What career development?
EVELINE COVENEY, COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, STAFF ASSOCIATION WHO/HQ
“Career development” and “performance management” are buzz words which beg the question “In reality, what do they mean?” More specifically, “Is it perhaps due to the present times of accountability and performance management that career development naturally comes to mind?”
However, most staff, if asked, would reply that career development within the UN system is somewhat lacking. General service staff have seen the G7 grade almost disappear. G6s are now becoming few and far between. The picture is only marginally rosier in the Professional category, given that P.5s have not disappeared with such rapid frequency, but D.2s are being downgraded to D1s and staff, in general, often deplore being “stuck” or facing the fact that posts are downgraded.
Progress and development are basic human aspirations, otherwise home would still be a cave and touch screens would never have been invented. While a worker can be motivated by his/her workplace tasks per se, the idea of aspiring to some form of formal and monetary recognition is normal. Doesn’t the private sector offer a bonus system? Yet many staff, with some sort of tenure in the UN system, have reached the top of their salary scale and find there really is no other ladder to step on to as a way of going higher. They are blocked. This in itself is demotivating.
In WHO it is fortunate that a waiver exists regarding academic qualifications whereby staff who aspire to move from the general service to the professional category can do so, provided they have the requisite number of years of relevant work experience and can pass the competitive process. Indeed, this has enabled some staff to realize career aspirations. However, such instances are more the exception than the rule. The reality is that unless an official has been working in the relevant area or has the support of a forward-thinking line manager, a career move is very much a matter of luck. Opportunities for secondment or to take on new and potentially more complex tasks are rare, as well as mobility tied to promotion.
“Rewards and recognition” have also become two commonly-branded or buzz words as it is widely accepted that merit should be rewarded. Staff who are high performers should be recognized as such and enabled to take on assignments over and above their immediate job descriptions with a view to preparing them for career advancement. In reality, staff are often reticent about agreeing to take on extra activities for fear of aspersions that they must have time on their hands. This belies the fact that additional work is frequently carried out during a staff member’s lunch break or outside office hours. A change in such office culture is needed. If staff witness high performers being rewarded for doing more and beyond the call of duty, it would set a healthy precedent and others would be motivated to follow suit. Productivity and motivation is really what it should be about. Surely the workplace would benefit from such “career development”?