About WHO

Update on human resources reform

January 2014

A revised human resources (HR) strategy was presented to the Global Policy Group in November 2013 and is on the agenda of the January Programme, Budget and Administration Committee of the Executive Board meeting. The overall objective is to support WHO’s strategic direction and priorities and respond to HR needs at all three levels of the Organization, taking into account WHO’s financing model.

The revised strategy is built on three pillars:

  • attracting talent
  • retaining talent: career management
  • an enabling working environment.

Four cross-cutting principles are integral to each of these pillars:

  • gender balance
  • diversity
  • collaboration
  • accountability.
Graphic of WHO's Human Resources Strategy.

The main activities within the three pillars are highlighted below.

Attracting talent

Simplified and streamlined selection processes, with faster turnaround times, will be achieved through the creation of more generic and standard post descriptions and the development of standard operating procedures to harmonize practices across the Organization. Global rosters will be established for pre-qualified candidates, and joint recruitment for critical positions will be implemented.

Retaining talent: career management

A career management model will ensure that staff at all levels of the Organization have the skills, knowledge and experience needed to fulfil the ambitions of WHO, and that they are motivated to learn, grow and take up new challenges. Career management has four major components: workforce planning; performance management; career development; and mobility. Activities planned in these areas include:

  • a skills inventory;
  • succession planning;
  • an enhanced Performance Management and Development System (ePMDS+);
  • a policy on recognition and rewards, and mechanisms to address underperformance;
  • an update of WHO’s competency framework;
  • the development of career paths using generic profiles and learning pathways; and
  • a Learning and Staff Development Framework.

A WHO mobility framework, with clear guiding principles and specific policies for its implementation, will be developed.

Enabling working environment

A culture of collaboration and excellence is required to create an enabling environment that will allow for successful implementation of the revised HR strategy. Three main aspects need consideration:

  • a respectful and ethical working environment
  • the enhanced administration of justice
  • modern staff management.

The latter includes the enhancement of managerial competence through a new management development programme; a focus on a healthy work-life balance through family-friendly policies; and partnership with staff representatives.

Strategy implementation

The implementation of the revised HR strategy is a shared responsibility among three sets of enablers – the HR function, management and staff – and its success is dependent on the combined efforts of everyone at all levels of the Organization. In order to support the implementation of the revised HR strategy, the Human Resources Management department at headquarters will be restructured.

A phased implementation of the revised HR strategy is proposed:

  • design and construction, 2013-2015
  • implementation – operation and review, 2016-2020.


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