Global Fund grants require skilled and engaged staff. Grants have failed where wrong hires have been brought on board. Grants have failed where the grant recipients have not been adequately prepared to handle the intricacies of human resources management. As one of the major conditions in GF grants, the establishment of a grant management structure – the Programme Management Unit (PMU) – requires the recruitment of staff that will enable the grant recipients to implement effectively and efficiently grant activities.

Success in establishing fully staffed PMUs, with skilled staff, is impacted by internal and external factors. Some of the factors are beyond the grantee’s control e.g. the socio-economic and political environment. However, it is the internal process that grant recipients can manage and limit the impact of external factors.

This article looks at key areas of human resources management for successful grant management and implementation of activities. As part of a series on Capacity Building for Results (CB4R), this article gives guidance to principal recipient managers on effectively managing human resources for Global Fund results.


Managing people is one of the most important skills should be inherent in any Global Fund (GF) grant operation. Grant implementation will fail if the people who form part of the grant management, systems and processes are not well managed, trained and motivated.

Staff members in GF grants are recruited to fulfil specific functions. Managing these staff members  – the human resources of the grant – is one of the most difficult aspects of running the grant, especially when one takes the dynamic nature of human beings into account.

Grant managers are tasked with running the operations of a grant in the most efficient way possible. To do so, human resources are engaged to perform many of the tasks required by the grant. Grant managers, therefore, need to plan, lead, organise and control the human resources so that they can achieve the grant objectives within the organisation (Principal recipient or Sub-recipient) by being as effective as possible. Staff members in GF grants need to be grouped in logical and functionally effective groups; and within these groups, the tasks and responsibilities staff members do needs to be coordinated and structured so that tasks are executed as effectively and efficiently as possible.

The way the grant is organised also needs to take into account the current and future environment in which the organisation is operating. The operating environment of the grant will always shape and determined how the human resources in a grant are organised, managed and at times controlled.

PMU staff members need to be planned and managed along with all the other resources that are used in the process of converting inputs into the outputs of a grant. What makes managing people different from the management of other resources is the “human factor”. As much as people may be resources like other grant assets – human beings cannot be treated as machines. To get the best performance from people, grant managers need to learn the skills needed to effectively engage, lead and manage people.

In this Capacity Building for Results, among other key aspects, there will be the elucidation of the proper process for recruiting staff, inducting new staff members, how to implement ongoing training for all staff, and how to measure employee performance.

Recruiting for results

In most institutions,  the management of the recruitment and selection process is the responsibility of the PR’s Human Resources (HR) department. The HR department ensures that the staff members recruited for the grant are suitable for the position and that the person recruited is in accordance with the staffing strategy of the organisation and the grant as a whole.

 The HR department must take into account the employment equity (equality and impartiality), skills development and future organisational needs of the organisation when selecting people.

The principal recipient or grant managers are responsible for the staffing strategy of the operations function of the grant and, as such, operations managers (finance, procurement, administration, programme etc) must be involved with the recruitment process for grant operations staff. From the start of the process when the job specification is drawn up, to sourcing staff, to developing interview questions and the interview process itself, operations managers have a role to play in recruitment.

The HR department looks after the recruitment processes and protocols of the grant; the programme manager must take responsibility for providing the appropriate selection criteria for the job and, in most instances, selecting the right candidates. After all, it is the programme manager and heads of sections who have to work with the new staff member, and if the wrong person is selected the operations and grant management and implementation of activities may suffer and in so doing impact negatively on the overall implementation of grant activities and results.

The operations management staffing strategy (all sections/departments) must take a long-term view of the skills required for the operation of the grants. The strategy will take into account any planned changes in services provision, grant geographical expansions and anticipated capacity growth of the grant in cases of additions to diseases focus (TB/HIV/Malaria). The strategy must also incorporate a broad overview of the development for existing staff.

 The staffing strategy can be thought of as the staff “blueprint” for the immediate and medium-term operations of the organization.


The process of sourcing candidates and identifying appropriate people for the grant should be well outlines in essential grant documents such as the operations manual. The requirements laid down by the country labour laws ensure that recruitment and selection practices are sound, non-discriminatory and compliant to the country’s laws. Failure to adhere to labour laws procedures may expose a grantee to legal action

Identifying the position

Vacancies exist when positions become available due to a resignation, promotion, termination or the growth and expansion of the grant activities. During the process of filling a vacancy, it is important to establish whether or not a new employee is required permanently or whether the increased workload will only be for a fixed and limited period of time. The decision on what skills are required and how many staff members to employ must be carefully considered.

