Adequate and timely recruitment, deployment and retention of qualified and diverse staff
OCHA’s response to peak demands requires versatile and adaptable staffing solutions. Continued presence in a range of challenging crises also demonstrates the need for a continuous supply of qualified and diverse staff.
Responding to emergencies, OCHA now has well-established mechanisms for immediate short-term staffing, or surge. The organization relies on a combination of emergency personnel from external sources and OCHA staff who can be deployed immediately. To support the transition from surge to regular staffing, OCHA is adding capacity to bridge possible gaps upon the drawdown of surge personnel, especially at senior levels.
These and other related measures are part of a newly formulated approach to quickly attain operational stability in the context of a new emergency, or when a crisis is escalating. OCHA is increasing its efforts to ensure that everything is in place: adequate human and material resources; and support systems for new field operations, including a properly managed budget and workplan, and accommodation, transport and other elements. The priority is to ensure that OCHA can rapidly take on its core functions and provide humanitarian leadership.
A key component of this approach will be to promote better-targeted staffing solutions for emergencies. In 2012-2013, OCHA will look to boost its surge capacity through a strong emphasis on technical and language skills among those taking part in surge initiatives. At senior level, three roaming emergency surge officers will be deployed. OCHA will also change the regulations and incentives in its Emergency Response Roster (ERR) to offer more opportunities to senior OCHA staff. OCHA will provide a support package of care to surge staff before, during and after deployment. OCHA will continue its efforts to improve staff succession and continuity in emergencies by extending surge deployments through regional offices, and by strengthening the capacity for mid-term or “bridging” surge to avoid staffing gaps between the initial response phase and the arrival of long-term staff.
In terms of regular staffing, within the last five years OCHA has increased its staff in the field by 40 per cent. While managing a substantially larger body of staff, OCHA achieved a lower average vacancy rate across its field locations, from 20 to 15 per cent by mid-2011. Building on this achievement, OCHA aims to address its broader human resources challenges by implementing a coherent approach to sourcing talent, developing staff capacity and managing people.
The implementation of OCHA’s roster system has successfully ensured timely, longer-term recruitment of staff to a wide range of duty stations. However, lessons learned point to the difficulty of filling positions in non-family duty stations and retaining staff there. This includes positions requiring specific language skills. To complement the hundreds of profiles on the roster, OCHA will invest additional resources in outreach and targeted recruitment of senior staff for key field positions in countries such as Afghanistan, DRC, Pakistan and Sudan. This is to ensure continuous senior leadership and adequate capacities where these are most needed.
OCHA will put emphasis on striking the right balance between promoting mobility and retaining staff. In 2010, OCHA filled 150 field positions, around 40 per cent of all field positions, through a mix of external candidates and internal staff movement. This clearly demonstrates OCHA’s ability to respond to staffing requirements in field locations and to promote staff mobility. Considering the significant number of new incumbents in the field, OCHA will focus on retaining these staff to sustain OCHA’s capacity to meet operational demands.
To a large extent, the ability to attract and retain staff is tied to the availability of career development and opportunities for professional growth, including predictable, consistent and transparent requirements for staff mobility. It is not feasible for OCHA to establish internal career paths linked to promotion, due to the limited number of existing senior positions. However, OCHA anticipates that in December 2012 the General Assembly will adopt measures on geographic mobility. These measures will introduce a framework allowing for managed mobility to ensure staff movement between Headquarters and the field. OCHA will ensure that the necessary administrative arrangements are in place to allow for prompt implementation of a Secretariat-wide mobility policy, including the establishment of standardized assignment lengths for positions considered part of a managed mobility programme.
In the field, OCHA relies on the administrative support of service providers such as UNDP and WFP. Efforts to enter into an agreement to standardize and streamline the service provision to OCHA field offices have been put on hold by the UN Secretariat. In its place, OCHA will finalize an internal review of the provision of administrative services to its field offices to provide options for improving current arrangements.
An integral part of these services includes the administration of OCHA’s national staff, currently administered by UNDP. In 2012-2013, OCHA will work to bring these staff into the Secretariat framework to demonstrate that their contribution, often under difficult and challenging circumstances, is given due and full recognition. This would entail focus on setting up the systems to satisfactorily administer OCHA’s 900 national field staff.