Briefing Paper of the IRP II


The International Remuneration Project II (IRP II) is the name given to the project launched in August 2010 to review existing international staff terms and conditions (i.e. pay system, benefits, contracts set up, etc.) implemented in 2006 as a result of what was known at the time as the “IRP”.

The Origins of the Review

The current International Remuneration system was based on common remuneration principles to ensure equity in treatment and opportunity for international staff, and to increase volunteers’ access to social systems and services after their missions.

When the review of the system was launched, it was originally planned as an update to adapt it to new realities and provide answers to known issues. However, as the review progressed, it became obvious the organization had changed significantly in size and complexity in the previous decade and that MSF needed to take a fresh look at our total reward system to make sure the new system also support MSF’s operational ambitions and challenges in the mid to long term.

Main Challenges

There are several challenges that IRP II is meant to address. First, the complexity of our operations: we not only have more projects, but they are more complex and need to be staffed with more specialists (medical in particular) and coordinators with improved management skills (because size of projects has considerably increased in terms of teams, budget, etc). We need to attract, retain and motivate them.

Secondly, we need to move away from the current reactive HR response to support our operations, in favour of a more pro-active model which will provide more visibility and predictability of deployment of our international staff, and also facilitate development & career opportunities (which will eventually be translated in a higher quality and better management of our projects).

Last but not least, we need to facilitate committed international staff to stay longer in our organisation to provide stability in our missions and benefit from their know-how.

The Objectives

The main objectives our rewards should aim to achieve:

• To Attract more specialist medical capability, competent coordinators and generally people whose primary motivation is humanitarian action;

• To Motivate key staff to commit long-term, coordinators to take on long-term assignments, people to increase their mobility in terms of deployment, flexibility and career and generally people to take on more responsibility;

• To Retain a core career-oriented workforce, more generally, critical competence and organisational knowledge, and overall, a culture of ‘volunteerism’ in MSF.

This has to be achieved while treating people equitably across all employment groups, learning lessons from the market, understanding cost impacts and managing them as a strategically important investment.

IRP as part of a Global Reward Strategy

Reward elements are part of Global Reward Strategy. IRP II deals with Compensation & Benefits which are the tangible elements. However much of the MSF offer is intangible: training, career opportunities, growth, meaningful work, etc.

To ensure full effectiveness of the reward strategy, it is important that all these elements mutually support each other towards the same objectives. Many studies show that remuneration in itself is not sufficient to retain people. Indeed, the End of Mission Survey shows consistently that whilst pay is among the reasons cited by expatriates for leaving, the main one is poor management.

All the elements are being addressed comprehensively: some at international level, such as compensation & benefits, and some – because they fall under OC prerogative- are dealt with at OC level. Whilst IRP is focusing on the compensation and benefits because of its international nature, it is important to note that all OCs are working on other critical elements of the reward strategy such as Development & Career Opportunities. Developing and growing our staff to take on managerial responsibility is critical to improve management in our missions. This needs to go hand in hand with a financial basis for our staff that allows them to stay and grow/develop into competent managers.

To better focus our efforts and investment on our international staff, the MSF offer to employees will be proportional to the level of their commitment. In this sense, different segments of staff have been identified depending on their engagement. Having a differentiated workforce has not and will not change our organisational culture. In fact, segmentation is already a practice in MSF. MSF will continue to use a field staffing model heavily reliant on volunteers who commit on a mission to mission basis to be able to be reactive in emergency response.

IRP II: Reward principles

Reward Principles have not changed significantly from those defined in IRP I (See Annex

1). In November 2003, the IC supported the proposal for remuneration of its 1st year volunteers presented by the Executive. In particular, the IC recognised following principles underlying this proposal:

  • Harmonisation of remuneration across sections as a contributing factor for the
  • retention of volunteers
  • Equity as a starting point for harmonisation
  • The concept of indemnity as opposed to salary
  • MSF as a socially responsible employer
  • Decentralised management of the contracts of the volunteers in all sections
  • IRP II proposal has aimed to stay within this framework. Reward principles have rather been clarified and expanded.

