity. This opportunity was extended because of the Health Promotions Officer’s ability to add value to the training. The Health Promotion Officer’s inclusion added value because it increased the cultural understanding of the delegates in attendance. It also positively impacted the quality of the THK program by bringing new skills and knowledge to the THK team, which consequently benefited the communities the THK program targets. It also increases the skills and knowledge which SIRC can use in response to disasters in the Solomon Islands.

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Save The Children UK - Talent Management

People In Aid

 In 2007 Save the Children UK developed a strategic ambition called ‘Change for Children’ which focused on how they could inspire dramatic change for children. It set out what they aim to achieve for children in the next ten years, a plan for what they need to do over three years, and a detailed annual plan.

 In 2007 Save the Children UK developed a strategic ambition called ‘Change for Children’ which focused on how they could inspire dramatic change for children. It set out what they aim to achieve for children in the next ten years, a plan for what they need to do over three years, and a detailed annual plan.

How the global talent/people management strategy supports the achievement of the charity’s ten-year plan:

SC UK's Talent and Leadership strategies centre on ensuring they have the top talent in critical locations at exactly the right time. This is achieved through:

  • Attracting top talent through networks and being an agency of choice in the sector.
  • Deploying people with the right skills at sometimes short notice to hazardous locations.
  • Supporting employee recruitment through online systems managed at country programme level (“Our people on the ground are best placed to select their talent” ), which is supported by a consistent recruitment model.
  • Identifying the top 100 staff globally (national and international) by looking at their performance and potential, their leadership development, and supporting them with career conversations.
  • Online talent pools and alumni allow them to deploy people with the right skills at short notice and stay connected with talent.
  • To deliver their goals, they are fully committed to promoting diversity: “We value and maximise our differences to achieve dramatic change for children. Globally we provide the overarching principles and frameworks of diversity that provide structure to local policy development that fulfils the specific needs of the programmes, local legislation and ensure our staff reflect the most vulnerable communities in which we work” .
  • The Emergency Response Team work across boarders and cultures, and Save the Children build their own humanitarian talent through proactively supporting senior national staff in roles that provide experience and exposure to international roles and various trainee schemes.
  • Retention and development programmes - the Leadership Academy provides experiential development with direct feedback, and ongoing mentoring or coaching for Management, Senior Management and Leaders throughout the organisation - 1,500 people have attended the 80 programmes globally since 2004.
  • Supported development through online learning initiatives.
  • Annually reviewing the compensation packages at local, and international levels to ensure they remain competitive.

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Debriefing: Building Staff Capacity (Worldwide)

People In Aid

 Throughout the Debriefing Follow-up Masterclass which was held on 19 September 2011, many participants expressed concerns about how limited staff capacity negatively affected their debriefing sessions. The explanations were varied – sometimes the debriefers were not as experienced or trained as they could have been, and sometimes they did not have enough time to go into detail with the individual.

 Debbie Hawker recommends that personal debriefing usually takes around two hours. A number of the participants questioned how, with limited staff capacity, one can spend this long with each individual. Many felt that in their organisation debriefing had simply become a “tick box” to be checked, and that they did not have the time to go into detail and address each individual’s experience. In addition, limited time imposed inhibitions on individuals, preventing them from fully opening up and sharing their thoughts thus rendering the session redundant. One participant noted that “if an individual knows that they have to have everything together in half an hour, it is very difficult for them to let go, confront and relive the experience”.

But what if the individual is willing to open up and, within a time limit, the debriefer is unable to offer any sense of closure? Is it better to avoid opening up issues which the debriefer and their organisation do not have the capacity to deal with?

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Debriefing: The Balance Between Confidentiality and Feedback

People In Aid

 As the participants of the Debriefing follow-up Masterclass on the 19 September 2011 discussed their experiences of confidentiality in a debriefing context, a paradox began to emerge – all agreed that confidentiality was absolutely vital to a debriefing session, yet they also agreed that the process of feeding back to the organisation about potential problems is, too, completely necessary.

