“Vas-y Papa!” They are committed to
One final agenda item: The
administrator hands out wads of local
currency to purchase needed supplies.
In a remarkably short time, there is a
functional hospital, living compound and
an office, all in a secure environment
and all out of nothing. Running water
may be in the form of staff running
buckets back and forth. Roofs might
leak, expats might sleep on mattresses
on the floor and Internet might be slow.
Electricity might be limited to 12 hours
a day, and receipts might be scrawled
on the backs of empty cigarette packs.
None of this matters though, because
the BBQ pit works beautifully, an
unbreakable bond between team
members has been formed and patients
are receiving treatment.
This is how a start-up happens in
the humanitarian world. It’s not much
different from any entrepreneurial
start-up—well, if you don’t count
intermittent issues with electricity,
running water, language challenges
and your occasional armed insurgent
trying to get past security guards. You
have your logistics, your infrastructure,
your supply chain, your IT, your
corporate communications, your legal,
your fulfillment, your customer service.
And you have your HR. Not simply
at a local level, but at a macro level
where global forecasting must be
balanced with needs in the most
remote regions of the planet—in the
context of a business model where the
only constant is “unforeseen.”
WANTED: Creative thinkers,
problem-solvers, motivated, adaptable,
big-picture thinkers, and must be
able to hit the ground running. Able
to function under extremely stressful
circumstances. All this and crazy skills
working with multi-cultural teams.
What CHRO doesn’t want those
qualities in his or her organization? At
least, that’s what the talent plan says.
But you can’t find them. Your applicant
tracking system doesn’t understand
how to find them. Humanitarians’
experience doesn’t exactly translate
word for word. They can build
hospitals out of thin air. They just can’t
do ATS keywords.
But it’s still to your advantage
to seek them out as candidates for
your open positions. They have more
than skills and stories to offer your
organizations. They have an attitude of
possibility and a solid work ethic. They
are resilient and look at challenges
with unique perspectives drawn from a
wide variety of experiences, which they
then reassemble to create solutions for
your unique business challenges.
This is probably the first time
you’ve been invited to consider the
humanitarian population as a talent
pool to draw from. When you think of
these people, you probably imagine
they look a lot like Angelina Jolie or
Antonio Banderas and are in villages
BY CATHERINE CARR
There they stand. A team of our, ready to take orders from their new project coordinator. Each one from a different part of the world: France, Sudan, the United States and Ivory Coast. They are contemplating the remains of a catastrophe before them. They’ve known
one another for just a few days and yet
they are united and clear on the work
ahead. They’ve all done this before.
“You see that?” the project
coordinator says in heavily accented
English, pointing to the site of their
assignment. Heads nod and cigarettes
light up. Their words overlap as they
respond in their mother tongues.
“Ouais,” “Tamam,” “Yup” and a
“We need a 30-bed hospital, access
to water, a secure compound, an office,
housing for expats arriving next week,
and qualified local staff members to
support the activities,” she says. In
their silence, the team members are
already well into their respective roles
and have started working the details
out in their minds.
The ends of their cigarettes begin
to glow as the day darkens. The team’s
logistician is accounting for what
was not mentioned: latrines, crowd
control, space for vehicle maintenance,
supply stores and a BBQ pit so expats
can have some semblance of a social
life. The administrator is calculating
budgets, developing a recruitment
strategy, converting expenses to local
currency and fighting off anxiety about
the predictable slow Internet speeds,
once it’s been restored to the region—
which may be a while. The medical
coordinator is envisioning patient flow,
assessing medical equipment needs,
preparing the pharmaceutical order,
calculating the likelihood of malaria and
strategizing infection control measures.
The project coordinator respects the
silence, understanding that the team
is already making it happen. Taking
advantage of what will be the last time
things are quiet, she considers security
concerns, upcoming negotiations
with local officials, communication
strategies to cross language barriers
and how to manage team morale in
such a remote setting.
More cigarettes are smoked.
This advance team of four asks
more questions. Ideas are shared.
And words intertwine again. “Pas de
problème!” “Let’s do it!” “Yallah!” and
Drawing from her
experience with Doctors
Without Borders, the
author, a former HR
professional, builds a
case for tapping a talent
segment that’s rich in
skills and experience,
yet is almost always
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières staff speak to inhabitants of Planton village prior to aid being
distributed to the most remote areas of Jérémie and Cayes in Haiti.