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Nurturing aid workers' unique engagement

This contribution to a panel on Humanitarian Careers for the 2009 World Conference on Humanitarian Studies is based on my experience as an HR director and consultant with aid agencies, after 15 years in the corporate sector.

Implementing professional HR policies does indeed contribute to NGOs ability to deliver their mission in ensuring they can get, grow and retain rare resources. Rather than importing such systems directly from corporate management models, they should be designed around the very special engagement that aid workers demonstrate in their work. Even if the meaning of work usually is the strongest motivation, reward is an example of an area that needs framing. Beyong the fairness demanded by all staff, divides appear between generations and cultures on what constitutes acceptable salaries and benefits. Performance management is another area where good practices directly impact programmes effectiveness. The balance between recognising commitment and achievement can however prove difficult to find.

On the other hand, agencies cannot rely on the seemingly limitless commitment of their staff to consider their duty of care lightly. Assumed employees' resilience does not justify the lack of stress and burnout prevention. Sustainable employment and work conditions are not just a matter of funding, as evidenced by the disparities in terms offered by agencies supported by the same donors. Enabling staff to maintain their employability and ability to re-adjust to a « normal » career after emergency field experience should also be an objective of HR systems.

A good people management for humanitarian agencies should nurture the unique engagement of workers rather than test the limits of their flexibility.

Cécile de Calan

25.10.2008. 12:13


September - October 2010

Managing people and organisations in the Humanitarian environment

For the 2nd successive year, Cécile de Calan will facilitate the recruitment, performance management and HR development sessions of Bioforce Humanitarian Programme Management training . Please click here for more information.

1-4 July 2010

The three SE pillars: Social Entrepreneurship,
Social Economy and Solidarity Economy

Cécile de Calan will share on her research project with other fellows at the 2nd EMES International PhD Summer School taking place at the Center for Social Entrepreneurship in Roskilde, Denmark.

19-21 May 2010

Humanitarian HR Conference 2010
Talent management

HHR (former EPN) events are usually worth the trip. This time they even come to Paris ! We have run a masterclass on Building a competency framework at this key event. Get some insights on our discussions on People In Aid's blog.

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