Key Actions by:

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.

Support partners to implement their close-out staffing plans.

  • Why

    Implementing a project close-out staffing plan can be more challenging for partners than for CRS. This is especially true if the partner is a local organization with project funding sources that are limited in number and diversity, and a relatively small number of staff trained in human resource management. As partners have many responsibilities within the project close-out process, partner close-out staffing challenges can have a significant ripple effect on overall project close-out. Supporting partners to effectively implement their close-out staffing plans:

    • Ensures that field-level staff with the right skill-sets for close-out remain with the project.
    • Helps partners retain high-performing talent for other projects.
    • Safeguards project learning.
    • Facilitates smooth closure of the partner sub-award.
  • Who

    • Primary responsible: Project manager (PM) or chief of party (CoP) (see note below)
      • The PM/CoP typically takes the lead in supporting partners to implement their close-out staffing plans.

    • Others involved: Partner leadership; CRS human resources staff (HR); country program or regional partnership specialists; country representative (CR) and SMT members
      • Partner leadership takes the lead in developing and implementing their own close-out staffing plans;
      • CRS HR staff provide guidance and templates as necessary;
      • Partnership specialists assist with partner relationship management (see note);
      • The CR and SMT members may support as appropriate around challenging issues such as separation of large numbers of partner staff.

    Note: In some projects, CRS may identify a specific project team member other than the PM or CoP as CRS’ primary liaison to one or more partner organizations. In such cases, this staff person would take the lead in supporting the partner with project close-out staffing, working closely with the PM/CoP. In other projects where partner relationships are especially strategic or sensitive, the CR or another SMT member may also work closely with the PM/CoP to support partners in planning project human resource close-out. 

  • When
    • For multi-year projects: Beginning 6-12 months before project end date, depending on project duration and complexity.
    • For projects of 12 months or less: Beginning at least 3 months before project end date.
  • How

    This key action builds on the wider project close-out plan developed in Standard 16, key action 2.

    Follow these steps to support partners to develop and implement their close-out staffing plans:

    1. The PM/CoP (or CR/SMT member if more appropriate) convenes a meeting with partner leadership to discuss post-project planning for partner project staff. The PM/CoP helps the partner to:
    • Identify the roles, responsibilities, and skills needed for partner-level project close-out (implementing final activities including any MEAL work, writing reports, operations close-out activities, etc.).
    • Discuss strategies for retaining key staff through project’s end (see Standard 17, key action 1 for ideas). If strategic and appropriate, consider short-term funding for partner staff if CRS and the partner are planning to work together on a new project that will require similar skill sets. Also consider transferring high-performing individuals to appropriate positions on other projects where possible.
    • Help partner management to identify the likely challenges they will face in developing, communicating, and administering their staffing close-out plan, and to develop strategies to manage these challenges.
    • Discuss the process for partner staffing close-out, including activities to promote clear and timely communication to staff about project close-out planning and transition/separation processes, as well as strategies to maintain staff morale during close-out.

    Phase-over of activities to partners and close-out staffing plans: In some projects, phase-over of key project activities to a local partner organization may be a central component of the project sustainability plan. If this is the case, CRS and partners should have previously determined the capacities the partner organization will need post-project to manage the phased-over activities, along with the anticipated financial resources for project staffing. In some cases, the phase-over plan may include transitioning CRS staff to partner organizations at the end of the project to support phase-over. Build preparation for such CRS and partner staffing transitions into the project close-out plan.

    1. The PM/CoP checks in regularly with partner leadership about the status of close-out staffing.
    • If partner staff resign or transition to other projects earlier than planned, the PM/CoP supports the partner to quickly assess both the impact of the early departure(s) on the staff overall workload and the capacity of the remaining partner staff to fill the gaps. If needed, identify options for supplemental support, keeping in mind available budget.
    1. As needed, the PM/CoP enlists CRS HR staff support in advising and assisting the partner with staff separation processes such as:
    • Preparing the paperwork for severance (e.g. notice of termination/order for termination, certificate of service/labor book, financial and benefits disclaimer forms, etc.), including requirements for advance notice of termination.
    • Ensuring that proper legal counsel reviews documents.
    • Reviewing all personnel files and ensuring all documents required for retention per local law are on file.

    Reviewing project staff’s accrued unused vacation if applicable; developing coordinated plans to ensure staff use leave to which they are entitled while not adversely impacting the close-out schedule; or compensating staff for unused leave (depending on local and organizational policy). 

  • Partnership
    • This action focuses exclusively on partners; see the "how" steps above.
  • When CRS is a sub-recipient
    • When CRS is a sub-recipient, the terms of CRS’ sub-recipient agreement with the prime should flow down to sub-recipient partners. Work with partners to ensure close-out staffing plans are consistent with agreement terms.
  • Emergency projects
    • As is the case for CRS staff in emergency projects (see Standard 17, key action 2, “Emergency projects” section), careful management of partner staff contracts during close-out is even more important, especially when partner project staff include individuals with less work experience and limited familiarity with separation processes.