Concern Worldwide is an international non-governmental organisation “working for a world where no one lives in fear, poverty or oppression.” Established over 40 years ago it works in over 29 countries. As well as responding to humanitarian emergencies, Concern also provides longer-term assistance in the areas of education, health, HIV/AIDS and livelihood security. Their mission is to enable absolutely poor people to achieve major improvements in their lifestyles, which are sustainable without ongoing support from Concern.
As a worldwide organisation with close to 4000 employees, Concern is keen to reinforce a sense of connection and common understanding between all staff. This includes expectations around performance for managers and staff, and common language and consistency of practice across Concern.
Like all challenges of this nature, the tricky part was defining and agreeing what it means to be part of Concern Worldwide. This is where the competency framework comes in. A competency framework would not only define what it means to work for Concern, but it would also offer a clear structure and reference point for staff for wider areas including:
Concern needed to identify a baseline of behaviours that fitted across all staff, all countries and all cultures. They also needed to ensure that the baseline of behaviours accurately reflected present and future needs. As important, was ensuring buy-in from all staff.
=mc was asked to help in four key areas:
A wide range of staff and managers were involved to create buy in, and to ensure that cultural and contextual nuances – the realities of work ‘on the ground’ – were reflected.
We set up a working group that included representatives from across the organisation – a range of different roles and positions and locations from Dublin and internationally. This group was connected together and kept up to date via a live wiki (an online platform for sharing information).
We ran focus groups in Dublin, with local staff and country directors, and for senior managers and local staff in Nepal, Ethiopia and Bangladesh. Participants were asked to explore a range of questions, including:
From these discussions we:
The project working group were involved throughout the process in bringing all the data and ideas together.
“We’ve been through a comprehensive – and challenging – project with =mc in the design of our organisational competency framework. I have been particularly impressed by the way in which =mc created a truly consultative process. Everyone in Concern has had the opportunity to contribute to the design and, as a result, we have a development tool that is genuinely aligned with our values and mission.”
Anthony Brennan, Director of Human Resources, Concern Worldwide
Concern now have a user friendly competency framework with a high level of buy in from across the organisation and a momentum where staff and managers are seeing how it can be used.
The behaviours identified in the framework are reflective of Concern’s unique culture and varied operating environments. Feedback from staff and managers suggests that the new framework provides a solid structure for team development planning and personal performance appraisals. And at an international level, various country programmes now have a reference point for agreed expectations and aspirations to work to. They can then work to develop relevant culturally examples appropriate to different cultures and ways of expressing these behaviours in their unique contexts.
Concern are now developing competency based recruitment guidelines for managers to use that embeds the framework. They are now planning to implement the framework gradually through the performance management and personal development process.
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Clare Segal, Director