The core principles remain the same: modesty of pay, equity, coherence across segments of the population and being a responsible employer.

We will continue to promote a spirit of volunteerism and humanitarian impulse in all our staff.

This means that pay can never be the dominant motivation when working with our organisation. In February 2013, the International Board reaffirmed the principle of volunteerism and its translation into our reward system through an indemnity period and asked the Executive to maintain the current application of indemnity, i.e. a twelve month duration and implementation as is.

Equity is understood as fair principles applied consistently. For IRP I, the principle of ensuring equity for all international staff was endorsed by the IC. As a first step towards equity, IRP I built equity-based salary structures only for international staff resident in existing MSF sections. Due to the size and scope of the changes involved with IRP I, it was decided to include staff resident in countries with no MSF contracting structures in a later stage. IRP II is now covering the entire international population and is applying the same principles to all staff.

IRP II has built salary structures guided by the equity principle. For this purpose, a hybrid model has been proposed whereby the salary is a balance of local based pay and global NGO market, equalising pay at the top of the salary grids. For low income country residents a minimum starting salary has been sought to ensure a fair pay and minimize effect of the home base part of pay.

IRP II: Compensation & Benefits Package

Our Compensation & Benefits Package ensures a targeted investment in key segments, while remaining equitable across the entire population. The main differences with IRP I system are the following:

· More salary progression: commensurate with an increased complexity of the missions, more salary increases to recognise more differentiation in levels of responsibility. IRP II provides a 7 salary category system (instead of 3 in IRP I) built on the International Reference Field Function Grid.

· Recognition of experience: to recognise relevant skills and competences an individual brings to the post, reflected in the salary bands for each salary level (compared to IRP I, simply rewarding seniority and experience regardless of position).

· A reviewed field benefits package with a harmonised per diem policy and field facilities package.

· Segmentation: This forms the basis on which reward programs are differentiated per segment depending on the employee’s level of engagement with the organisation.

· Hybrid pay system which enables to apply same principles to all staff in a fair and consistent way, including the home-country based approach. The Hybrid model ensures a balance between home- pay and global based pay.

· Safety net for low income countries: implementation of minimum starting salary for those countries to limit the negative impact of home-country based approach.

ANNEX 1. Reward Principles

1. MSF’s compensation should be:

  • Modest. For consistency, modesty will be a target market position against a common peer group
  • Referenced to treatment at home.
  • Commensurate with the responsibility that the individual holds
  • Commensurate with the commitment that the individual offers to the organisation
  • Determined by the individual’s competence on the job and his/her loyalty to the organisation
  • Encouraging people to take on more responsibility

2. MSF’s total benefit package should be

  • Facilitating link with, and re-integration in home society. To this effect, MSF aims to provide employees with reasonable home benefits.
  • Equivalent between expats from different countries/section

MSF’s field benefit package should be:

  • Appropriate to the host location’s cost-of-living
  • Facilitating the ability to mobilise people to the right places (through family facilities)
  • Flexible where this does not affect mission effectiveness or security
  • Commensurate with the commitment (predictability of deployment) and stability (duration of assignment) that the individual offers to the organisation

3. MSF’s recognition is focused on:

  • Team, not individual, success

4. MSF’s development & career opportunities should be:

  • Building multi-context experience
  • Growing competent leaders
  • Primarily guided by role requirements and individual capabilities

5. MSF’s work-life policy should be:

  • Offering employees reasonable time off whilst on assignment and appropriate breaks between their assignments
  • Facilitating the ability to mobilise people to the right places
  • Salaries remain overall modest and we kept a 12-month indemnity period
  • For people who commit with MSF for a long term period: Time on missions will be balanced with work at home or time off providing necessary breaks or the opportunity to develop complementary skills or professional qualifications.
By: Association Intern