Together with Humanitarian Leadership Academy, we’re bringing professional Project Management to all Humanitarians

This post was originally published on Humanitarian Leadership Academy’s blog.

The PMDPro Starter Toolkit is a mobile responsive website that has been created by LINGOs, working together with Plan International, PM4NGOs and the Humanitarian Leadership Academy. It aims to extend access to the tools and techniques of professional project management to small national and local NGOs.

Watch this video to learn more about the toolkit:

LINGOs also developed PMDPro, a project management qualification for the development/humanitarian sector. The PMDPro courses have been made available on our learning platform kaya and are suitable for humanitarians and development professionals of any level of seniority, who would like to develop their project management skills:

Another certification called FMD Pro (Financial Management for Development Professionals) is currently under development. It aims to improve the impact of humanitarian organisations by building the skills of non-financial managers who run their projects.

As Atish Gonsalves, our Global Learning Director, explained, “While technical skills are critical for humanitarian aid workers, an equal if not greater focus must be placed on developing their professional skills — namely the non-technical skills needed to effectively manage projects, programmes and resources, and work with others in high-stress environments.”

Collaboration is at the heart of the Academy’s vision. Making existing learning more accessible is one of our key objectives and we are therefore very pleased to partner with LINGOs to make Project Management tools available to all humanitarians.

Note: While all the resources to learn PMDPro are free, the PMDPro exam is not available on Kaya. You can find it on the APMG website and you will need to pay the PMDPro exam fees to become a certified PMDPro project manager. Exam fees are on a sliding scale starting as low as $20USD (£16).


A new way to learn PMD Pro

A guest post by John Cropper, Director of Capacity Building Solutions

How do you help people doing good to do it better? This has always been one of the main challenges with training NGOs in project management. Most NGO staff working on projects work long days and often long nights. They spend a lot of time in communities, on the road and in difficult and often hard to access locations. In addition, they often have to respond to multiple and often unpredictable demands ranging from humanitarian crises to unplanned visits from HQ or donors. It is like juggling but with an ever varying number of balls in the air at the same time.

This is hardly an ideal environment for learning: the lack of time, varying locations and constant workload. It also adds to the cost of training as you need to bring everyone together, rent a venue, pay for hotels and per diems. Plus, everyone has to put off working for a week which can be a challenge for some. In other words, training in project management can make schedules worse instead of better!

All of these barriers may restrict training opportunities for some people who need it the most. The many difficulties and costs can sometimes limit an NGO’s ability to train many of its field staff and partner organisations.

Wrestling with this problem for a long time led to us creating a completely new approach to learning and training: PMD Pro Flex. It is almost completely self-paced so you can learn when and where you want to – all you need is an internet connection. PMD Pro Flex is also mobile ready, so you don’t need to access it via a laptop. You’ll use videos, eLearning, reading, assignments and interactions with other participants and a facilitator to develop your project management skills. This flexibility and approach is why we have called it PMD Pro Flex!

There is also flexibility about how quickly you can finish. The course encourages you to progress by giving you points for every task you complete. You’ll also earn points by commenting and sharing. The quicker you earn points, the sooner you can finish!

I believe that this approach to learning offers organizations the opportunity to train those who are working and supporting their projects: the project universe. Why restrict learning to one or two? It is now easier and a lot more cost effective to really develop a critical mass of project management expertise and leverage this to improve project delivery.

Click here to learn more about PMD Pro Flex and find out when the next intakes are happening.



Five trends transforming the employee experience at INGOs

Trendy and arguably even “shiny object” HR policies in the private sector, especially tech firms, grab a lot of headlines. So, when I read this blog post about how “HR Mavericks” were abolishing HR departments and replacing them with an Employee Experience department, I wanted to know what some of the INGOs’ more innovative HR leaders thought about the concept. Rest assured there is a lot going on to transform HR in our sector, with a focus on making sure that the right people are in place at the right time and aligned with the mission and values to be effective from day one.

