Key Actions by:

Standard 14: Managing and developing human resources for quality project implementation.

Manage project human resources proactively through quality supervision, rigorous performance and development planning and assessment and timely action to address staffing needs. 

Prioritize staff care and support to encourage retention and project team continuity.

  • Why

    Staffing transitions are one of the biggest risks for effective project management. Staff are more likely to stay with an organization when they feel that that their employer and colleagues care for and support them. Caring for staff has many aspects, from supporting a realistic workload, to ensuring safety and security, to creating a positive and motivating work environment. However, particularly for mission-driven organizations such as CRS, the intensity of the focus on meeting project deadlines and carrying out project activities can result in staff care being neglected. This can lead to fatigue and burnout, which in turn can lead to early staff departures from the project, and ultimately undermine CRS’ ability to work with partners and beneficiaries to achieve project objectives. Prioritizing staff care:

    • Fosters a healthy and productive team.
    • Models good organizational practices for partners and other stakeholders.
    • Minimizes the risk of high turnover rates that impede project management.
  • When
    • Ongoing, but particularly at times of stress such as around major deadlines or project events.
  • How

    Follow these steps to ensure that CRS properly supports project staff through proactive staff care:

    1. Project staff supervisors continuously assess the conditions needed for each staff member to thrive.  Some significant and frequent staff care issues that supervisors should consider include:
    • Workload and capabilities: A frequent source of stress is having too many tasks and responsibilities or not having the necessary skills or information to complete what is expected.
    • Reward and recognition: Feeling un- or under-appreciated for one’s work can also lead to burnout.
    • Safety and security: Sensing a lack of safety – whether at work, in certain field locations, or in one’s environment at large – can be a significant drain on emotional and physical energy. Given the nature of CRS’ work, unstable or insecure environments can be a frequent occurrence and require special attention.
    • Harassment or problems with a supervisor or colleague: A source of stress can be harassment or other concerning behavior on the part of a supervisor or colleague. This stress can be compounded if the staff member does not know how to report the situation.
    1. The supervisor checks in regularly with the staff member about staff care issues and helps identify solutions if necessary. Potential solutions to staff care issues include:
    • Ensuring the staff member is aware of staff care policies and services offered by CRS (see MyCRS staff care page), including how to report harassment or other stress-inducing behavior by a supervisor or colleague.
    • Emphasizing/modeling self-care.
    • Monitoring workloads and capabilities and watching for signs of burnout. Adjust staff performance plans if necessary.
    • Providing training and other capacity building (see Standard 14, key action 2 for additional guidance) to enable staff to carry out project responsibilities effectively and grow as professionals.
    • Providing rewards and recognition. Do not wait for coaching and performance assessments to make the staff member feel valued but instead find creative ways to acknowledge contributions in real-time.
    • Emphasizing the preeminence of security during onboarding as well as regular trainings and updates on security risks, procedures and standards.

    Safety first! Periodically check in with staff about their safety concerns, particularly after any security-related incident. This is particularly important in unstable areas or times, but also relates to everyday issues such as fire prevention or safe parking areas.

    1. The PM/CoP builds staff care issues into regular project management meetings and assists supervisors with workload adjustments, safety issues and provision of development opportunities.

    Project setbacks and challenges: SMT members should pay special attention to staff care issues when the project team faces a setback or major challenge that could affect morale. Setbacks and challenges could include things like a mid-term evaluation which indicates that the project has not achieved certain higher-level targets despite significant project effort, or a major change in the external environment such as an anticipated opportunity to expand or continue project activities falling through unexpectedly. Support the PM/CoP to work with the project team to approach setbacks and challenges from a learning perspective, while acknowledging the disappointment team members may be feeling.

    1. The CR and SMT build staff care issues into CP leadership meetings and assist PMs/CoPs with workload and deadline issues, safety and security issues, and opportunities for staff recognition and development.
    2. The HR manager or officer holds exit interviews when project staff leave CRS, and shares the information about reasons for leaving with the CR and SMT to improve staff retention, care and motivation.

    Understand what motivates project staff retention: In addition to being proactive around issues of staff care as highlighted above, in projects implemented in especially challenging environments, or in projects that experience high turnover, it may be useful to analyze factors which motivate staff to stay. See the Work Incentive Questionnaire under “Other Resources” for ideas about potential questions/incentives to explore with staff. Modify the questions as needed based on the project context and resources available to support any retention incentives. Consider disaggregating responses by gender as well as other variables, if appropriate. Always discuss potential incentives with senior management before discussing with project staff. 

  • Partnership
    • Discuss the importance of staff care with partners and assist them if needed with developing staff care plans.
    • Check in with partners regularly on staff care issues, particularly around project deadlines and other project events that could create stress.
    • Share resources accessible to partners, such as courses (in multiple languages) on stress management, etc.
  • When CRS is a sub-recipient
    • Follow the same process when CRS is a sub-recipient.
  • Emergency projects

    Pay particular attention to staff care and well-being in emergency projects.

    • Team leaders in insecure environments require special training on staff care and stress management.
    • Clarify expectations about the emergency context and CRS’ approach to staff care during hiring (e.g., living conditions, frequency of R&R). See Standards 4 and 9.
    • Review and update staff care policies regularly and as needed as the emergency context evolves. Communicate any modifications that will reduce benefits/support to all relevant staff at least 6 weeks before the change goes into effect (such as reducing frequency of R&R or determining a location no longer merits danger pay). All new staff should be informed of the current policies and anticipated changes at the time of hire.