Standard 4: Staffing for quality (technically sound, timely and effective) project management.
Plan for an adequate complement of CRS and partner staff for quality project management.
Make a start-up staffing plan and budget.
While ideally all permanent project staff would be available from day one of a new project, even with careful planning this is often not possible. Furthermore, the required skill sets and level of effort required to plan and carry out numerous, simultaneous, and sometimes highly-specialized project start-up activities may exceed the capacity of project staff alone, particularly for complex projects. Equally important for complex and otherwise highly strategic projects, there is often a need to initiate pre-award start-up planning before permanent project staff can join, particularly key personnelKey personnel” is a specific term used by the U.S. government. Many requests for applications (RFAs) require that the applicant identify key personnel for the project; some require that the applicant propose specific individuals for key personnel positions and submit CVs for key personnel candidates. Key personnel candidates must be approved by the donor and any changes to key personnel during project implementation require prior approval from the donor.
who may need to wrap up activities related to their current positions. Making a start-up staffing plan and budget at project design stage:
- Maximizes efficient use of time in the early stages of the project.
- Helps CRS ensure the timely completion of start-up deliverables.
- Enables CRS to line up any special skill sets necessary for effective start-up.
- Ensures resources are available to cover start-up staffing costs, especially any pre-award costs.
- Enables a smooth transition to the permanent project team.
- Primary responsible: Proposal decision-makerThe proposal decision-maker is a senior staff (typically the country representative) with responsibility for making strategic decisions related to CRS’ response to a specific funding opportunity. This includes partnership/consortium-related negotiations and agreements; recruitment and selection of key personnel; definition of preliminary budget parameters (including any CRS cost-share); other critical budget decisions; and review and approval of final versions of proposal documents (including budgets). This is a critical, though not full-time, proposal development team role.
(often the country representative (CR) or another member of the senior management team (SMT))
- The proposal decision-maker initiates development of the start-up staffing plan.
- Others involved: Proposal human resources lead; CR (if the CR is not the proposal decision-maker) and SMT; human resources (HR) manager; head of operations (HoOps); finance manager (FM); head of programming (HoP); proposal technical lead and coordinator; partner senior leadership; regional management team as needed
- The SMT along with the proposal human resources lead, HR manager, HoOps, partner leadership, HoP, and the proposal technical lead advise on the recommended number and type of start-up staff (and any necessary start-up technical assistance) and help to identify appropriate start-up staffing team members.
- The regional management team works with the CR as needed to secure temporary staff support and funding for the start-up staffing plan.
For discretionary-funded projects, proper project planning (Standard 2) should have reduced the need for special start-up staffing – e.g., the project design team should have set the project start date based on the availability of permanent project staff. There may be cases, particularly for more complex discretionary-funded projects (including emergency projects), where temporary start-up staffing support is required. In such cases, finalize start-up staffing plans in time to ensure staff availability as of the project start date. Follow the steps below, telescoping as needed.
- During project design.
- Update the plan as needed in early start-up: see Standard 9, key action 1.
Follow these steps to ensure development of a comprehensive start-up staffing plan and budget:
- After the proposal development team has defined the overall project staffing structure, the proposal decision-maker, with support from the proposal human resources lead, considers the timeframe for staffing of the project start-up phase. To do this, the proposal decision-maker:
- Requests the HR manager develop time-to-hire or time-to-reassign estimates for the project’s permanent staff to identify gaps in staffing in the first few months. For externally-funded projects, this may include analyzing the feasibility of bringing on project staff to initiate early (pre-award) start-up planning.
- If it is unlikely that the permanent project manager (PM) or chief of party (CoP) will be in place immediately following award finalization (ideally sooner), the proposal decision-maker identifies an acting PM/CoPThe acting PM/CoP may be the proposal transition manager, the proposal technical lead, or another staff depending on availability and suitability. For complex or otherwise strategic projects, this will be a full-time role. See Standard 6, key action 2 for more guidance on when project start-up should start in different scenarios. who will lead project start-up until the permanent PM/CoP is in place.
