Standard 9: Proactive recruitment and onboarding for timely start-up.
Staff the project in time with the right people using recruitment and orientation best practices.
Make sure there are staff in place for project start-up.
Even with proactive recruitment of key personnel“Key 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. and other project leadership positions during design, it takes time to find the right staff to fill all project positions. Yet many donors expect deliverables in the early days of a project. Ensuring there are staff—whether permanent or temporary—available to lead project start-up:
- Lays a strong foundation for project implementation.
- Creates momentum to meet deadlines for deliverables.
- Paves the way for permanent project staff to join the project in an organized manner.
- Primary responsible: Head of programming (HoP)
- The HoP takes the lead in finalizing and implementing start-up staffing arrangements such as roles and responsibilities, and organizational charts, etc., in collaboration with the HR manager.
- Others involved: Human resources (HR) manager; project manager/chief of party (PM/CoP) or acting PM; deputy regional director for program quality (DRD/PQ) and deputy regional director for management quality (DRD/MQ); head of operations (HoOps); country representative (CR).
- The HR manager closely supports the HoP;
- The PM/CoP or acting PM (if in place at this stage in project start-up) supports the HoP as needed;
- The DRD/PQ and DRD/MQ assist with securing personnel and funding for temporary start-up staffing such as temporary duty assignment (TDY) staff and consultants, if necessary;
- The HoOps ensures completion of administrative processes required to support TDY staff and to hire permanent staff;
- The CR is involved in identifying temporary coverage options for key personnel positions, if required.
- For competitive proposals with a high win probability, initiate planning for start-up staffing within two weeks of proposal submission, and finalize the plan upon receiving notification of the donor’s intent to fund the project.
- For other competitive proposals, initiate planning as soon as there is an indication of a potential win.
For discretionary funded projects, proper project planning (Standard 2) should reduce 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), wherein 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.
Follow these steps to ensure there are staff in place to lead timely project start-up:
- The HoP, working closely with the HR manager, reviews the start-up staffing plan and budgetThe start-up staffing plan may include bringing in temporary duty assignment (TDY) support from CRS staff outside the country program; hiring consultants to complete specific start-up tasks; re-arranging the workload of existing staff; or other bridging arrangements until the full core team is hired. created in the design phase and reconfirms the availability of the proposed start-up staff, and the funding to support start-up staffing costs.
- Ideally, key personnel“Key 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. /staff in project leadership positions assume their duties no later than the first day of the project (see Standard 9, key action 2 for guidance on timely finalization of contract arrangements). These staff should commit to this timeline during design-phase recruitment (Standard 4, key action 3), when they agree to accept the position, contingent on donor approval.
- If any key personnel have withdrawn from the project, the HoP involves the CR in restarting the key personnel recruitment process and identifying temporary coverage options. Inform headquarters (HQ) HR immediately if additional recruitment is needed for any key personnel/project leadership positions filled by international staff.
- If proposed start-up staff include personnel beyond those recruited during the project design phase for key personnel/project leadership positions, the HoP oversees the hiring manager and HR manager in recruiting these additional positions (see Standard 9, key action 4 for guidance on start-up phase recruitment).
- The HR manager, with support as needed from the HoP, works with the HoOps to ensure completion of all operations processes required to finalize plans for start-up staffing, such as identifying a Donor Source Project Number (DSPN) to allow start-up staff to charge their time and any travel expenses, etc.
Surge staffing: For large, complex, or otherwise strategic projects, the DRD/PQ and DRD/MQ support the country program senior management team (SMT) to secure TDY or consultant support and funding for early start-up or “surge” staffing, following any surge staffing plans developed during the design phase.
- The HoP, with support from the HR manager and SMT, develops a plan to fill any start-up staffing gaps arising from changes in the availability of staff identified in the start-up staffing plan, or gaps resulting from insufficient time or information available at the time of developing the initial start-up staffing plan.
- Discuss this plan with the DRD/PQ and/or DRD/MQ for assistance in identifying potential TDY staff. 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.
- As necessary, the HR manager, with support from the PM/CoP or acting PM/CoP, finalizes or updates scopes of work (SOWs) for TDY positions or consultancies (e.g., to reflect finalized dates and responsibilities).
