People management at the CHS Alliance – Coffee with Samantha Wakefield

22 September 2018

Coffee with Sam Wakefield

In the past two years Samantha Wakefield led the Alliance’s people management and HR initiatives, and recently many of them have come to an end. We had a coffee togeher just a few days before her last day with the Alliance, and reviewed some of her key achievements. She has brought a wealth of experience to the table, which made it possible to provide invaluable resources and tools for the sector and beyond, to help organisations improve their people management and HR practices.

In the last two years, the CHS Alliance has participated in many projects that focused on improving people management in the sector. Could you highlight some of the most important results?

As part of the Start Network’s Transforming Surge Capacity project, we produced a set of six HR good practice guidelines, which not only supported the project but have proved to be useful for everyone who works in HR in our sector. We also had the opportunity to review and revise the tools relating to the Core Humanitarian Competency Framework (CHCF) – the framework provides a great starting point for organisations wanting to adopt their own framework. When we started the project we could not find anything on competency-based HR approaches in our sector, so I hope the Guide will produce some interesting discussion and debate on how this can improve performance in what we do.

One the most interesting research projects that I have ever been involved in was Project Fair. The research focused on the disparities between international and national staff reward and what measures have been taken to consider the psychological impact of the differences. In addition, I particularly enjoyed our webinars – we focused on relevant topics and were able to involve some specialists in the sector. I’m a convert to webinars and think they can be very inclusive, do not restrict the CHS Alliance to just a limited audience and can initiate discussions which can continue if relevant.

Why is adopting competency-based HR approaches important?

It is important that we don’t just focus on ‘what’ we need to do; but also ‘how’ we do it and the CHCF helps everyone to understand expected, acceptable and unacceptable behaviours. Competency-based approaches are the tools that help identify what those behaviours are and how they can be assessed.

Project Fair started an important dialogue about salary disparities. There is a long road ahead of us… what is the end goal and where is the connection with the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS)?

The project challenged our established practices of reward across the sector and the end goal is to ensure that organisations consider a fairer approach towards pay. The project research shows that there is no single response to this issue. There are a number of case studies in the report that present different ways that organisations have started to address this issue. This has a direct correlation with Commitment 8 to ensure that staff are treated fairly and equally.

The research indeed mentions that salary disparities can have a negative impact on mental wellbeing… but there are other aspects as well. How can we ensure the wellbeing of our staff?

There are now many tools out there to support wellbeing – we have our own duty of care page; we have worked with EISF and Thrive Worldwide and they also have many resources to support the sector. We are fortunate to have dedicated HR professionals and people managers across our members and it would be good to see the tools continue to be put in practice. The focus in our sector should be around putting communities, partners and staff at the centre, but all require different approaches.

Recently the sector’s attention has been drawn to PSEA. What does this mean in terms of people management?

I think it’s very important that implementation of good practice around PSEA isn’t just seen to be the role of HR professionals. The only way we will see improvement in practice across the sector is to change culture, clarify understanding, and for HR and people managers to work together. This should include implementation of policies and procedures; ensure effective reporting; engage with communities, partners and staff on expected standards of behaviour and be clear about what needs to happen if there are concerns that those standards are not met.

What did you enjoy the most in the past two years?

I loved working on issues that span the sector – sometimes in other HR roles I have been very internally focused, working on organisational objectives and not having the space to focus on what is also happening within our sector on a broader level. Plus I have been fortunate enough to have met so many HR and people management professionals around the world, sectoral partners and specialists. Not only have I been taken aback by their dedication, but also their enthusiasm and commitment to the CHS.