The organisation’s approach to attracting, developing and retaining talent

Many employees in the UN system are long-serving. New employees are more likely to import new ideas and new attitudes towards work. Interviewees stressed that investment in talent management is essential to sustaining the organisation. TM is also focused on succession planning. The thinking is:

how do we make our succession planning as smooth as possible? [We] need to be able to fill the gap as [people] move on and, frankly speaking, these new blood being injected in the organisation, they are really, really welcome and... we have to adjust.

For UNICEF, an important target of TM is to ensure a pool of candidates who can be deployed whenever there is a need. This pre-vetted applicant pool is called the ‘Talent Group’—applicants who have gone through a vetting (or selection) process and meet UNICEF’s criteria. Applicants from this pool are given priority for vacancies as they have already been screened, helping UNICEF to cut down on the time spent on hiring candidates to meet emergency needs. For example:

During the Ebola crisis, we needed to deploy people to work in affected countries. and I would say that thanks to the talent pool we were able to respond swiftly and better than many other organisations because we could list a number of candidates who are suitable and we could offer them the job and they could be deployed in 48 h.

Interviewees believed that compensation and benefits are important for attracting candidates in any organisation. UN staff earn more than those in most other NFPs, but their salary and rewards are less than that of their equivalents in MNCs. Comparing the attractiveness of UNICEF’s reward system with that of MNCs, one of our interviewees said:

[In MNCs] it’s all around bonuses. it’s money-driven. If you do something outstanding, you expect the organisation to pay you a bonus or to give you some extra pay. We don’t have bonuses. You do whatever you do, you do it do an outstanding job.yes, there is recognition, but it’s not in monetary terms.

However, UNICEF has little trouble in attracting candidates. Many people find the humanitarian mission of UNICEF, with its concern for children, very appealing:

We have people who dream and really would love to join the organisation because of its mandate for children. I would say that it doesn’t really cost UNICEF much to attract attention and know.create interest for people to join.

Generally, UNICEF does not need to take special measures to attract talent. There was a campaign a few years back, where the human resources director talked to students in schools about working at UNICEF, but this is not something UNICEF does regularly.

UNICEF utilises a combination of on-the-job as well as formal, virtual, and off-the-job training methods, so that employees have a range of options in terms of development, such as training: with different educational institutions, including Harvard. We have quite well developed learning and development policies which allow staff members to be part of a continuous learning programme...We also allow staff the flexibility to leave the organisation temporarily on special leave with or without pay to go and take the programme they want for their own development.

The challenge for UNICEF is not attraction but retention. UNICEF makes a substantial investment in hiring and developing people, so retaining them makes economic sense for the organisation. However, many leave. Some find they do not fit with the organisation’s culture and some find better career opportunities.

Use of technology

UNICEF’s centralised e-recruitment system allows the organisation to build a pool of candidates for potential employment opportunities and retains applicants’ personal, educational, and work-related data for two years.

They do not, however, have a system to track the progress of their talents. If they could:

reach a level where we can properly monitor how these NETI participants are performing, how are they being mentored and coached and so on. then what we get at the end of the two years.that would definitely help a lot.

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