- Refer to the list of activities in the general early start-up plan template or project-specific early start-up plan, if already completed, and integrate them into the appropriate SOWs [see examples from the Emergency Field Operations Manual (EFOM) if applicable].
- Remember that internal SOWs must be clear, but can be less detailed than SOWs for external consultants (e.g., leave out background information on CRS, well-known donors or types of projects, etc.).
- For existing CRS staff filling start-up staffing roles, the HoP or HR manager works with them and their supervisors to ensure they are ready to begin supporting the project by the specified date.
- For TDY staff from outside the country program, this includes working with the HoOps and operations staff to finalize in-country travel/logistics and accommodation.
- For staff redeployed from within the country program, this includes working with the staff member’s supervisor to ensure the staff person’s complete availability for start-up activities at the required level of effort.
- For consultants providing start-up supportRemember that CRS’ guidance with respect to consultants versus employees also applies to start-up staffing. Consultants may not supervise CRS staff, manage a CRS budget, or take on a role normally filled by a CRS staff person. Consultant support as part of start-up staffing should be focused on specific deliverables. , the HR manager, with oversight from the HoP, finalizes arrangements for the consultants identified during the development of the project start-up staffing plan, following CRS guidance on working with consultants. Specifically, the HR manager:
- Prepares necessary information for consultant requisitions.
- Follows up on the process through finalization of the agreement with the consultant.
- As individuals providing start-up support begin their roles, the PM/CoP or acting PM/CoP, HoP or HR manager orients them to:
- CRS (as needed, e.g., for consultants new to working with CRSIf consultants will interact with CRS partners, be sure to orient the consultants to CRS’ partnership approach and ensure CRS staff accompany the consultants as needed as they work with project partners. ) and issues specific to the country program (for external TDY staff or consultants), including security issues.
- The project and donor requirements (include staff in the proposal development to project start-up team handover meeting).
- Project partnerships as well as CRS’ overall approach to partnership (CRSLearns module on partnership), particularly if the staff’s responsibilities include working directly with partners (not needed if country program staff already familiar with the partners provide start-up staffing support).
- The project early start-up plan and individual staff responsibilities within that plan (for start-up staff joining the project after development of the project early start-up plan); ideally, start-up staff participate in the development of the project early start-up plan.
- See Standard 9, key action 5 for more on onboarding and orientation.
Frequently, existing staff are given additional responsibilities to start up a new project. This can lead to overload and stress, and result in reduced quality across multiple projects. To mitigate this risk, properly fund and resource new project start-up, and monitor the workload of staff who are asked to pitch in.
When CRS is a sub-recipient
- CRS support for partner start-up staffing should be based on plans made during project design (see Standard 4, key action 2 on making a project start-up staffing plan).
- Accompany partners to ensure they have appropriate staff in place for start-up; and avoid overburdening existing staff who have other responsibilities.
- Work with the prime, ideally in the pre-award phase, to review CRS’ likely start-up staffing needs and related funding. CRS’ discussions with the prime should consider both activities for which CRS is responsible as well as wider project start-up activities to which CRS needs to contribute.
- Building off design-phase discussions with the prime, discuss the possibility of the prime providing pre-authorization for CRS to initiate start-up planning and incur start-up staffing costs (e.g., if the prime can negotiate a pre-award letterA pre-award letter (PAL) is a letter issued by the donor prior to the signature of the award. PALs are used in situations wherein the project must commence immediately and all programmatic and technical issues are resolved. Typically, a PAL will set forth the date from which an awardee will be reimbursed for program costs prior to the signature date of the award. For U.S. government funding, the PAL is generally no more than 20 percent of the total program budget. or equivalent with the donor).
- Follow the same process for orienting CRS and partner start-up staff, drawing on guidance on donor requirements provided by the prime and project early start-up plans and activities agreed upon with the prime.
- Collaborate closely with the Humanitarian Response Department (HRD) to identify and recruit strong start-up staff and TDY personnel. See the EFOM for additional guidance.
- For major emergency responses, there are often projects already set up to which the country programs can charge costs related to the start-up staffing team.
Tools and templates
Policies and procedures
Emergency Field Operations Manual: Human Resources section
CRSLearns online course: Partnership Basics: An Introduction to CRS’ Approach to Partnership
- Primary responsible: Head of programming (HoP)