As the Debriefing Manual states: “if you do not offer confidentiality, they [the debriefees] are unlikely to be completely honest with you and the debriefing will not be as beneficial for them.” But should debriefers also consider the advantages of pointing out negative trends to their organisation, as well as the benefit that providing feedback from debriefings could have for future aid workers? If so, how can they target this, without breaking participant confidentiality?

Problems such as this seemed to be a common theme in the Masterclass, with almost every participant sharing a similar experience. One participant told of a session where they debriefed an individual who had come into conflict with another aid worker. The conflict impacted extremely negatively on the debriefee’s experience abroad, and the debriefer was concerned that this kind of conflict could arise again if not confronted immediately by the organisation (as the person involved might continue to serve with the organisation).

The fact that conversation between past and future aid workers frequently occurs only adds to this – potential aid workers will be put off going onto the same assignment if they hear about issues which the organisation have failed to address.

Whilst confidentiality is an essential component to the debriefing process, in situations such as these, it is necessary to examine this relationship and try to find solutions to the difficult problems which arise.

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VSO: Debriefing Strategy

People In Aid

VSO places a huge amount of importance on the briefing of volunteers before they go overseas, offering pre-departure training, advice and support. Debriefing was not new to VSO but was offered mainly to volunteers who returned early due to either personal reasons or issues to do with their placement.

VSO recognised the need to change in a fluctuating and challenging sector and recently reviewed it strategy. The new strategy called ‘People First’ recognised the need to put people at the centre of their work and to continue to learn from experiences. Debriefing was recognised as one of the ways that they could continue to learn from volunteers’ experiences so they could improve their systems, processes and support to volunteers. Scaling up in the organisation required increasing the pool of debriefing staff by at least 40 people.
On top of this, VSO was looking for strategic ways to achieve longer engagement with volunteers.

In June 2011, VSO’s Training and Development advisor attended a Debriefing Staff Workshop run by People In Aid. The event gave participants a greater insight into how to offer effective debriefing and support to staff and volunteers returning from relief, development or missionary assignments (both short and long term assignments).

After attending this workshop, they returned to the organisation with some new suggestions for their debriefing policies.

“After I left the Debriefing Training in June, I actually went back to my Manager, told her about the fantastic training and pointed out some things that we could be doing as an organisation….we looked at the whole process of debriefing, and made recommendations for change based on the workshop.”

For the participant, this was an opportunity to feed into how returned volunteer engagement was conducted. After discussions with Project Coordinator responsible for resettlement process there was agreement that debriefing should be offered to all volunteers – not only those who returned early from assignments.

By making debriefing available for all volunteers, on an opt-out basis, more feedback was provided; what’s more, by providing feedback, volunteers felt valued, although their programme work was over, they still have a positive contribution to make to VSO.


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World Vision International - Exiting with dignity (Indonesia)

Worl Vision International

An organisation which is seen by staff to be acting according to its values increases retention and motivation. In this case study WorldVision (WV) remained true to its values at a time of retrenchment and transition - and gained benefits. The Evaluation results of Project Merlot show that staff exited WV feeling valued by the organization and proud of their work.

The Objective: Project MERLOT, as the initiative was called, was designed to meet the Human Resource challenges facing Tsunami Response Teams as programs moved into transition, and employment contracts for significant numbers of staff were to end. Based on a determination to translate World Vision (WV) core values into practice, the project's goal was to help staff feel their value and worth with practical implications for their personal and professional development by ensuring they exited with dignity and with improved occupational prospects.

Specifically in Indonesia the project was described as a basic HR activity to help ensure the image of the organisation was not badly affected, while in Thailand MERLOT was planned to help defuse potential issues associated with staff hearing that the project was to close earlier than anticipated.

The questions senior WorldVision HR staff asked themselves were:

  1. How can WV ensure that exiting staff feel valued for their contribution to the tsunami response work and leave with dignity and a sense of pride?
  2. How can WV ensure exiting staff are better equipped to seek new employment?
  3. How can WV identify and retain those staff with the 'right' competencies and match them with the right posts across the Partnership to help strengthen the organisation's human resources?

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