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.
Provide new project staff with comprehensive onboarding.
Investing in staff onboarding is a key part of good human resource management that contributes to strong project management. CRS offers general onboarding that welcomes staff to the agency and their CRS office location. Project staff receive additional onboarding that is specific to their job family and project position. Comprehensive onboarding for project staff:
- Helps ensure that project staff know what their project-specific roles and duties are and how to perform them.
- Helps project staff understand how their project, and their role in that project, fits within the organization.
- Equips project staff as early as possible to begin making a contribution, so as to make full use of project implementation time.
- Helps new hires to feel more fully a part of CRS and their project.
- Primary responsible: Supervisor
- The supervisor guides job-family/position-specific onboarding, building on general staff onboarding provided by human resources (HR) staff.
- Others involved: Project manager/chief of party (PM/CoP) and other key staff identified by supervisor
- The PM/CoP and other key staff provide position and project-specific information for project staff onboarding.
- Within first six months (for all project staff); ideally faster for existing CRS staff
- Emergencies: Reduce the onboarding timeframe to a few days or one week maximum
CRS human resources staff will coordinate general onboarding for new project staff. To supplement this general onboarding, follow these steps to ensure that all project staff benefit from comprehensive job family and project-specific onboarding:
- In preparation for the staff member’s start, the supervisor prepares an information “packet” (which may consist mostly of links to documents) and schedules any necessary meetings for the new employee’s first few days.
- Include all relevant project documents (e.g., project proposal and updated project org chart; DIP, MEAL plan, risk register, and issues log, if developed at the time of employee joining the project). For externally funded projects, include documents addressing donor requirements, such as the Award Management Deliverables Calendar and the award agreement.
- Include the project charter, if finalized.
- Also include any job-family related CRS documents: e.g., MEAL, finance, or procurement policies and procedures and guidance documents, etc.
- Set up meetings with the PM/CoP and other project team members as well as partners and other project stakeholders as necessary.
- Also set up meetings or calls with regional or HQ-based staff in the same job family (e.g. MEAL staff, etc).
Tailor onboarding (including onboarding materials) appropriately: Staff who are new to CRS and CRS’ project management procedures may need different onboarding than existing CRS staff transitioning to a new project. This may include introduction to the CRS project management standards and CRS’ Compass project management guidance website; the Partnership and Capacity Strengthening Basics: Introduction to CRS’ Approach Curriculum (one of six basic CRS Learns courses available through CRS’ Institute for Capacity Strengthening); and CRS’ MEAL Policies and Procedures and associated good MEAL practices.
- On the project staff member’s first day, in conjunction with any other general onboarding led by HR staff, the supervisor discusses the project in broad terms with the employee, and shares the information packet and the schedule of project-related meetings with other staff.
- The PM/CoP (if not the supervisor) meets with the new project staff within the first week of joining, after the new staff has reviewed the project information packet, to answer any questions and provide additional information about the project. This includes reviewing the project governance structure, to ensure the new staff member is clear on tolerancesProject tolerances set clear parameters within which a project manager/chief of party (PM/CoP) can act autonomously—and make it clear when the PM/CoP needs to seek approval. Project tolerances describe the approved ranges of variation that a PM/CoP is authorized to oversee without seeking the endorsement of members of the project governance structure. Tolerances may relate to such things as budget and project timeframe, project scope and quality. For example, a project tolerance might describe the percent by which a project, or line items in a project, can over- or under-spend without the approval of members of the project governance structure; or the acceptable number of days of delay in the implementation schedule before approval from the project governance structure is required. , roles, responsibilities, and processes for project decision-making and accountability.
What is involved in project-specific onboarding? Onboarding best practices include scheduling time for reviewing important project documents; short meetings with supervisor and project team staff to discuss questions and plans; meetings with colleagues from other disciplines who are working on the project; site visits; courtesy visits to partners, etc. Learning-by-doing is also an effective method to orient staff. For example, newly hired project staff should participate in project operating context review and validation discussions, the project start-up workshop and detailed implementation planning (DIP) processes. All are excellent ways for staff to be introduced to and start to internalize project objectives and strategies.
- The supervisor and staff member create a plan for formal capacity strengthening related to onboarding. This may include structured training or capacity building courses and events related to core job functions.
- For all project positions that engage directly with partners (particularly project positions in programming and finance), schedule training and mentoring in CRS’ partnership and capacity strengthening approach, including accompaniment.
- For positions with strong compliance dimensions (such as supply chain management), this should include training and mentoring on related CRS policies and procedures, and on donor rules and regulations. See also Standards 10, 12, and 14.
- For positions where project staff supervise others, onboarding should include introducing staff to the “Management Essentials” course.
- For positions in projects funded by external donors who may be new to the project staff, organize an orientation to the donorThis may include a conversation with an IDEA donor engagement staff who works closely with the donor, and/or review of any donor-specific resources (e.g. the CRS Global Fund Program Community’s staff onboarding and elearning resources). and its priorities.
Security training: As part of general onboarding, all project staff are required to take the Safe and Sound Basic Introduction online module as well as the IFRC Stay Safe online module. Additional security training may be required based on position and location. As part of project-specific onboarding, the PM/CoP should review any project-specific security plan or special security considerations with staff.
- The supervisor ensures that the new employee is fully onboarded over the course of the next several months. This should include checking in regularly on overall onboarding progress and completing project-specific onboarding actions such as:
- Taking the staff member to visit project partners and sites.
- Helping the new staff establish a “buddy” relationship with an experienced CRS staff in the same role in the country program or possibly the region.
- Identifying any remaining project-related skills and knowledge gaps, and ensuring these are addressed in the onboarding process or as part of individual performance and development planning (see Standard 14, key action 2 for guidance).
When CRS is a sub-recipient
- Accompany partners as needed in planning new staff onboarding.
- To foster mutual understanding during project implementation, it may also be helpful for new partner staff to take the six online Partnership and Capacity Strengthening Basics courses which are also available to partners on the Institute for Capacity Strengthening site.
- Follow the same process whether CRS is the prime or a sub-recipient.
- In addition to onboarding staff to the overall donor compliance requirements, be sure to onboard staff to any specific issues related to working with the prime.
- Customize the onboarding process and decrease onboarding timeframe to a few days or 1 week maximum.
- Managing the expectations of staff hired specifically for an emergency project is very important for effective project human resource management, especially during project close-out. While HR will review contract issues as part of general onboarding, the supervisor may also wish to discuss with the new staff member his or her understanding of the length and terms of the employment contract, to ensure a shared understanding.
- Maximize use of the project start-up workshop to orient multiple staff simultaneously to project design assumptions, technical approaches, and donor requirements and expectations.
- As appropriate, use the Emergency Field Operations Manual "shotgun” rapid orientation and onboarding for groups, which can be completed in 2-3 hours.
- Ensure the process covers security-related policies and issues, including the mandatory Safe and Sound e-learning module.
- Review emergency benefits such as R&R, danger pay, etc.
Tools and templates
Policies and procedures
CP Personnel Manual as applicable
CRS Institute for Capacity Strengthening, for Partnership and Capacity Strengthening Basics: An Introduction to CRS’ Approach six basic courses
CRS Learns (for basic interviewer skills resources)
Emergency Field Operations Manual: "Orient staff and get them started”
- Primary responsible: Supervisor