Agile Humanitarian HR - Introduction

climber-486025_960_720A lot has been written about the importance of having a HR function that promotes organizational agility.  But what does that mean in the humanitarian sector?  It means that we have to promote adaptability, innovation, and collaboration--while ensuring quick and effective responses to the needs of our beneficiaries.    HR field units tend to get bogged down in many of the donor compliance requirements and personnel transactions.  While this is important, it should not take away from our core responsibility to help create a culture that is responsive to the needs of our beneficiaries.

Approaches to Agile Humanitarian HR

There are four key focus areas in developing an agile humanitarian HR function.  They are adaptability, innovation, collaboration and speed.

Adaptability:  Being adaptable means being able to be flexible in order to meet changing organizational needs.  Have your HR policies and practices been adapted to the changing humanitarian and donor driven environment?  Can you be flexible in helping your country program meet its objectives without creating unnecessary HR policy barriers?  Do you know how to help your employees with organizational change?

Innovation:  For humanitarian organizations to survive and thrive in the 21st century, they need to be innovative in the delivery of their services to their beneficiaries.  Beneficiaries are no longer seen as the poor recipients of aid, but as our “customers”.  Yes, they are our clients and they need to be treated as such.  How is your HR unit being innovative in meeting the needs and demands of its customers?

Collaboration:  Many humanitarian organizations tend to fall into silos without a lot of collaboration among the various units.  To be an effective HR professional, you need to understand each of your organization’s units (Programs, Finance, Logistics, etc.).  You need to work on building trust and transparency with them—and educate them on the HR perspective to help them be more effective with their work and their staff.  How do you build relations with your key units?  How do you help them understand the role of HR?

Speed:  Humanitarian HR needs to be able to respond quickly to its changing environment.  What would you do if you had a humanitarian emergency tomorrow?  Would you be prepared to deploy staff resources or would you have to rely on your headquarters office for direction?  If you are a headquarters HR department, are you prepared to assist your country program with the emergency?  Speed is important because lives are at stake.

Over the next several weeks, we are going to delve into each of these core areas of HR agility:  Adaptability, Innovation, Collaboration and Speed.  So stay tuned!