 The goal of the recruitment process is to have enough of the right people doing the right jobs at the right time to ensure the success and productivity of the organisation

Screening and interviewing

In typical organisations and specifically those that are PRs,  the HR Department is responsible for the process of advertising the vacancy and the initial screening of applicants based on the job specification and staffing strategy. Once a pool of applicants who match the skills, experience and knowledge requirements of the position has been established, the interview process commences.

There are various schools of strategies on the selection process. However, regardless of the process, grant management must be involved in the interviewing of suitable candidates. In the interview process, the role of the programme manager is to ascertain the skill and experience of candidates and to establish which of the candidates will complement the team they will be working with.

 It is vitally important for new staff members to fit into the team they will be working with, as a clash of personality, ethics and values can compromise the productivity and effectiveness of the team.

At the conclusion of the interview process, grant management and HR management should be in agreement about which candidate meets the requirements of the position from their respective perspectives. The HR department will be responsible for making an offer to the chosen candidate and completing the administration of the appointment process.

Staff induction

Staff induction is the process in which a new staff member is assisted to settle into a new job. It is the purposeful integration of the newcomer into the organisation so that they become an active and productive member of the team as quickly as possible.

Providing new staff members with a substantial induction provides an early opportunity to establish a relationship between the new staff member and colleagues/supervisors and the organisation. Positive outcomes of a successful induction include loyalty, commitment and efficiency, all of which are important for the organisation.

The HR department must have an induction programme that ensures new employees are introduced to colleagues, made aware of the grant objectives, the donor and donor requirements and requirements of the organisations etc. Introducing a new staff member to the technical and operational requirements of the new job should be done at during the earliest days of coming on board. This also allows the new staff member to settle into their new position quickly and effectively. If the new employee is a member of a group or team of people who all do the same job, the new employee can be partnered up with an experienced worker to learn the particulars of the position.

The programme manager or the line manager must dedicate time to engage with all new employees to clarify their role in the process of the organisation to agree on how their progress is to be measured and what progress is expected of an employee. New employees need to understand what performance means in the GF grants, and how their performance will be monitored and measured.

Ongoing staff training and development

Training needs are part of the staffing strategy and should include the identification of current and future skills needed by staff, given the present and planned operations of the grant. Therefore, training is about adding to the knowledge or skills of an employee within a certain time. Training must result in the personal and professional skills development of employees and the enrichment of the work experience. Furthermore, training will make employees more productive, so that they can achieve the goals of the organisation more effectively. In addition to personal development, training must focus on the skills and knowledge needed for employees to excel at the present job they are doing and lay the foundation for future positions.

The benefits of continuously training staff include the following:

  • Improved quality of work;
  • Increased output (quantity of work);
  • Better teamwork and team development within the organisation;
  • Lower absenteeism and the number of staff who leave the organisation;
  • Improved job satisfaction; and
  • Improved self-esteem of employees.

Training needs are determined by looking at the organisation at three levels: organisational, operational and individual. This involves the following:

Organisational analysis. By looking at the goals of the organisation and the plans to achieve these goals. With consistent and objective appraisals, the HR department will be able to collate and determine the types of trainings required to enhance staff skills.

Operational analysis. Looking closely at what an employee’s job involves will provide details of the level of skill or knowledge that the employee needs. If employees do not have these skills or if they are not working at the correct level, training can bring them up to standard. Examples are when the technical assistants and some countries, the Fiscal Agents are assigned responsibilities to build staff capacities.

Individual analysis. How well an individual employee works can be measured against the standards decided for that particular job. If he or she does not meet those particular standards, the reasons can be looked into and if a skills deficit is the reason for poor performance, the individual can be trained.

The difference between actual performance and required performance gives a good idea of where training programmes can be used to close the performance “gap”.  Ongoing training is of essence in GF grants management.

