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Staff turnover in humanitarian settings

Last edited: July 03, 2013

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  • Staff turnover in humanitarian settings has become a major concern during the past ten years. Although it has been presented as an inevitability that must be dealt with, it is also linked to a reduced effectiveness of programmes due to a disruption in staffing and the loss of institutional memory.  For these reasons it is critical to develop strategies to try and reduce turnover as much as possible (Loquercio, D., Hammersley, M. and Emmens, B., 2006).
  • As noted in the table below, high turnover can be caused by numerous factors including: the end of programmes, lack of funding for programmes, better pay/conditions elsewhere, poor management, poor work environment, burn-out, and external safety or hazardous issues. On the other hand, a good team, colleagues and work environment, as well as an innovative culture can encourage staff members to stay on. When considering the number people to hire and drafting their work descriptions, it is important to remember that staff is more like to stay where the work culture does not support an excessive workload which may have a high negative impact on personal lives.

Source: People In Aid and Emergency Capacity Building Project Horn of Africa Consortium Project. 2010. Short Training. Addressing Staff Retention & Improving Staff Engagement. Programme Manager Participant’s Notes and Handouts, Annex 1.