Human resources (HR) plays a critical role in shaping organizational culture.
African CSOs face a complex internal challenge: how to balance the passion and commitment of individuals with an entire organization whose achievements are greater than the sum of its parts.
Many conservation organizations, for example, are founded and led by charismatic individuals, yet their vision and drive does not necessarily translate into organizational effectiveness. Scaling and refining conservation impact requires growing a team of people embodying a unique organizational culture—one that supports individuals while leveraging their abilities for maximum collective impact. An organization with these characteristics is ultimately more effective, and continues to achieve in the face of obstacles, such as if a leader ever steps down.
The selection, development, and performance of people is essential for achieving results.
As a transformative process, HR systems are fundamentally targeting larger questions of organizational culture. Questions like:
- What positions do we need?
- Who do want to might hire?
- When and how should this occur?
- What kind of staff development activities are needed?
- What incentives should be put in place?
- How we are to be evaluated?
When we consider these questions, we are doing more than simply defining conditions of employment, processes of recruitment and retention, and staff policies. We are also asking fundamental questions about the kind of organizational culture we want to create:
- What, for example, are our shared values and ways of doing things?
- Can we articulate our collective behavior and the nature and quality of the work environment that we want?
- What broader vision and mission drives our day-to-day activities?
- And how are we—as individuals and an organization—perceived, approached, and understood?
For organizations trying to conserve lions, secure rangelands, or shape national conservation policy, answering these kind of questions is critical to enhancing performance. Since the engine of organizational success is ultimately the people involved in the process, HR systems are not only critical to human well-being but also in linking individual work and identity to larger organizational strategy. The selection, development, and performance of people is one of the most important considerations for an organization intent on achieving results.
HR helps to grow organizational effectiveness and resilience.
While HR is often thought of as a suite of day-to-day transactional policies and procedures far removed from the activities and results organizations have on the ground, HR is in fact composed of transformational processes critical to organizational effectiveness. It is, in essence, a process of managing the relationship between people and their organizations, bridging unique human qualities with organizational values and strategy to create a culture of success.
We’re developing a Toolkit for Organizational Change
Maliasili is collaborating with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to help organizations leverage HR strategically. In an April workshop in Nairobi led by Tess Bruns, an HR manager of TNC’s Texas State Chapter and a Coda Fellow with TNC’s Africa Region, the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association, the Amboseli Ecosystem Trust, the Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association, and the South Rift Association of Landowners came together for an introduction to HR and how it can be used to enhance organizational performance.
The exciting collaboration between TNC and Maliasili will ultimately lead to a simple and customizable toolkit that organizations like these can build on. By providing a foundation to develop an HR system, this toolkit will help think through the nuts and bolts of the people-organization relationship. The toolkit will include some of the following components:
- Human Resource Guidebook – an overarching guide outlining the key components and principles of human resources on organizational performance
- Recruiting toolkit – a tool covering the general process as well as providing tips and resources to help an organization through the hiring process (e.g. interview questions and guides, etc.)
- Organizational structure and job description matrix – examples and templates of organizational structures and job descriptions that can be customized to meet an organization’s needs.
- Performance management methodology – a tool to help an organization develop a customized performance management system, allowing them to asses their employees in a fair and productive way
Instead of a cookie-cutter model that can be pulled from other organizations or donors, HR systems are more transformative where they are tailored and customized to a particular organizational context, and that’s what we’re focusing on developing.