The programme management unit

Another fundamental element of effective human resource management is coordination. Organising means dividing up the total tasks of the organisation into smaller units to take advantage of specialisation and achieve the goals of the grant as productively as possible. However, this division of work into smaller jobs immediately raises the problem of cooperation, or the coordination of divided tasks and various departments into an integrated whole to achieve the goals of the organisation. This division can be seen in how most of the grant programme management units (PMU) are structured.

The key to keeping each PMU unit/section focused on the organisation’s goals is coordination. Coordination is the process of linking the activities of the various departments in the organisation into a single unit, the programme management unit. The primary reason for coordination is that the departments and groups are interdependent. PMU sections or units depend on each other to perform their activities. The greater the interdependence between the departments, the more coordination the PMU will require.

Without coordination, individuals and departments lose sight of the organisation’s primary goals and of the role they play in that effort. Coordination is the synthesis of separate parts into a unit, the PMU and, as such, is the binding factor in the managerial process. Coordination results in the integration of goals and tasks at all levels, and also of all departments and functions to enable the PMU to work as a whole. Additionally, an element of timing is necessary because various tasks have to be scheduled for proper intertwining with one another.

Hence, coordination is an endeavour by management to develop congruence (or harmony of goals) through organising. Other mechanisms that promote coordination are the organisation chart (organogram), the budget, working committees, the broad policy and procedures by which tasks are carried out.

Operations managers need to plan the organisational structure; organise work, the jobs that exist, and the people who do the work – all to ensure that staff structures match the operational needs of the organisation.

The necessity of labour legislation and the GF grants

It is imperative that the organisation understands the national labour law in the country. Infringing labour laws or regulations can be costly, and can harm the organisation’s reputation. For the organisation’s and staff member’s benefit, it is advised that the organisation is up to date with the most recent labour laws. The recruitment, selection, and induction processes should adhere to legislation.

Planning and organising human resources  for results

Planning is the first fundamental element of the management process. Planning is the setting of goals and developing a plan of action to achieve the goals as productively as possible. The success of a GF grant is based on the ability of the organisation to achieve results.

Once the plan of activities has been developed the programme manager must combine human and other resources in the most effective and efficient manner in order to achieve the organisation’s goals. These resources include the grant funds, assets etc.

The task of grouping people into effective teams within the PMU to perform the activities that will convert the plan into results. The structured grouping and combination of people and other resources, and their coordination to achieve organisational goals constitutes the second essential element of management: Organising.

This means that management has to implement the strategy or plan. Arrangements have to be made to determine which activities will be carried out and when, with what resources, and by whom. These arrangements involve distributing tasks among employees, allocating resources to persons and departments; Giving the necessary authority to specific staff members will be essential to ensure that the tasks are actually carried out.

The PMU organisational structure indicates who will do the work that needs to be done and the connections between various positions and tasks. Organising or designing a framework of how the work must be done to accomplish the goals becomes indispensable in GF grant management.

In the PMU, the structure indicating the distribution of tasks among departments and individuals has to be drawn up, thereby allocating the responsibilities and lines of authority and communication. In line with the strategy or plan, management still arranges what must be done to reach the objectives.

Organising as a process involves the

·      Identification of grant activities;

·      Classification of groupings of grant activities;

·      Assignment of duties;

·      Delegation of authority and creation of responsibility; and

·      Coordinating authority and responsibility relationships within the PMU.

Organising the grant activities that must be performed to achieve the grant goals. PMU management can use various building blocks to construct the PMU organogram. Examples of these building blocks are job design, grouping jobs (departmentalisation), establishing chains of command, assigning authority, and establishing coordination mechanisms to link activities between jobs.

The fundamentals of organising

Building the PMU organisational structure revolves around the building blocks or fundamentals of organising; namely:

  • Designing jobs for employees;
  • Grouping employees into teams or departments based on activities;
  • Assigning authority;
  • Establishing a command structure; and
  • Establishing coordinating mechanisms.

In essence, organising involves the grouping of activities, resources or people in a logical fashion so that each member knows exactly who to report to, which results in less confusion and more efficient processes.

Designing PMU jobs

PMU job design is the determination of an employee’s responsibilities in the PMU and the compilation of a job specification that explains what that employee must do and what performance standards are expected. PMU job requirements, however, spell out the experience, education, and training that an employee needs in order to qualify to do the job.

The point of departure for designing jobs for employees is to determine the level of specialisation. The specialisation is the way in which a task is broken up into smaller units to take advantage of specialised knowledge or skills to improve productivity.

