ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations

276th Session
Geneva, November 1999

Programme, Financial and Administrative Committee



ILO human resources strategy

Results through development:
A new personal and career development agenda for the ILO

Immediate steps will be taken in three major areas:
to improve the internal management of the Office;
to strengthen its intellectual and operational capacities;
and to renew and enlarge its relations with the outside world ...
Decent work, 1999

1. International knowledge- and service-based organizations need to excel in managing people. If the ILO is to deliver consistently the highest quality products and services, our people management strategy must ensure --

2. Current personnel policies, practices and institutions in the ILO are both outdated and inappropriate to the effective delivery of the mission and strategy of the ILO --

3. It will serve little purpose simply to amend existing personnel processes and institutions, which have become not simply inconveniences, but real obstacles to the efficient delivery of the Organization's objectives. Recent amendments to the selection system, negotiated and introduced over an extended period of time, have produced little tangible improvement. It is no exaggeration to say that the current system for classifying jobs is in a state of collapse.

4. The ILO's approach to personnel matters is a long way beyond an overhaul: it is time to invest in a new model with an up-to-date specification. The first step is to agree a human resources (HR) strategy framework and associated immediate and medium-term people management priorities which begin to get the basics right.

5. If there was ever a time to undertake a root and branch review designed to replace current personnel administration systems with proper processes and structures for people management, it is now. This will not be a simple process. While we can make a number of immediate and significant improvements to both practices and procedures in all areas, the crucial issues of personal and career development, gender and regional balance at all levels in the Office, positive attitudes towards international mobility and "best in class" management of people will take more time to embed into the ILO culture.

6. We believe that the vast majority of staff at all levels in the Office see the need for fundamental change, and we look forward to discussing and delivering this personal and career development agenda. This paper describes the key elements of the new strategy framework for people and career development which the Governing Body is invited to consider.

Core human resource issues for the ILO

The first key human resource challenge for the ILO is to
develop and deliver realistic development plans for officials
at all levels which will assure the delivery of the immediate,
medium- and long-term priorities of the Organization

7. The officials the ILO has today are by and large the staff we will have in five years -- and in many cases 20 years' time. We therefore have to focus on the identification and development of talent, and on the encouragement of the kinds of flexibility that will allow priorities, programmes and operating methods to change while essentially the same workforce is maintained. This will change significantly our approach both to policies -- recruitment and selection, job classification and appraisal; and practices -- officials and their managers taking joint responsibility for personal career development using tools provided by human resource professionals.

The second challenge is to ensure that every new recruit
into the ILO is seized upon as an opportunity to increase
the talent stock of the Organization

8. We make relatively few external appointments. Taking maximum advantage of every chance to tap outside resources will mean changes to policies -- recruitment, selection and job classification; and practices -- prospection, candidate care and people assessment.

The third challenge is to find new ways to ensure effective staff
communication and involvement, sound systems for consultation
and collective bargaining, and a means for individuals to have
their concerns addressed quickly and fairly

9. The ILO has begun to improve employee communications and involvement, but it still needs to do more. It also needs to agree new formal relationships with staff representatives for the provision of information, consultation and collective bargaining and, above all, to find ways of dealing with people's concerns and grievances without resorting as a matter of course to time- consuming, bureaucratic and frustrating formal processes.

The fourth challenge is to build an organization in which not only
gender and national balances are "appropriate", but in which
people diversity is one of its most important strengths

10. The ILO has begun to address some of the historic gender imbalance issues at senior levels in the Office. It now needs to build strength in depth. By taking advantage of recruitment and promotion opportunities in the short term, and developing career opportunities for staff at all levels in the Office in the medium and long term, the ILO will establish and maintain appropriate staffing balances.

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Key elements of the ILO
Personal and Career Development Agenda

11. Establishing human resource policies and practices that relate directly to the needs of the Organization and which focus on building career paths for all of our staff, hiring only the best, assuring high standards of people management, and exploiting the real competitive advantage that workforce diversity offers will challenge all of the major personnel policies. The following paragraphs outline the key elements of the changes that need to be made in personal and career development processes; prospection, recruitment and selection; classification; people management skills; employee relations systems; and external relationships.

Personal and career development

12. The establishment of a structured system for personal and career development is the key to the ILO's future success. Everyone in the Office should expect to work in an environment that encourages them to develop to the best of their potential. To reflect this priority, the Personnel Department will be renamed the "Department for People Development".

13. The personal and career development process described below is one part of a comprehensive people management package that relies on changes in recruitment and selection, appraisal, and classification procedures to underpin the establishment of a development culture within the Organization.

14. The personal and career development process will be built around a major annual People Development Review chaired by the Director-General and supported by more detailed reviews and updates with each Executive Director. The inputs to the review will include --

15. The personal and career development discussion will provide an opportunity for every official to discuss his or her personal and career aspirations and the development actions which the individual, the manager and the ILO needs to take to maximize current and future performance. There will be no overall ratings of individuals or formal judgements of performance against objectives. The management of individual and team performance is a part of everyday good practice, and not something to be limited to an annual discussion.

