Background

The HLCM Vice-Chair opened the discussion by referencing deliberations of the CEB Principals at their last meeting in November 2015, acknowledging that system-wide integration would require greater harmonization of operational practices and cross-fertilization of human resource practices across the UN system. She reminded that the Secretary-General had requested HLCM to recommend ways to harmonize managerial practices to promote and incentivize integration. The discussion paper by the HR Network on the evolution of a "Global UN system workforce" should be seen as a contribution to this endeavour.

The Co-Chair of the HR Network, when introducing the document, highlighted that the paper aimed at convergence of a number of separate discussions such as the ongoing QCPR review, CEB discussions on becoming “fit for purpose” for the 2030 Agenda, the ICSC compensation review, initiatives to enhance operational effectiveness driven by HLCM and ongoing discussions on revising HR positioning and strategies in individual organizations.  She summarized key external change drivers for the HR functions, such as a changing nature and increased complexity of development work, a deteriorating safety and security environment for UN staff, a changing stakeholder and funding landscape for the UN, evolving industry standards for Human Resources functions and evolving expectations of prospective employees.

Discussion

These trends called for a transformation in the way Human Resources and Workforce Management are positioned and managed in the UN System, with an emphasis on (1) enhanced operational efficiency, service orientation and support, (2) proactive Business Partnering, Workforce Planning and HR Analysis and (3) the development of Centers of Expertise and related HR capability development. Such transformation would also require an understanding of the enhanced accountability of line and executive management with regard to people management, and called for an enhancement of the role of the HLCM HR Network as a coordination platform for systematically increasing operational effectiveness, building HR capabilities, and enhancing inter-agency knowledge management and workforce analytics. The contributions of the HR functions to the new 2030 Agenda could best be summarized as follows: supporting the agility of organizations, providing better care and support for staff, proactive talent and competency development and the establishment of an inter-agency leadership cadre.

As one concrete initiative, the HRN Co-Chair presented a proposal for a joint Inter-Agency facility for job classification and reference checking which had been endorsed at the recent HR Network meeting. This initiative could also be seen as a response to recommendations made by the Joint Inspection Unit calling for more harmonized and coherent approaches in reference checking. Following general endorsement by HLCM, operational and in particular financial details would be worked out in the coming months, in order to aim for an implementation in the course of 2017.

In the subsequent discussion, all organizations supported in principle the main direction and conclusions of the HR Network discussion paper, confirming the need for a comprehensive transformation as outlined. A number of organizations highlighted that this transformation would need resources that should be clearly quantified and prioritized in the ensuing work plans. Several organizations highlighted their own experiences with an HR transformation towards enhanced service delivery and better proactive HR business partnering support, putting emphasis on the need for related HR capability development. Some organizations expressed preference for a seed money model, while others were more interested in a pay for service model.

A number of organizations stressed the importance of Inter-Agency Mobility, noting that this should also be seen as an instrument for short-term knowledge transfer, strategic staff development and collaborative approaches for building cross-organizational professional communities with in-built flexibility in deploying specialists. This will require a re-think of the current approach and better addressing the current barriers.

Several organizations stressed the multi-disciplinary nature of such HR transformation, examples being HR Analytics, Duty of Care or the intended re-profiling of the UN Cares Programme into an employee well-being initiative. This will require leadership and oversight by HLCM for the initiative as well as close collaboration among the various Networks. Also, it was highlighted that the new Sustainable Development Agenda will require a re-profiling of existing skills and competencies of staff, an endeavor in which organizations should closely collaborate.

FICSA representatives expressed appreciation for the document, indicating the keen interest from staff representatives to engage more closely in the required strategic discussions on the subjects. They highlighted the importance of adequate leadership skills and behavior, the importance of staff-management relations and the need for more foundational discussions about the impact of concepts such as enhanced partnerships and required agility on the profile and composition of the future UN workforce, with an adequate distribution between personnel on staff contracts and those on “non-staff” arrangements. With regard to the presented initiative on joint job classification, they raised the expectation that such initiatives would not lead towards systematic under-grading of positions.

A number of organizations and the ICSC representatives welcomed the presented initiative on joint classification and reference checking. They stressed that the most important aspect of the preparatory work was to establish adequate governance arrangements and clear and viable financial scenarios, calling for involvement of the FB Network and a broad participation of interested organizations in the preparation. While some limited seed investment was seen as required, the overall objective would have to be a sustainably self-financing facility with good service quality. Some participants requested the examination of outsourcing as an option for operation of such a facility, and suggested that seed funding should be provided by individual organizations once a clear business case had been established. Several participants, including ICSC, highlighted that they saw potential for further enlargement of the scope of such a facility to elements of recruitment or training following successful initial set-up.

The HLCM Vice-Chair, in summarizing the discussion, expressed appreciation for the HR Network’s work on the discussion paper, confirming that a more strategic approach to managing HR functions and the UN Workforce was an imperative for attaining the Sustainable Development Goals. She suggested that the Network revert at the next HLCM session with a more detailed implementation roadmap, including considerations for required funding, and invited the Staff representatives to liaise with the HR Network in order to provide their input in the discussions. She confirmed general endorsement of the presented initiative for joint classification and reference checking, and requested the HR Network to work towards the development of the business case with further details on operating and funding models (seed money vs. pay-per-use model) and governance, and stressing the potential of future expansion of such joint activities.

Action

The Committee:
Endorsed the HR Network discussion paper on the evolution of a "Global UN system workforce" and expressed support for the general direction of a transformative change in People Management practices and the management of HR functions.

Requested the HR Network to revert at the next HLCM session with a specific implementation roadmap for the outlined HR Transformation.

Endorsed the proposal to proceed with the joint facility project for job classification and reference checking with the request that key parameters, such as governance, services offered and the detailed pricing model, are adequately worked out.

Supported the consideration of initial seed funding for the initiative by the Steering Committee of the Harmonization of Business Practices Trust Fund (HBP), to accelerate the development of a detailed feasibility study, including an implementation plan and – following the endorsement of such plan by HR Network and HLCM – the preparation of the implementation.