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Socialisation of humanitarian aid workers: Interviews with recruitment officers
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Women's and Children's Health. (Internationell kvinno- & mödrahälsovård och migration/Essén)
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Women's and Children's Health. (Internationell sexuell och reproduktiv hälsa/Larsson)
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Women's and Children's Health. (Internationell sexuell och reproduktiv hälsa/Larsson)
(English)Manuscript (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

International organisations employ thousands of aid workers for humanitarian aid around the world. One of the problems identified in earlier research is the high turnover of personnel.

This article is part of a broader research project investigating how humanitarian organisations attract, recruit and prepare expatriate health professionals for field work and how these professionals are utilized in order to identify possible improvements in the human resource management system. The current study describes how recruitment officers in selected large humanitarian organisations perceive humanitarian aid work, how they recruit, prepare, and support their staff in order to achieve high retention, and what concerns and recommendations they have for future work. For the analysis of the interviews content analysis was used.

The recruitment officers identified the importance of flexibility and diplomacy in complex realities. They confirmed the findings of earlier studies that team work often is a source of frustrations and sometimes disappointment. Their main concern was lack of time to find the right person for the right job, often a person with broad expertise in public health. Another difficulty was to find persons who could take responsibility as leaders and trainers. In order to socialize the newcomers into the organisation short courses and debriefing sessions were used. Persons, who stay too long in the field of humanitarian action and sometimes become cynical to the difficult situation they work in was also discussed as being problematic. This finding contradicts the otherwise frequently discussed question about the high turnover of personnel in humanitarian action. This article argues for the use of socialization theory in order to find sustainable solution to identified problems.

Keyword [en]
Humanitarian action, aid workers, socialisation, qualitative research
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Research subject
Medicine
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-100880OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-100880DiVA: diva2:211204
Available from: 2009-04-09 Created: 2009-04-09 Last updated: 2015-03-02
In thesis
1. Images, Motives, and Challenges for Western Health Workers in Humanitarian Aid
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Images, Motives, and Challenges for Western Health Workers in Humanitarian Aid
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis presents how humanitarian aid workers were attracted, motivated, recruited, and prepared for fieldwork, and how they reported their work experience directly from the field and when they returned home. Data were derived from interviews with experienced aid workers, focus group discussions with presumptive aid workers, analysis of letters from aid workers in the field on MSFs homepages in Europe, and from interviews with recruitment officers at some of the main humanitarian organisations.

Health professionals were attracted by the positive images of humanitarian action. They wished to work in teams with like-minded people, and to make a difference in the world. However, this image was not supported by the recruitment officers, or experienced aid workers, who described a complex reality in humanitarian action. The experienced aid workers instead had realised they learned more than they contributed.

The recruitment system for relief workers would benefit from a more holistic approach, where personalities of the aid workers are more in focus. More time must be spent with the applicants, both recruited and returning aid workers, in order to improve the system. A socialisation approach could help identify the right personnel and to motivate current personnel to continue.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2009. 65 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Medicine, ISSN 1651-6206 ; 453
Keyword
humanitarian action, human resource management, relief workers, aid workers, volunteers, images, motives, qualitative research
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Research subject
Medicine
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-100891 (URN)978-91-554-7509-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2009-05-27, Universitetshuset, Sal IV, S:t Olofsgatan, Uppsala, 09:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2009-05-06 Created: 2009-04-09 Last updated: 2010-05-27Bibliographically approved

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Bjerneld, MagdalenaAhlberg, Beth MainaLindmark, Gunilla

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