Human resources are the main capital for VNG International’s ‘knowledge-intensive’ work and the quality of our relations with all stakeholders are a key factor for success. Therefore, we invest a lot in the quality of our staff and external experts.
Staff and experts
As per 31-12-2018, the total number of staff in our head office in the Hague was 57, of which 20 men (35.1 %) and 37 women (64.9%). The total in FTE was 53.21, with almost the same division between men and women. The average age was 38, with 41 for men and 36 for women. In 2018, 9 staff left the organisation and 11 joined, with no particular over-representation in any of the organisation units.
In 2018, we realised in addition to the consultancy work of our staff on the payroll, a total of 10,432 external expert days.
Investing in training and personal development
VNG International finds it important that staff keep their skills and knowledge up to date, and that they can invest in personal development. On an annual basis we budget 2.4 % of our total gross salary costs for this purpose. Junior Project Managers, when joining the organisation, follow a standard set of training modules to prepare them for their job. All staff travelling to destinations with a high security risk profile, receive a security training in the context of our security policy (see further below). Individual training needs are identified in dialogue between each staff member and his/her supervisor.
Knowledge sharing is another important element of our collective development. Various facilities are in place to support this. Regular ‘brown bag’ meetings are held about a range of topics, sometimes with own staff only, and sometimes with external guests. With a core group of associated experts, we held our annual ‘international staff meeting’ in January, to discuss market trends as well as cross-cutting issues such as the changes in our Code of Conduct (see further below). In June 2018, we organised a similar meeting in Rwanda for our staff and external experts working in the Great Lakes Region.
Sick leave and prevention
Care for the well-being of staff is important from the perspective of individual employees and the organisation as a whole. Work related sick leave has, over the years, been relatively low for VNG International. For the whole of 2018 it was 2.8 %. Prevention remains a high priority, for which the managers, the external ‘arbodienst’, and the employees themselves, all have their own and a joint responsibility. In 2019, in close cooperation with other VNG entities, we are conducting a ‘Risk Inventory and Evaluation’. Support to our staff varies from internal coaching, encouraging the participation in fitness programmes, to offering the possibility of working part-time for a better balance between work and the private situation. In case of sick leave, we use the services of the ‘arbodienst’ to jointly define appropriate measures in line with the applicable legal provisions.
Safety and security
Our frequent work abroad, including in fragile countries, brings along increased safety and security risks. This requires appropriate procedures and preparation, both at individual and organisation level. Ever since we first formulated a safety and security policy in 2009, this awareness has grown significantly. The safety and security policy and measures have now been integrated in our quality management system. An internal working group keeps the procedures and awareness up-to-date, using feedback received from within and outside the team. In May 2019 we held our regular simulation of a crisis situation. Safety and security incidents are formally reported, and also used for evaluation of the existing procedures and awareness. In 2018 two incidents have been reported, both of which did not give reason for changes in policies or procedures.
Code of Conduct
Also in view of the increased public and political attention for behaviour and conduct, we revised our Code of Conduct in 2018. Our Code of Conduct is embedded in the VNG-wide “VNG policy against misconduct”, which includes a ‘whistle blower’ regulation, and also relates to a VNG International specific complaints procedure. Within the VNG organisation, employees can address on a confidential basis two confidants (‘vertrouwenspersonen’).
VNG International maintains a register for reported cases of misconduct. Cases are treated with respect for privacy. As many as necessary details about (the character of) the case, and about the actions taken or to be taken, are registered. In 2018, two cases have been reported, both of which have received follow-up defined in good consultation with the persons who reported the cases.
Compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been and is an important priority for VNG International. Within the VNG organisation as a whole a process has taken place to comply with the strict new rules around protecting customer data by May 25, 2018. Many systems and processes are in place and compliance officers both in the overall VNG organisation as well as in VNG International itself have been assigned. We already achieved, in line with the requirements, a reasonable level of protection for personal data, but we are still in the process of taking additional measures to improve our compliance with the requirements.