“Above all, a mission is the people involved in it”
Noémie D’Aout has been HR coordinator in Cameroon since August 2017. She tells us about this important role and the challenges it involves.
WHAT DOES THE HR COORDINATOR ROLE INVOLVE?
“When people hear the words ‘human resources’ (HR), they tend to think that the job is all about employment contracts, salaries and staff files. But in the humanitarian sector, the position of HR coordinator represents a lot more than that.
Part of my work involves coordinating with the whole strategic team – with the head of mission, the logistics coordinator, the financial coordinator, the deputy programme mission director, and more. I take part in strategic decisions about the mission and help to draft proposals for new projects.
I also contribute to a mission-wide HR strategy, which covers all HR management policies in terms of wages, discipline, and contractual aspects that are needed to ensure the mission runs smoothly. My day-to-day goal is to ensure that these policies are consistent with each other, with national legislation, and with Première Urgence Internationale’s internal and ethical rules. If a procedure does not comply with local legislation, then the decisions that we make would not be legal, which could present clear legal or financial risks.
This means that in my role, it’s important to have an overview of the mission in its entirety. In order to be able to implement good policies, they have to fit with national legislation but also with the mission objectives and meet employees’ needs. And to do this, it’s essential to understand these needs and know what they are.
So my role doesn’t stop there. It’s not enough to simply put policies in place. Every day, I also need to make sure that everyone understands the rules and that they are being strictly applied and followed across the mission to make sure there is no inequality or disparity.
WHAT ARE THE HR CHALLENGES IN CAMEROON?
At the Cameroon mission, the post has only existed since 2016. Before then, there were no local HR policies, so we had to put them in place and work on achieving better HR management in order to encourage and boost our employees. This is absolutely crucial, as without proper management of human resources, our teams and colleagues can feel demotivated. This can result in real risks to our activities.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES YOU FACE IN YOUR ROLE?
Above all, a mission is the people involved in it. Without human resources – without our employees – we couldn’t carry out our work. This means that it’s really important to make sure that employees have the most appropriate resources and conditions possible to help them perform their roles. For example, if a mission is understaffed and there aren’t enough people for the requirements of the mission, or if someone leaves suddenly, it can have an impact on activities. This is why it’s so essential to give proper attention and time to human resources.
What’s more, you have to constantly coordinate and monitor the consistency of our practices across the different bases to avoid demotivating or frustrating employees. Human Resources needs to make sure, for example, that social benefits are equally available to all. As the HR coordinator, I try to make sure I have a good overview, which helps me to coordinate the entire mission. To do this, I regularly hold meetings with field teams and carry out field visits at least every two to three months.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE FOR AN HR COORDINATOR?
It’s impossible to say – no two days are alike. There are days where all I deal with are HR cases or emergencies. These can include, for example, disciplinary cases or career reviews, or situations that require me to travel urgently to bases for meetings with employees, etc. On other days, I make sure that policies have been implemented, such as by revising the salary grid, putting a training plan in place, or working on salary review procedures – so there’s always something to do for a human resources coordinator.”