But employee experience still starts with the basics

The buzz in the private sector may be all about the death of the traditional HR department. Yet even in our sector, changes are afoot. Nigel Pont, Chief People and Strategy Officer at Mercy Corps is not a lifelong HR veteran. He joins his role after serving in the field as the Regional Director for Mercy Corps’ Middle East program. Roger Craig, Chief Human Resource Officer at The Asia Foundation prefers the term “Talent Management” to “Human Resources”, despite having built a long and successful HR career in both the private and NGO sectors. He acknowledges that HR in our sector struggles with ensuring that we are complying with the increasing requirements from donors and governments, which require a traditional and transactional approach. When in fact, the changes in staffing and program objectives require HR leaders to more focused on  innovation and strategic initiatives.
What everyone still seems to agree on is that you have to get the basics right. “We have to get the bread and butter right—the transactional stuff; if we can’t pull off smooth benefits and payroll, we can’t even begin to focus on the other elements of the employee experience,” says Shari Stier, VP of Human Resources at PACT. For her, the employee experience starts with and is grounded in the basics, no matter how out-of-the-box you want to be with other elements of the experience. Tami Ward-Dahl, VP of Human Resources and Administration at the Elizabeth Glazer Pediatric Aids Foundation (EGPAF) believes that getting the fundamentals right leads to freeing up more space to contribute in other areas. “You have to do the basics really well so that leaders in the organization are coming to you to help with the other stuff—the strategic business partnering.”

At Mercy Corps, the focus is elevating HR from a more transactional function to being a strategic partner at the heart of the organization. This is clearly evidenced by Nigel Pont and his team’s role in debating new programs and priorities to ensure that the people and talent side of the equation are considered from day one.

Yet, time to execution is driving a major re-think

Donors and community expectations about project timelines keep accelerating; they want immediate results. Across the board, INGOs no longer have the luxury to take a few months to set up a new country program and recruit and orient the team. HR teams have to respond to this change and help their program teams lead and implement faster. “Because donors want us up and running from day one, we need data on what works so we can be more agile in developing more workable solutions for talent,” says Tami Ward-Dahl.

Mercy Corps is looking to re-work their entire onboarding process so that teams can be 25-35% more effective by hitting the ground faster. Nigel Pont mentions a complete re-evaluation is needed to balance both standing teams and available resource pools. In addition, they are looking to build an onboarding package that quickly engages new staff with Mercy Corps’ values and approaches. This is why merging internal communications into the people function at Mercy Corps was seen as critical to the business strategy. When a new project team has up to 40% of new staff on it, every improvement to the talent pipeline and onboarding approach matters.

We need to be more effective, let’s kill the annual performance review

In a sector like ours that is so people focused and with donors raising expectations about program effectiveness, NGOs are re-thinking how to keep the focus on performance at the individual and team level. For many, this means killing the traditional annual performance review. Both PACT and The Asia Foundation have begun implementing a more frequent and iterative performance review system for their US-based staff.

PACT has re-designed their goal-setting system based on the OKR model that has become the norm at many tech firms. Shari Stier worked with the leadership team to create a system of monthly, quarterly and semi-annual performance conversations as well to ensure that staff members, their supervisors, and the organizations are aligned with their goals, performance and development. But she is aware that it will take time for everyone to be comfortable and skilled at the new system. “There are deep brain tracks for everyone that have been in place for a long time.”

At The Asia Foundation, the shift was also driven by changing expectations of staff, especially the millennials. “They are looking for their rate of progression within the agency to be more front-loaded,” says Roger Craig. He worked with The Asia Foundation’s leadership team to overhaul the entire system of performance reviews as well as the system for managing development and succession. In addition to implementing a more frequent and easier system for performance check-ins, he has also put into practice the Step Forward plan for managing development discussions. The plan helps to address the needs of employees who are keen to take on more accountability as well as those who are happy with their role but looking for other outlets to renew their engagement.

Is relying on an employee’s intrinsic passion enough?

We all know that INGOs tend to attract passionate, mission-driven staff who are committed to making a difference in the world. While the HR leaders all acknowledged that INGOs sometimes depend on that engagement to make up for resource constraints in the HR area, they agree that our sector cannot afford to continue this outdated approach. Shari Stier wants PACT to be “an employer of choice” with a line of qualified talent out the door. While Roger Craig is looking at how to continue leveraging on The Asia Foundation’s “employer brand” that is grounded in providing a more individualized  engagement plan to enhance the level of employee commitment.