PMU Departmentalisation

The second principle in PMU organisation is departmentalisation; the formation of departments or sections or units. The main reason for departmentalisation is to split the total task of the GF grant management into smaller units.

The various PMU departments created constitute the organisational structure of the grant operations as they appear on the organisation chart or organogram.

Functional PMU organisational structure

The functional organisational structure is the most basic type of organisational structure. Here, activities belonging to each management function are grouped together. For example, activities involved with the financial management of grant funds and budget monitoring are grouped under the financial management function, while those concerned with the acquisition of goods and services are grouped under the procurement function.

As different departments concentrate on their respective tasks, i.e. the financial manager only focuses on financial matters, all personnel are highly skilled in their specific area. Yet a disadvantage of this structure is that each department head may think that their department is the most important causing conflict between departments. The programme manager’s task of setting the correct coordination mechanisms between departments.

Authority relations in the PMU

The process of giving tasks units or sections and staff members entails the assignment of responsibility and authority to position within the PMU. Furthermore, this involves the creation of organisational relations i.e., indicating who is in charge and who is a subordinate, or who reports to whom, and who is responsible for what.


Responsibility is a particular obligation or commitment on the all PMU staff members to carry out tasks in accordance with the instructions they have received. This also means that all staff members in the PMU should be able to account for what they have done.

Authority is the right to command or to give orders. Authority is the power that has been legitimised by the organisation. It also includes the right to take action to compel the performance of duties. In this way authority flows down the line. This formal authority passed down from above is known as the delegation of authority.

Another concept when considering authority is that of accountability. Accountability cannot be delegated. Accountability stems from responsibility.

PMU Line authority

Line authority is authority delegated down through the line of command. In the PMU structure, the programme manager has line authority over the financial, human resources and procurement, and programme managers. The line managers are directly responsible for achieving the goals of the organisation and leading in achieving grant activities implementation.

PMU Staff authority

Staff authority is an indirect and supplementary authority. Individuals or sections with staff authority achieve the authority through their special knowledge of a particular field. An example is the Malaria programme manager has specialisation in malaria case management and maybe a doctor, the finance manager is an authority in accounting and budget management and maybe a chartered accountant etc.

An important aspect to remember is that one can delegate authority and responsibility, but one cannot delegate accountability. This is because the person who delegates is accountable for the activity

 Reporting relationships

A fundamental element of PMU organising is the establishment of reporting lines among departments/sections/units and positions in departments.

The first step in establishing reporting lines in the PMU  is to determine who reports to whom. Clear and precise reporting lines are important, so that everybody knows who is in charge of what activities. The chain of command has to be established. The second part of establishing reporting lines is to determine the span of management, that is, the number of subordinates who report directly to a manager.

PMU organisation should avoid under-utilisation of managers and excessive control over subordinates.

Factors that influence the PMU organisational design

Grant activity planning can only be successfully implemented if the PMU organisational structure makes this possible. Grant planning, leading and control are facilitated if management has an active and dynamic organisational structure.

Organising is im[plemented in a context where many different environmental factors need to consider into account. These factors may provide input in the designing of the PMU organisational structure.

The environment in which an organisation operates is a decisive factor. The connection between strategy and structure also influence PMU organisation. Obviously, the grant size and complexity in the operating environment, the competence of thePMU employees and the grant disease play important parts. The organisational climate or corporate culture should not be ignored in the design of the structure and in the formation of departments and distribution of tasks. Government PRs tend to have more bureaucratic and highly politicised organisational climate when compared to non-governmental institutions.

Above all, the PMU structure should be designed to be adaptable to changes in the organisation’s environment.

Factors that affect the organisational design.

The environment in which an organisation operates

The environment in which a grant is being implemented has a great effect on the type of PMU structure. The environment should, therefore, be the starting point for the development of strategy and organisational structure. While some environments are stable and others are seen as turbulent; a grant PMU must adapt to its environment to order to be effective.

Stable environment 

A stable environment is one that does not change much or is not subject to unexpected change, e.g. countries which are politically stable. When a change does occur, plans can be made to cope with it in good time.

In a stable environment, the functional structure is suitable, because there is no great need for coordination and cooperation between departments.

