Agile Humanitarian HR: Adaptability

adaptable-1In my introduction on being an agile human resources unit, I listed the four qualities of HR agility as being adaptability, innovationcollaboration and speed.  This post focuses on adaptability. There are three key ways to being an adaptable Humanitarian HR professional/unit:


  1. Be flexible in meeting the changing organizational needs.  It is difficult to adapt to changing organizational needs if your HR unit is seen more like a police department than a unit that helps your country program meet its objectives without creating unnecessary HR policy barriers.  Yes, policies and work rules are important, but they must be aligned with your country program and adjusted to meet the changing needs of your working environment. Your policies, processes and procedures must act as guides, not constraints.   You need to always be asking yourself if your policies and processes are fostering expertise, collaboration, and decision making.   If they are not, you need to work with your senior management team to make changes.   Find out from your senior management team and staff if your policies and procedures are creating barriers for them and then make changes based on their feedback.
  2. Be open to testing new organizational structures. Our biggest expense in the humanitarian section is labor costs, so when positions are cut, there is always concern about how the work is going to get done.  Relook your staffing plan and be creative in filling vacancies.  For example, maybe you can pay talented staff more to take on additional responsibilities rather than replacing every open position.  Work with staff to restructure programs to be more efficient if you cannot replace some positions.  During every donor proposal process, take a hard look at your staffing plan to make sure it still makes sense in your new environment so you can request the proper positions to meet the new needs.
  3. Help your employees adapt to organizational change. Keep your employees informed on what is happening in your country program.  Be honest.  Tell your employees what they can expect.  Help them to feel secure about changes by explaining how their jobs will be affected.   Provide the education, training, or coaching that is necessary to help them adjust to the change.  Continue to communicate regularly.  Encourage staff to be part of the change journey, to be positive, and to be open.  Create a shared vision and purpose and encourage honest feedback.

In summary, being an adaptable humanitarian HR professional/unit means that you do not settle for the status quo.  It means you are evolutionary in your thinking and approaches to organizational effectiveness.  It means you are open to new ideas, you are flexible, and you encourage others to value and adapt to change.