Case Study: United Nations Department of Field Support

Target Audience: 

600 HR staff worldwide

Learning Needs: 

HR management best practices, consistent HR business practices, common HR language

The United Nations Department of Field Support (UNDFS) manages personnel, finance, logistics, and other support for UN peace operations around the world. Among other things, the UNDFS provides human resources training and certification for 600 United Nations HR personnel.

The Challenge
  • The UN had discovered core-skills competency gaps in a large contingent of global HR practitioners, and specific deficiencies in leadership and strategic management skills among higher-level supervisors and managers. Because HR practitioners and supervisors face all manner of social, political, and physical challenges in the field, establishing UN-standardized practices and protocols for human resources is particularly vital.
  • Reaching a uniform HR training standard for all UN missions everywhere was proving difficult, however. “Because our units are spread across the globe, providing training consistent with UN organizational policies was challenging—not to mention astronomically expensive,” explains Eran Schweiger, Chief of DFS’s Quality Assurance Unit. “We never want our Field Managers out there operating without proper HR training. It can open up a whole world of liabilities and legal setbacks and have adverse managerial and financial implications.”

UNDFS urgently needed a cost-effective solution for global HR training. In 2010, they turned to eCornell.

The Solution

From the outset, eCornell’s online delivery platform met the UN’s stringent standards for training and development. It provided a problem-based, collaborative learning environment. UNDFS staffers in the field only needed access to a computer and the Internet. They had round-the-clock access to courses and eCornell support from expert HR facilitators. Completion times were flexible, within reasonable limits, and all participant information was strictly confidential.

eCornell then created a custom nine-course certificate program to address competency gaps among HR practitioners. A similar program contained four additional high-level HR courses for more senior HR practitioners and managers. By completing the same core courses as their HR practitioner subordinates, HR field managers and supervisors assured that there was continuity in processes and staff field missions.

Both curricula are closely aligned with specific training needs of both DFS contingents. By completing the same core courses as their HR practitioner subordinates, HR field managers and supervisors can ensure continuity in processes and staff field missions with assurance and complete confidence.

The Results

Since the program’s launch in December 2010, over 400 UNDFS staff members (260+ HR practitioners and 150+ managers) have completed more than 1,700 eCornell courses. eCornell surveyed field managers at critical points, allowing eCornell and the UNDFS administrative staff to refine services and tailor business practices to meet learners’ needs.

The UNDFS survey data show high satisfaction and relevancy scores. On a 5-point scale, students rated their experience as follows (average of all respondents):

  • The content met my expectations of high quality:  4.4
  • Overall rating of the instructor in this course:     4.3
  • The skills and knowledge presented in this course transfer directly to my workplace responsibilities:   4.5
  • Overall rating of the online learning experience:   4.2

The most important results don’t come from surveys, however—they come from workplace outcomes.

“The UN’s principal expense and greatest asset is human resources,” says Schweiger. “By providing higher-quality HR training to our field support staff and delivering it globally through eCornell, we’ve definitely seen a compounding effect on the competence and quality of mission personnel. People are more motivated than ever before, which has unquestionably led to improved delivery of the missions’ mandate.”