Field Support Section
The Field Support Section (FSS) was established in March 2005 as the principal entry point for field-related administrative requirements, whether related to human resources, financial management or procurement. Field staff demands resulting from existing large-scale emergencies, primarily in Sudan and DRC, combined with new emergencies including the Indian Ocean tsunami, a drought and food security crisis in Niger and the South Asia earthquake, dictated that the initial focus should be on supporting the recruitment and deployment of field staff.
As a newly created unit within the Administrative Office, FSS further developed and refined the objectives of the section during the second quarter of 2005. Given the workload related to recruitment of emergency staff, the initial objectives articulated in OCHA in 2005 regarding support on cost plans and financial management were suppressed in favour of dedicated support for recruitment processes.
The section's main objective, therefore, became to:
- improve performance on recruitment of field staff by clarifying the steps in the process, identifying reasonable timeframes, and monitoring individual recruitments against these targets
As the entry point on administrative matters, FSS developed an inventory of issues that field staff face. In addition to responding to staff queries, many of these issues were addressed through systematic briefings for new staff and the ongoing development of guidance materials on matters such as basic entitlements for international staff, national staff contracts and provisions, procurement and so forth. During 2005, FSS facilitated and oversaw vacancy management of 137 field openings and initiated 106 short-term recruitments, mainly for the tsunami and Pakistan earthquake emergencies.
In addition to managing field vacancies, FSS developed procedures, tool and standardised forms aimed at clarifying and streamlining the recruitment steps, as well as improving consistency and transparency throughout the process. To track the recruitment process and provide an overview of OCHA's field operations, FSS developed a Post and Incumbency Matrix. This was used as a tool for analysis on timeframes, staff coverage by office and region, as well information of gender and geographic distribution of field staff.
The systematic tracking of information using these tools enabled FSS to extract statistics to monitor and inform future recruitments and management decisions. The unit also developed a standardised briefing package for new field staff.
The section helped reduce the number of vacant OCHA posts from 32 percent in July 2005, when FSS began to track overall statistics, to 25 percent at the end of the year.
Development and implementation of systematic tracking using the Post and Incumbency Matrix System, combined with standardised formats and the elaboration of guidelines for vacancy management of 200 series field posts, helped improve consistency in managing the recruitment cycle.
There was no reduction in the recruitment time during 2005, but FSS was able to streamline work flow from substantive branches (such as CRD) and organise requests in a clear and efficient manner, alleviating the administrative burden on desk officers and facilitating processing for HRS.
Rostering is not yet in place, but preparatory work undertaken in 2005 is expected to allow its introduction in 2006. OCHA is also striving to make progress on multiple duty station recruitment (especially for P3 and P4 level humanitarian affairs officers) in order to fill more posts from the pool of suitable applicants.