Annual Update 2020 VNG International
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 31-12-2019, the total number of staff in our head office in The Hague was 55 and the total in FTE 50.9. In 2019, 7 staff left the organisation and 7 joined. The average age of the staff was 37.4. Of the 55 staff, 63.6 % are women and 36.3 % are men. At management level, the division is just the other way round, with 67% men and 33% women. Our daughter company in Tunis and the project offices together have more than 150 people on the payroll. In addition we have a large group of external experts who provide their services on a contractual basis. Among them is a core group of 40 associated experts who work for us on a regular or long-term basis.
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. We are currently reviewing the total set of training offered, so that it continues to answer the needs of the organisation on the one hand, and those of individual staff on the other hand.
In 2019 we rearranged responsibilities within the teams in such a way that more attention is given now to individual development needs of each of the staff. We give particular attention to the development process of Junior Project Managers, who, if the measures that we have in place for it are followed, should normally be ‘ready’ to become Project Managers after some 3 years in the organisation.
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.
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 2019 it was 1.8%. 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 conducted a ‘Risk Inventory and Evaluation’. The results were approved by the ‘arbodienst’ on 16 December.
Given the amount of computer work (sometimes under high time pressure) continuous information and instruction about a good working posture and work facilities are important. Due to COVID-19, working from home has become the rule since mid-March 2020, which caused some new challenges. More use has been made of the already existing possibility that we offer to our staff to procure furniture and equipment that meet the standards for healthy labour conditions. Home schooling of their children put pressure on some of our staff and required some tailor-made solutions.
Other preventive measures that we offer, vary 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 in fragile countries entails 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 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 February 2020 a refresher training was organised for a group of staff who had received a security training earlier. The security training for female travellers, planned in March, had to be postponed to September, due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Safety and security incidents are formally reported, and also used for evaluation of the existing procedures and awareness. In 2019 two incidents have been reported, both related with armed crime but without major consequences. And both did not give reason for changes in policies and procedures.
In March we have carefully assessed with all our staff and experts abroad, their situation and how to act in relation with the COVID-19 crisis. With the current development towards a step by step lifting of the travel restrictions, we have intensified the procedures for decision-making on the need for travelling.
Code of Conduct
The VNG International 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’).
Early 2020, we updated our procedure for the reporting of and dealing with cases of misconduct, including the further elaboration of proportionate sanctions to be applied. All staff, all associated experts and all project offices have been informed about it and contract templates have been updated accordingly.
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 2019, no cases have been reported of breaches against the Code of Conduct.
Compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) continues to have our permanent attention. The necessary procedures are in place, and repetitive messages will keep the staff aware of the legal requirements.