Start-up versus implementation: Start-up can be quite different from regular project implementation in terms of activities and staff. Start-up tends to have a heavy focus on operations. This might include setting up offices, supply chain planning, and recruitment and onboarding. Project start-up activities also include setting up project systems and processes such as financial management, MEAL, and communications. Start-up, especially for complex projects, also demands excellent documentation, to enable handover to permanent staff not in place, ensure appropriate communication with the donor, and establish a strong foundation for project institutional memory. Finally, relationship building with partners, donors and any new staff is also a start-up priority.
- The proposal decision-maker works with the proposal coordinator and the acting PM/CoP (if available) as well as other key programming and operations staff (e.g., HoOps, HoP, HR manager, supply chain staff including procurement). Together they review the Reflection Questions for Developing a Project Start-up Staffing Plan as well as the Early Start-up Plan and Budget Template and Navigating Project Start-up: Key Meetings and Events.
- Use the reflection questions to consider the level of effort and skill setsFor some projects, start-up may include specialized work such as planning baseline surveys, capacity assessments, curriculum development, or operations research. required for project start-up activities, as well as pre-award start-up staffing requirements (particularly important for high-value or otherwise highly strategic funding opportunities) to ensure the project gets off to a quick start.
- Early start-up likely will include recruitment activities to hire the remaining permanent project staff and certainly will include early start-up activities such as planning the start-up workshop and preparing for the development of the project detailed implementation plan.
- The proposal decision-maker, with support as needed from the proposal human resources lead and proposal coordinator, uses the analysis from steps 1 and 2 to create an organizational chart for the start-up phase.
- Identify roles and responsibilities to accomplish start-up activities, as well as the required experience and capacities.
- Calculate the time/level of effort necessary to accomplish those activities.
Start-up staffing plans – from “surge” to small: Large or complex projects may require a full “surge” team capable of simultaneously hiring and/or onboarding other staff, engaging partners to plan and carry out early start-up activities, and ensuring the timely completion of start-up deliverables such as the project workplan, baseline terms of reference, etc. Small projects may need only a PM and a few other staff at part-time level of effort for start-up.
- The proposal decision-maker determines how to fill each position in the start-up organizational chart. For start-up positions that will not immediately be filled by permanent project staff, start-up staffing options may include:
- Reassigning existing staff within the country program (see "Consider start-up staffing options..." box below regarding this option).
- Bringing in temporary duty (TDY) staff from other country programs or headquarters, including the headquarters Field Management Response Team (FMRT). Note that FMRT staff can also fill SMT positions temporarily, thereby freeing up SMT members’ time to support project start-up.
- Hiring local or international consultants for deliverables-based, short-term assignmentsInternational consultants should not have financial/budget or staff management responsibilities, though sometimes this is permitted for local consultants under local labor law. .
CRS’ Talent Source databaseTalent Source is a site within CRSLearns that showcases internal talent. Hiring Managers can use Talent Source to find staff for positions and for TDYs. may be helpful for identifying potential TDY candidates.
- The proposal decision-maker works with the HoOps or FM to determine a budget for the start-up staffing plan, based on the level of effort for each position.
- Review the draft project budget (see Standard 3, key action 2) to determine which costs may already be included.
- Remember to budget for TDY travel, per diem, and temporary accommodation/housing, in addition to salary.
- Use the Guidance on Budgeting and Charging Technical Assistance in Projects and Proposals to estimate costs associated with support from CRS technical advisors.
- Be sure to include as many of the start-up staffing costs as possible in the project budget. If the donor allows for a start-up phase or “year 0”, build all start-up staffing costs into the project budget.
Consider start-up staffing options and associated costs carefully: Assigning existing staff to support the start-up of a new project can add burden and stress, if adjustments are not made to their workload. Weigh the pros and cons carefully. Existing staff working on ongoing projects bring an understanding of CRS systems and personnel, but can become overwhelmed and end up not serving any project well. If support from existing staff is the best option, be sure to plan coverage of ongoing responsibilities so as not to negatively affect other projects. Consultants bring extra person power and skills, but they may not be appropriate for some start-up roles and may need more time for orientation. TDY staff from outside the country program may also be a good option but, like consultants, may take time to orient.
