FC 99/10

Finance Committee

Ninety-ninth Session

Rome, 6 - 10 May 2002

Progress Report on Human Resources Management Issues

Table of Contents

I. Introduction

1. A comprehensive Report on Human Resources Management Issues (doc. FC 97/15) was submitted to the Finance Committee at the Ninety-seventh Session in September 2001. The Committee considered the report as significant and critical in light of FAO's human resources management reform initiatives and submitted it to the Council at its 121st Session.

2. The Committee reflected positively on the importance of human resources management to the Organization, generally supported the proposals contained in the Report and provided valuable suggestions and advice. The Committee requested that a progress report on the implementation of the various proposals contained in the report on human resources management, including projected timelines and performance indicators, be submitted at its next session. This present document has been prepared in response to this request.


3. As indicated in document FC 97/15, representatives of the Human Resources Management Division (AFH) will hold meetings with the headquarters departments and offices (AUD, LEG, OCD, PBE) and regional offices to support them in analyzing and planning their human resources needs and in particular, to:

4. Each department/office will be provided with data on its overall staffing situation to enable its managers to establish human resources objectives and to monitor progress against each of those objectives.

Timeline: This activity will be carried out throughout 2002 and 2003.


5. AFH has begun an in-depth review of the performance management system at FAO and is considering measures to strengthen it. The objectives of a revised performance management system would be to strengthen the link between individual performance plans and approved programme objectives and to enhance the management culture of responsibility and accountability. Also under consideration are mechanisms for identifying poor performance and for sustaining excellent performance, developed on the basis of recommendations made by the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC).

6. AFH is preparing a concept paper, which will build on the conclusions of an earlier joint staff-management working group established to develop proposals in this area. It will describe the salient features of a revised system and will be the basis for consultations with the Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Evaluation (PBE), managers and the representatives of the staff associations prior to submission to the Human Resources Committee (HRC).

Timeline: The proposal will be finalized and consultation initiated with PBE, managers and staff by end 2002 with a view to submitting the proposal to HRC by early 2003. If endorsed, the new system would be pilot-tested in 2003 and revised as necessary on the basis of this experience. Briefing and training of staff at all levels on the final approved scheme would be completed by end-2003 with full implementation planned for 2004.


7. The Organization faces the following challenges in its recruitment activities:

8. Actions being taken to address these issues are as follows:

Time taken to fill posts

9. Through a range of actions listed below, action will be taken to address the most time consuming steps in the recruitment process to achieve an overall reduction in the time taken to recruit professional staff.

(a) Support to line managers

10. Since the last Finance Committee session, the professional staffing of the recruitment function in AFH has been improved through the filling of vacancies. This will not only strengthen the advisory and support services provided to line managers, but also allow for more active monitoring by AFH of the process for filling posts. There are opportunities to accelerate actions at each step in the recruitment process, but the largest time component is that taken by line managers to interview, shortlist and prepare submissions to the Professional Staff Selection Committee (PSSC). The immediate actions call for better and more comprehensive guidelines and increased training of, and support to, line managers.

Performance Indicators: The goal is to reduce the average time taken to fill professional vacancies to 175 days by 31/12/02 and to 140 days during 2003. This time reflects the period from the divisional request for advertisement of a post to the final appointment.

Timeline: Revised guidelines will be issued and training of line managers will commence by 30 May 2002.

(b) Increased use of technology at the stage of processing request for advertisements

11. The second area of potential time reduction is the time taken for the approval and translation of vacancy announcements which will be reduced through the use of standard pre-approved job descriptions and use of an automated job data bank.

Performance Indicators: By 31/12/2002, 80% of all vacancy announcements will be approved, translated and posted within an average time of 15 days.

Timelines: The job description data bank will be implemented by 31/12/2002 and the new technology will be used for approval and routing of vacancy announcements.

Improvements in age profile, gender balance and geographical representation - moving from passive to active recruitment

12. Improvements in the composition of applicant fields in terms of age profile, gender balance and geographical representation will be achieved through targeted advertising and recruitment missions.

(a) Junior Professionals Programme

13. A paper was presented to the HRC in early 2002 for its endorsement, setting out the details of a programme for the recruitment and development of a junior professionals programme to commence in September 2002.

Performance Indicators: Twenty junior professional staff will be recruited each year, resulting in a reduction of the average age at the time of professional recruitment.

Timelines: The programme will commence by 15/9/2002.

(b) Equitable Geographical Representation

14. Through specifically targeted advertisements and recruitment missions, FAO will aim to increase the proportion of equitably represented member states through the identification of high quality candidates from non- and under-represented countries.

Performance Indicators: The number of equitably represented countries will be increased by 15 (from 69 to 84) by 31 December 2003.

Timelines: Recruitment missions will be undertaken to all severely under-represented countries by 31/12/2003.

(c) Improving gender balance

15. An action plan has been developed and will be presented to the Human Resources Committee in mid-April 2002. This action plan covers the following issues:

Performance Indicators: The percentage of female professional staff will be increased to 30% by 31/12/2003 and to 35% by 31/12/2005.

Timelines: Approval of the Gender Action Plan by the Director-General is expected by 31/5/2002


16. The first phase of the review of the work of the general service category has been completed and discussions are underway with the staff association, prior to presentation of a package of proposals to the Human Resources Committee for its consideration.

Performance Indicators: Changed job roles and rationalized occupational structures will provide the basis for the competency and skill requirements required to undertake these roles. Staff will have a clearer road map as to what they require by way of skills and the Organization will commit to support skill acquisition through training, development and performance appraisal.

Timelines: The proposals on Phase I of the review will be submitted to the Human Resources Committee by 30 June 2002.


17. Action is underway to maintain a work environment that recognizes that work/family issues are a priority for employees in the current labour market. In order to be able to attract and retain staff of the high standard of efficiency and technical competence that it needs, FAO must be perceived as an employer of choice. Bearing in mind this objective, the following are the main areas of human resources policy focus:


18. A teleworking policy that contributes to creating a more flexible workplace has been introduced at headquarters for a trial period of one year.

Timelines: At the end of the trial period, in the beginning of 2003, the experience will be reviewed to assess whether the current policy should be modified and/or extended to offices outside headquarters.

Spouse Employment

19. A draft policy has been developed and reviewed by senior management prior to the initiation of consultations with the staff representatives on the subject.

Timelines: Consultations with the staff will commence at the end of 2002 with a view to implement the new policy in 2004.

Family-related matters

20. In addition, a review of the policies in other international organizations and several member states on maternity, paternity and parental leave and on the treatment of non-traditional marriages/domestic partnerships is being conducted with a view to modify, if necessary, FAO's policies in these areas.

Timelines: These reviews will be completed by mid-2002 with a view to develop any new draft policies by 31 December 2002. Consultations with the staff representatives would be envisaged to take place in the first quarter of 2003.


21. Progress on the implementation of the human resources component of Oracle (Oracle HR) is reported in document FC 99/13 (status report as at the end of December 2001).


22. A comprehensive review of FAO's staff rules and procedures has been initiated, the main objectives of which are to update, streamline and simplify the FAO's Administrative Manual. Simultaneously, efforts to make the Manual progressively available on-line through the Intranet system and on CD-ROM, both in Word and HTML formats, are being pursued.

Timelines: The review of the sections of the Manual dealing with human resources management will be completed by the end of 2002. The electronic version of the Manual will also be available at that time.

II. Conclusion

23. As can be seen from the foregoing, the Organization has embarked on an ambitious plan of human resources management reforms. The Director-General is wholly committed to the successful implementation of the reform process and looks forward to the support of member states for his efforts to further strengthen human resources management in the Organization.