United Nations turn to New Zealand for world’s best practice

Where does the United Nations Secretariat in New York turn when it needs world-class support to improve the quality of staff selection? New Zealand, that’s where.
Having developed tailored competency model describing the behaviours necessary for performance across the globe, James Bradley and Virginia Fox of the United Nations Staff Development team were faced with the task of implementing competency based recruitment. After worldwide search for consultants, the UN settled on Saville and Holdsworth New Zealand as its partner.

Selection & interviewing workshop
Last October, SHL designed two-day selection and interviewing skills workshop for UN managers. The programme spanned short-listing, technical assessments, and fair selection, but focused primarily on the skills of competency based interviewing and making objective and justifiable selection decisions. Current best practice theory was combined with extensive practical work, using video to provide concrete and constructive feedback. In addition, SHL designed tailored interview guide, presenting structured questions for exploring each of the UN competencies, together with rating system.
Then it was time to put it all into practice. The first sessions were delivered in New York in November for two departments, with participants from as far afield as Australia, Germany, Lebanon, Bhutan, and France. Two key themes cropped up.
* Recognising the importance of competencies: The participants learned the importance of recruiting against competencies as well as for technical skills. The programme provided methodology for managers to assess whether candidates possessed behavioural style that fitted the UN’s culture. In turn, this helped managers shape the evolving UN culture by recruiting for fit, rather than focusing exclusively on technical competence whilst leaving culture fit to chance.
* Applying selection techniques across cultures: The UN is unique in its exceptional level of diversity. recurring theme during the programme involved the need to ensure consistency in standards (for fairness) whilst remaining sufficiently flexible and sensitive to people from different cultural backgrounds. The programme stressed the need to understand and accommodate different cultural norms, without impacting on the quality of the evidence gathered.

Ongoing delivery
The course will now be delivered as standard programme for managers across the UN Secretariat starting in New York in February 2000, with the opportunity of being introduced at other UN centres around the world thereafter.
The project is more than simple partnership between SHL and the United Nations. It was won as result of the proposal request being passed from Trade NZ’s New York office, to Trade NZ in Auckland, and from there on to all members of Consulting New Zealand.

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