Turbulent environment

A turbulent environment is one in which changes are the norm rather than the exception of e.g politically unstable countries where the operating environment is labelled challenging. This necessitates many specialists and close coordination and communication between PMU teams members.

Creating an engaged PMU Staff

What is “staff who are present”?

Most people obediently come to work and do what is expected of them. They use their knowledge and intellect to do the job in the way that they were told to or were trained to, and most people follow the rules of the organisation they work for.

People who are obedient, diligent and use their intellect to complete work required of them are “present” at work. “Present” staff members do what is expected of them, but usually not much more. As such, the results and output of staff are generally predictable, and management get only what they expect from the staff. Staff members who are present need to be constantly coordinated and closely managed.

There is a downside of staff only being present – they are unlikely to use their initiative or apply their creativity and passion to the work they are doing. Not much will happen without specific instructions and clear directions. Thus, in order to continually grow and improve participation in grant management processes, any attempt to do so has to be instructed and managed – with minimal creativity, initiative and passion from the staff.

Moving to engaged staff

It would be significantly better for PMU to have staff who are willingly and voluntarily passionate, creative and innovative about the work they do. People who use their initiative to be creative in all that they do and are truly passionate about the work they do, are deemed “engaged”. Employee engagement is key to getting the most out of staff and for staff to get the most out of the work experience.

Engaged staff are staff who in their approach towards work use their initiative to improve and optimise the work they do. They are creative thinkers and problem solvers and are passionate They have high energy levels. Staff will look forward to being at work if work is energising, rewarding and possibly even fun.

PMU programme managers tasks include getting the most output from the least amount of resources. It makes sense for programme managers to work with staff members who are “engaged”, rather than “present”. Having human resources who willfully do more than just what is instructed or expected of them will be a significant advantage to any operation.

Getting the most out of any process or system requires constant innovation, creativity and energy to get the job done and make the changes that may be needed. Having an engaged PMU staff makes grant management easier, as staff will use their creativity, innovation and passion to get the process working as effectively as possible. Programme managers should transform staff from being present to being engaged.

The challenge, of course, is how to motivate people from being merely present to being engaged. Staff cannot be instructed to be engaged – you cannot instruct people to “be passionate” about the work they are doing or “go and be creative”. It’s almost impossible to instruct people to be passionate, creative and to use their initiative.

How to transform ‘present’ staff to engage staff

Programme managers should apply the basic principles of staff engagement in the way staff are managed.

The four principles are;

  • Process
  • Progress
  • Performance
  • Praise


Processes are the heart and soul of any operation. By developing, implementing and refining a process, PMU programme managers are able to utilise the available resources to meet activity implementation goals. To get the most benefit from the human resources, and for the people to get the most out of the work experience, it makes sense to have people as resources who are engaged in the processes they are part of.

For people to be engaged with a process, they must know:

  • Where they fit into the PMU processes;
  • Why they matter to the activity process (e.g. why are they at work, what their role is within the immediate and overall process); and
  • How they are contributing to the achievement of grant activities.

If an employee can say what they contribute to the process and why they will be missed if they are not there, then they will be clear on their contribution to the process.


To be engaged and to remain engaged in any process, PMY staff members need to know if they are making progress. By achieving grant indicators or results, staff will realise that their effort is contributing towards the grant goals or objectives. Their progress is visible and noticeable.

The feeling and knowledge that they are moving towards their objective, is what keeps them engaged. If they were unable to see the top or measure their upward movement towards the summit, many climbers would not persevere in the process.

Measuring progress

PMU staff who feel and know what progress is being made will feel and recognise their own contribution to the progress that is being made. By seeing the progress (indicators) and by recognising their own contribution they are more likely to be and remain engaged. As engaged PMU employees, they are then more likely to use their initiative, be creative when sorting out and dealing with problems and they will be passionate about and energised by what they are doing.

PMU Programme managers need to find ways to measure progress and to share the information about progress so that progress is evident. The first step in the measurement of progress requires the programme manager to highlight the grant objectives, goals and targets. Without an objective, it’s difficult to measure progress towards the target. Therefore, programme managers need to ensure that the process design incorporates clear and specific objectives. These clear and specific objectives need to be communicated down throughout the PMU process flows and down to a level where individual staff or teams know what is expected of them.