16. The current, and very inadequate, role played by the existing appraisal system in selection procedures will be superseded by the new approaches to recruitment and selection described below. However, a separate, and specifically performance-related probationary appraisal will be introduced to be carried out for new recruits at the nine-month and 18-month points in their probationary period.

17. A new guide will be produced, entitled Your career in the ILO, which will explain the recruitment, selection, classification and career development programmes and describe model career paths that demonstrate the role of relevant field and headquarters experience in building a successful career with the ILO.

18. The existing Young Professionals Programme (YPP) will be worked into a well-planned and structured medium-term development programme for young entrants. Entrants into the YPP will establish the necessary bedrock for future management diversity in terms of gender and nationality, and opportunities to enter the YPP will be opened for suitably qualified internal Local and General Service staff from the field and headquarters.

Prospection, recruitment and selection

19. When we take the opportunity to hire into the ILO, we need to cast our net as widely as possible to attract the highest calibre candidates. When people apply to the ILO they should receive the best standards of candidate care and expect us to make fair decisions, based on merit, quickly. New initiatives will be developed to widen our search capabilities and to establish or reinforce relationships with identified candidate sources.

20. Crucially, our internal and external recruitment practices must be speeded up considerably while fulfilling three important criteria: high and consistent standards, fairness, and line manager responsibility and accountability for recruitment decisions.

21. The key features of the proposed system are the following:


22. The long established fact in professional and technical environments is that, within specific parameters, the difference between junior, standard, senior and principal posts is more related to the interaction between organizational need and the skills, experience and performance of the jobholder than job description differences. The current ILO system focuses exclusively on job descriptions to establish grades and deliberately excludes consideration of either competencies or capability. The requirement for promotions associated with "in-job" development always to be subject to open competition is time-consuming, damaging to planned career development and puts unnecessary pressure on the classification system.

23. Amendments to classification practices will be linked closely to the capability profiles described above by proposing the establishment of job families and broad generic job descriptions within those families at the current grade levels between G1, G5, P1, P4 and D1. Individuals will be able to progress over time within these bands according to department needs, budget availability and demonstrated jobholder capability, performance and experience subject to organizational approval. To achieve promotion between different capability bands, an individual will need to be successful in an assessment exercise and be selected to fill a specific vacancy.

24. Closely linked with the proposals below on people management skills, it is proposed to introduce the possibility of D grade appointments for the very best world acknowledged specialists within the ILO.

People management skills

25. Interventions relating to procedures are essential triggers in changing day- to-day behaviours and practices in the ILO. Real improvements in our capacity to develop people will only be achieved through significant improvements in our people management skills. This will be handled at four levels --

Employee relations

26. The broad subject of employee relations is addressed under three headings: harassment at work; individual grievances; and collective issues.

27. Harassment at work: as a matter of some urgency we will introduce a new programme aimed at combating workplace harassment, starting specifically with sexual harassment. The programme will enable us to deal with allegations of harassment quickly, sympathetically and fairly while preserving the dignity of the parties. The procedure will make a clear distinction between informal and formal processes. It will enable trained, peer-based counsellors to provide help and assistance to individuals who either wish to talk through their problems with the objective of getting the harassment to stop without raising a formal complaint or who wish to understand how a formal complaint would be handled in the Office. The formal procedure will combine speed, dignity, independence and fairness. The procedure will be combined with an awareness-raising programme.

28. Individual grievances: the key problem to be resolved is the speed by which issues become "formal" and "inflexible", and where progress of the grievance to the level of the Director-General becomes inevitable, and beyond to the Tribunal likely. A culture where managers and individuals take responsibility for the resolution of issues rather than their escalation has to be developed. We will extend the peer-based counselling system described in paragraph 27 above to suggest solutions to the parties, both before the Director-General sees them and on referral by him. This dual system will provide individual counselling before any consideration by the Director-General and a conciliation panel subject to referral by him.

29. Collective issues: the Staff Union has a strong wish to see collective bargaining introduced into the ILO and this is consistent with the principles the ILO asks of its constituents. It is genuinely difficult to see how collective bargaining viewed in its traditional form can work when substantive terms and conditions of employment are effectively set by the UN common system. However, following widespread current practice, it is relatively easy to see how categories of issue or decision can be described as the subjects of "information", "consultation" or "joint decision" (or collective bargaining). Joint decision items will be largely related to personnel policy. For issues or decisions falling into the category of joint decision, it is suggested that a failure to reach agreement should be subject to an appropriate mechanism for developing solutions prior to the final decision of the Director-General.

External awareness

30. The proposed focus on the internal career development practices of the ILO will deliver considerable organizational strengths. There are however some weaknesses in this approach, and the ILO must find ways of institutionalizing external relationships and constantly benchmarking practices against external "best in class" organizations.

31. Initiatives designed to draw relevant outside thinking into ILO people management issues will include:

32. Endorsement of the Personal and Career Development Agenda will require amendments to be made to the relevant parts of the Staff Regulations. Discussions will take place with the Staff Union Committee between November 1999 and March 2000.

33. The Committee may wish to provide to the Office any guidance it may consider necessary with respect to the above Personal and Career Development Agenda for the International Labour Office.

Geneva, 27 October 1999.

Updated by VC. Approved by NdW. Last update: 26 January 2000.