- The proposal decision-maker, with the proposal human resources lead, reviews the staffing plan and budget with the SMT and regional staff as needed.
Engaging the region around start-up staffing and funding: If start-up staffing is going to require TDY staff from the region or extra funding (for pre-award activities such as meetings with partners, pre-award capacity assessments, or other activities not built into the proposal budget), the CR should initiate a discussion with the regional director.
- The proposal decision-maker works with other members of the SMT (and regional management if applicable) to confirm the availability of the proposed members of the start-up team.
- Consider using the Bridge Staffing Plan template and guidance from Standard 1, key action 3 when planning start-up staffing coverage.
- The CR sends a request to the regional finance officer to earmark funding to support pre-award staffing costs, if necessary.
When CRS is a sub-recipient
- Start-up often involves intense work with project partners, particularly new partners. The start-up staffing plan must include staff with strong partnership and capacity strengthening skills.
- Accompany partners in developing their own start-up staffing plans if necessary. Be clear with partners what, if any, start-up staffing expenses CRS may be able to support, as this will affect the timing in partner start-up staffing plans.
- Discuss with the prime during project design and budgeting any parameters they may set for CRS start-up staffing. This includes clarifying any project support for pre-award staffing, and the timing for bringing CRS project staff on board.
- Often, the first weeks of an emergency will involve a team composed almost entirely of TDY staff available only for a week or two. Since staff will cycle in and out, it is important to have clear, simple SOWs to enable them to start quickly, based on the functions needed at that time. There is no need for details, dates, and stages of deliverables as there is in a SOW for a consultant. Use the Emergency Field Operations Manual, human resources section, to assist with this.
- For quick hiring of local national staff, job descriptions (JDs) are necessary. Use CRS’ Standard JDs and see start-up recruitment guidance in Standard 9, key action 4.
- Emergency project start-up staffing plan budgets should include budget for staff care, including R&R.
- Ensure proper depth in the start-up staffing plan to cover staff R&R absences, which are common early on in a major emergency response.
- For major responses, it is also important to maintain the pipeline of TDY staff for each position, recruiting for the next staff member while the current TDY staff is there.
- Support the transition from one TDY staff to the next by emphasizing handover notes and meetings.
- Engage the Humanitarian Response Department (HRD) to line up surge support and other HR support, including guidance on staff care.
- If you are working on a large-scale emergency where several Caritas Internationalis (CI) Members are responding and/or supporting a response of the national Caritas, please refer to the Protocol for CI Coordination in Emergency Response, Emergency Framework and Toolkit for Emergency Response documents on the CI Baobab website. These documents provide guidance on coordination and the process of developing, implementing, monitoring and reporting on an Emergency Appeal for funding via the CI Network. If you are not registered on the CI Baobab site, please register here.When registering for the CI Baobab site, CRS staff should select "Caritas United States - CRS" as their organization and list the Humanitarian Response Department and firstname.lastname@example.org as the reference contact. If you have any questions, please contact CRS’ Humanitarian Response Department (email@example.com).
Tools and templates
Bridge Staffing Plan Template The Bridge Staffing Plan template was developed to help country programs ensure coverage for the ongoing responsibilities of staff assigned to a proposal development team for a funding opportunity. It may be adapted for use in other contexts, including ensuring coverage for the major responsibilities of staff redeployed to support project start-up.
Emergency Field Operations Manual: Human Resources section
- Primary responsible: Proposal decision-makerThe proposal decision-maker is a senior staff (typically the country representative) with responsibility for making strategic decisions related to CRS’ response to a specific funding opportunity. This includes partnership/consortium-related negotiations and agreements; recruitment and selection of key personnel; definition of preliminary budget parameters (including any CRS cost-share); other critical budget decisions; and review and approval of final versions of proposal documents (including budgets). This is a critical, though not full-time, proposal development team role. (often the country representative (CR) or another member of the senior management team (SMT))