Performance management is a science in itself. Performance management theories range from using threats and strong-arm tactics, to staff deciding on what to do and when they will work. Most employees, and certainly engaged employees want to perform well because good performance is a self-affirmation about one’s mastery of skills.

Mastering skills is the process of learning and acquiring knowledge and understanding about how to do something – usually from a master, teacher or mentor – until the learner has the same knowledge and skills as the master.

The PMU will benefit from staff performing at their best and staff will perform at their peak if they are afforded the opportunity to do so. PMU programme managers must ensure that staff members are deployed in a way that they are given an opportunity to use their skills and strengths.

Staff also need the opportunity to learn and master new skills. They need access to training and experts to mentor and guide them through the new tasks and skills. Staff must be given the opportunity to do more than what they were employed to do to grow their skills and experience. During the process of learning and mastering new skills, staff members need support to overcome personal doubts and fears. PMU programme managers need to have conversations with staff about acquiring news skills and the processes to be followed.

PMU programme managers and supervisors need to ensure that staff are performing their current jobs well and to the expected standards. One way of doing so is to use performance appraisals. A performance appraisal involves looking at how well employees are doing their jobs.

The appraisal of an employee’s performance is a sensitive matter. It must be carried out with great care. The appraisal will have a direct effect on the employee’s motivation, self-image and perceived status among fellow employees. It will also have an effect on the employee’s career opportunities, promotion, salary and commitment to performance. Appraisals must, therefore, also be carried out fairly and accurately.

An appraisal is a way of communicating between the supervisor and the subordinate. Appraisals make it clear what each party expects of the other.

      Appraisals offer:

  • Employees the opportunity to show how well they want to do in their job or how far they want to go in the organisation;
  • Managers the opportunity to show an interest in how well employees are doing;
  • Opportunities to see what training needs there are for employees;
  • Opportunities to praise and encourage employees who have performed well; and

·         Opportunities for employers to show when they are not happy with an employee’s performance.

What must be evaluated?

Performance appraisals usually evaluate employees’ behaviour (how they carry out their work) and their results (how well the employees have met their job requirements).

  • How well the employee is meeting the goals of the grantee;
  • The actual job the employee is doing (which is why job descriptions are so important); and
  • The employees’ feelings about their work – this gives the employees a chance to speak about how they feel they are performing and where they see their future in the organisation.

Managers who have the best knowledge of their employee’s job performance, and who observe their behaviour every day, should carry out performance appraisals. Formal performance appraisals are usually linked to the salary cycle and as such appraisals usually happen once a year before increases are given. To achieve the best performance from staff, feedback about how they are performing must be ongoing and frequent.

Engaged employees will enjoy their work experience and they will perform with the energy that comes from being passionate about the work they are doing. Giving people the space and opportunity to perform, and telling them how they are doing is as vital as is the opportunity to learn and master new skills. With an opportunity to learn and perform, employees will most likely be engaged and not just present at work.


Praise can be defined as an expression of approval and acclaim – it’s the kind of praise that acknowledges people and gives them a sense of worth and recognition that their actions are viewed favourably by people who count and are important in their lives –  e.gny their line supervisor.

Most people want to be noticed and regarded as individuals and mostly everyone wants to feel like they count and that their efforts are valued and important. Programme managers hold a position where their opinion should be considered as important by staff, and being praised by a programme manager can be hugely significant to an employee.

Cash, certificates, and awards are good ways to incentivise staff, however, incentives only last as long as the cash or certificate retains value in the mind of the recipient – and it’s usually only as long as the money reflects as part of the person’s bank balance. Praise, on the other hand, changes the way a person feels and the value of that is long-lasting.

For praise to change the way a person feels and for the value of the praise to be long-lasting, praise needs to be truthful, heartfelt, frequent and heard. Praise must be:

  • Praise must be genuine and honest.
  • The person who is giving the praise must “feel” the need to praise the person.
  • Praise must be given often and every time when it is due.
  • Praise must be said and heard – not written down and read. Of course, a note praising someone for what they’ve done is better than nothing, but actually hearing it and saying it is far more powerful.



This article is a result of my working experiences with Global Fund grant recipients. Opinions indicated in this article have no bearing on any grant recipient but are a genuine effort to contribute towards effective human resources management for improved achievement of grant results.

Send feedback to: