Standard 17: Managing human resource transitions responsibly during project close-out.
Ensure continuity of adequate, qualified staff throughout close-out to fulfill commitments to all stakeholders.
Monitor staff resignation or transitions towards the end of the project, and arrange coverage as necessary.
As the end of a project approaches, staffing issues can become a significant project management challenge. Though careful close-out staffing planning and proactive retention efforts can reduce uncertainty and promote stability during this time, some staff may leave the project earlier than planned to pursue new opportunities. Monitoring these staffing changes and arranging coverage as necessary:
- Helps keep project close-out on track.
- Contributes to positive morale among remaining staff, by ensuring they are not overburdened by taking on the jobs of departing colleagues.
- Primary responsible: Project manager or chief of party (PM/CoP)
- The PM/CoP takes the lead in monitoring staff levels and arranging coverage.
- Others involved: Head of programming (HoP); head of operations (HoOps); country representative (CR) and senior management team (SMT); human resources staff (HR); deputy regional directors for program quality and/or management quality (DRD PQ; DRD MQ) as needed
- The HoP supports the PM/CoP in this process and stays in close communication with the PM/CoP to manage any issues related to the PM/CoP’s own transition;
- The HoOps monitors and communicates changes in staffing for shared staffShared staff, also referred to as "pooled staff”, are country program staff whose salaries cannot be assigned to specific projects, but whose efforts benefit the country program’s full array of projects. Salaries for these staff are distributed to all projects using one of the three cost allocation pools (Vehicle Expense Pool, Facility Cost Pool or Project Support Pool). Assignment of such staff to Cost Allocation Pools is defined in CRS’ Cost Allocation Process Procedure and is based on the type of position. and provides support with operations issues related to temporary coverage arrangements (as applicable);
- The CR and other SMT members assist with securing coverage support for early resignations or transitions;
- HR staff manage the HR-related processes and documentation surrounding resignations and transitions;
- The DRD PQ or DRD MQ provides support as needed for temporary duty (TDY) and/or supplemental funding support.
- Throughout project close-out, particularly in the final months.
Follow these steps to monitor resignations or transitions among members of the project close-out team and ensure timely and appropriate coverage:
- If members of the team leading project close-out resign, transfer to a new project, or face significant changes in responsibilities, the PM/CoP, with HoP support, quickly analyzes the impact of these changes on the overall workload, as well as the remaining team members’ capacity to fill gaps.
- Review the close-out skills identified during the development of the wider project close-out plan (see Standard 16, key action 1).
- Review the project budget to understand resources available to fill close-out staffing gaps (savings from the remaining months of personnel costs budgeted for the departing staff member(s), any additional money from underspending, etc.).
- Identify other staff with the needed skills who could fill the close-out staffing gap(s) left by the departing staff. These could include staff from other projects in the country program, TDY staff from the region or HQ, or possibly consultants (for discrete, concrete activities).
- For existing staff asked to take on additional responsibilities, determine if this can be done within their current workload and compensation, or if any adjustments are needed.
Operations staff support during close-out: Keep in mind that shared operations staff may be part of the project close-out team. It’s important to also monitor transitions in staffing patterns and changes in workload for these shared staff. For example, if project close-out is competing for operations staff’s attention as a major new project starts up, or if the operations team is shorthanded due to staff transitions, the project close-out team may also find itself short-handed. The PM/CoP, HoOps, and HoP should coordinate closely to ensure availability of the necessary level of operations support for project close-out.
- The PM/CoP, with support from the HoP, presents the staffing coverage options and needs to the CR and/or SMT for their approval and support. If TDY support or additional funding is needed to fill close-out staffing gaps, the CR may need to discuss the situation with the DRD PQ and/or MQ.
- The PM/CoP develops detailed and clear scopes of work for any staff asked to fill staffing gaps and works with operations staff to arrange any logistics for external TDY staff providing coverage.
- The PM/CoP and HR staff collaborate to onboard staff providing close-out coverage who are new to the close-out team.
- Adapt the duration and intensity of the orientation to the specific responsibilities of the staff person, their familiarity with the project, and the time remaining in the close-out period.
- See Standard 9, key action 1, steps 4 and 5 for guidance on project-specific onboarding.
- The PM/CoP ensures that the departing staff member prepares clear and detailed handover notes and other documentation, and reviews these documents with the PM/CoP and ideally the staff providing coverage.
- Ensure the handover information includes not only a summary of the status of close-out tasks and the key documents managed by the staff person, but also insights, recommendations, and lessons learned based on the staff member’s responsibilities and perspective on the project, including project relationships as applicable.
- Consider organizing a “programming-focused exit interview” with the departing staff member, to capture his or her perspectives on project lessons learned. This discussion is different from the HR-led exit interview focused on the overall employment experience.
TIP: One month prior to an individual staff member’s planned separation or transition date, the supervisor and staff should prepare a list of close-out tasks specific to the individual staff member’s position (e.g., completing/filing certain project documentation, preparing correspondence with a partner, preparing inputs for a final report, updating contact lists, etc.). The supervisor and staff should then review progress in completing these tasks during regular (e.g., weekly) check-ins.
- The PM/CoP documents any major issues arising from CRS and/or partner staff resignations or transitions in the project issues log, for institutional memory and use in reflections on project close-out processes, as well as final project reporting.
When CRS is a sub-recipient
- As noted under Standard 17, key action 1, local partners may face more challenges than CRS in maintaining coverage of key positions as a project comes to an end, as they often have less ability to provide bridge funding to help keep staff in place or other projects to which to transition staff after the project ends. Ensure partners communicate promptly with CRS about earlier-than-planned staff transitions, so that CRS and partners can collectively identify the best options for coverage. See Standard 17, key action 4 for more detailed guidance.
- Alert the prime promptly to any unexpected early departures and the implications of the same. Share CRS’ thoughts on the best approach to fill any gaps (developed per the steps above), and any challenges in ensuring coverage.
- While turnover is “the norm” in emergency projects and there may be emergency specialists or TDY staff already identified to fill unexpected gaps, early staff departures can also present challenges for responsible emergency project close-out. Reach out promptly to the region and Humanitarian Response Department if the project team is challenged to fill close-out staffing gaps.
- Ensuring that departing staff prepare and review handover notes and complete close-out tasks before departing from the project is even more important in emergency project close-out given the typically high rate of staff transitions.
Tools and templates
Policies and procedures
Employee Exit Clearance Checklist (Example from CRS Nigeria)
- Primary responsible: Project manager or chief of party (PM/CoP)