At Mercy Corps, Nigel Pont says that their hiring rule-of-thumb from the CEO down is closely aligned with, “becoming fanatical about finding the right external talent and managing the internal talent extremely well.” Meanwhile, at EGPAF, Tami Ward-Dahl is hyper-focused on all the intangibles that connect people to the mission of the organization. EGPAF is constantly looking for ways to make a personal, high-touch, low-cost connection with their staff globally that reinforces each individual as a person and not just a resource—including volunteers and other short-term workers.

Some INGOs design some of their core HR benefits and components differently depending on their mission, country context, and role—there is no one size fits all even within the sector. For PACT, this means reviewing each HR policy to ensure that it reflects and aligns with the organization’s value for its program work and the people it serves. “It is innovative to make the transactional stuff work really well and ensure it is aligned with organizational values,” says Shari Stier. Meanwhile, The Asia Foundation is evolving towards a culture that focuses more on values-based decision-making rather than having a rule for every situation.

Localizing the HR transformation

We know that leading and transforming HR at a global INGO is complex and challenging. At the same time, change in HR practice in the United States often moves faster with which either culture or law can keep up in the diverse set of the countries that we work in. Each of the organizations I talked to are investing more into providing more central support for in-country HR teams. “Often, local teams are left to do the best that they can with limited centralized support, so we are looking at how can we resource it better and get local HR leaders a seat at the country-level leadership table,” says Nigel Pont.  While Tami Ward-Dahl and Roger Craig are looking to balance the push of new programming from HQ with the pull from the field for more support and new programs for people.

So, yes, there will always be new “shiny objects” in the field of HR. “It’s really important to keep an eye on the shiny objects because even though we may not be able to afford some of the private sector programs today, the changes will affect us eventually and we have to be ready,” says Shari Stier. At the same time, transforming the HR function at these dynamic INGOs is grounded in the need to meet the evolving expectations of the organization’s strategy and employee demographics. All this while staying true to mission and ensuring that the people who are doing the hardest work in the hardest-to-work places can count on a solid and well-functioning employment experience.

The story behind PMD Pro Starter

A guest post by John Cropper, Director of Capacity Building Solutions

Whenever I finish a PMD Pro level one training, I can pretty much guarantee what the first two questions are going to be. “When can I do level two”? and “Is there something I can use for my partners”? Let’s leave level two to be the subject of another blog, but until now there has not really been a satisfactory answer to the second question. How can people use PMD Pro for their partners? What tools can help?

Continue reading “The story behind PMD Pro Starter”

LINGOs takes on the dynamic world of Social Learning: What have we learnt so far?

A post by Ross Coxon, Director of Learning Collaborative at LINGOs

Social Learning is creating quite a stir in the L&D and academic worlds and if you haven’t yet engaged in this type of learning, you really should. As L&D professionals we need to be conversant with many different approaches to online and social learning.

So LINGOs (our members, Gus, some other friends and myself) just hosted and finished our first MOOC. Or did we?

Continue reading “LINGOs takes on the dynamic world of Social Learning: What have we learnt so far?”

The importance of connecting: LINGOs community meet up in Nairobi

A guest post by Shannon Dowd from PATH

Last week, PATH hosted a regional LINGOs meet-up in one of their hub offices, Nairobi. As the LINGOs key contact at PATH for the last 8 years, I have had the privilege of attending several regional meet-ups in Seattle, New York and North Carolina. And you know what made this meet-up different? The location and people; that was it.

Here before me sat 15 professionals from 7 different LINGOs organizations who work in and around the learning space. We all came together for the same reason: meet other LINGOs members, share ideas, and strengthen relationships. It was a great mix of expertise and the conversation was rich.

Continue reading “The importance of connecting: LINGOs community meet up in Nairobi”

Get Ready for the Global Learning Forum!

Are you joining us in Seattle for the Global Learning Forum? We can’t wait to see you in just six weeks! Right now you’re probably busy booking air travel and deciding which sessions you’re going to attend – if so, perfect! Here are a few more ideas for pre-conference preparations to help you make the most out of this year’s Global Learning Forum:

Continue reading “Get Ready for the Global Learning Forum!”