Human resources development includes the employment, supervision, continuing education and training, and occupational welfare of the people needed to do a job properly. The process should embrace planning, development of skills and training, and human resources management, with all aspects harmoniously geared to the achievement of specific goals.
Shortcomings in the preparation, implementation, operation and maintenance of sanitation schemes are often blamed on poor performance of programme staff and the ignorance of the people using the system. The usual response is to plan a training programme to educate all those involved in how to carry out their tasks correctly. However, such teaching may not in itself solve difficulties of performance. There are many factors to be considered in enabling people to perform to their full potential, and it is one of the roles of the programme manager to consider all aspects of human resources development.
Carefoot (1987) suggested that deficiencies in human performance, particularly with regard to water and sanitation activities, can generally be traced to one or more of the following: lack of skill or knowledge; environmental and/or management difficulties; or motivational, incentive or attitudinal causes. If lack of skills or knowledge is the primary cause of a problem, training is the likely solution. However, if problems stem from environmental and/or management causes, or from motivational causes, they will probably not be solved by training alone. In a number of surveys, managers involved with water and sanitation programmes have estimated that only 10-30% of performance difficulties are due to lack of skills or knowledge which can be rectified through training.
A "dual-focus" approach - on both the individual and the system within which the individual works - was therefore suggested by Carefoot in seeking solutions to performance problems. Development of skill should be complemented by the strengthening of the organizational environment, whether formal or informal, in which the person works.
Before looking at the requirements for human resources development in more detail, the people who might need to be involved in a programme must be considered.
One of the advantages of many on-site sanitation systems is that much of the work can be undertaken by the beneficiaries. Householders can plan, design and construct many elements of a latrine. Support is therefore required both for the individual householders and for the community to impart the necessary confidence that they can complete the task.
The special role of women in many countries in running the home, collecting water, and managing the sanitation system should not be underestimated. Many training programmes are automatically biased towards men or, by including men, exclude women. However, women have a vital part to play in the appropriate design, construction, operation and maintenance of excreta-disposal systems. Any human resources development programme must cater for the particular needs of women. Some programmes have also benefited from paying particular attention to the needs and role of children, both within formal education and informally in the community.
Community leaders and councillors
Community leaders have their own special interests, particularly where communal decisions have to be made about some aspects of a sanitation scheme or where leaders can set an example to other householders.
In many projects there is a need for masons, bricklayers, drain-layers, carpenters, plumbers and other artisans to carry out part of the work. These workers often have experience in construction of houses and other buildings. Special skills may be required for the construction of latrines and associated works.
Householders may require local contractors to carry out certain tasks for them, such as lining pits or constructing slabs. Where new techniques are being introduced or new forms of project support and funding used, contractors and subcontractors will require support.
Programme and project staff
The numbers and categories of people needed to prepare and implement a project are largely determined by the nature and size of the project, type of agency, involvement of central and local government, whether the project forms part of an ongoing programme, and the degree to which the community participates.
Government health officers often play an essential part in sanitation improvement schemes, especially where the ministry of health is responsible for sanitation. Where a technical arm of government (such as a public works department) or an independent agency is responsible, management and supervision may be in the hands of technical officers. In some countries, health assistants, community and development officers and extension officers may be the link between an agency and the community. There is considerable variation in the terms used for different groups of workers and in the allocation of duties between these intermediate-level staff.
Several kinds of professional staff may be concerned with sanitation improvement projects:
- public health engineers who are employed by an agency or by consultants working for an agency, with primary responsibility for the technical aspects of the programme;
- architects, planners, medical officers and development staff who, because of their jobs with agencies or government departments, are involved with the planning and implementation of sanitation;
- behavioural scientists, anthropologists, health staff, geologists, economists and others having specialist expertise that can be beneficially employed at some stage of planning or implementation; and
Skills and knowledge training
If training is to be relevant and is to produce the desired results, it must be planned systematically. The objectives are to enhance people's breadth and depth of knowledge about their particular responsibilities, and to improve their ability to carry out particular tasks. In order to achieve these it is useful to follow a training cycle. This same cycle may be followed for householders as well as for professional engineers (Fig. 10.1).
Fig. 10.1. The training cycle
The training cycle
Preparation of any training programme begins with an assessment of training needs. This requires an organizational chart describing the different jobs to be carried out in order to complete the objective. The objective should not be limited to completion of initial construction but should also include operation and maintenance. Each of the jobs listed then requires a job description, that is, a detailed list of the tasks to be carried out by the person in that position (whether or not employed by the programme). Comparison of the job description with the knowledge and skills of people likely to be available to do a task leads to a list of training needs. A training plan is then prepared from the list of training needs, bearing in mind the priorities of the programme. The plan should specify the people to be trained, with target dates for completion and objectives for what the training should accomplish.
Implementation of training depends on whether the needs are for:
• knowledge - where lectures and books are particularly useful,
• manual skills - step-by-step development through demonstration, practice and correction of faults, concentrating on key areas;
• social skills - use of role-playing, case studies, discussion, practice under supervision;
• attitude change - group discussion, personal interview, case studies and feedback; or for
• systems (for example clerical procedures and stock control) - checklists, demonstration and practice with correction.
The final phase of the training cycle is evaluation of what the participants have learned and determination of what they are able to do. This leads to a reassessment of training needs for the next training session or programme. Of course, training and education form a continuous process which starts from what people know and enables them to build upon that foundation of knowledge. There is always opportunity for further learning; it cannot ever be said to have been completed.
However well people have been trained, they will not be able to reach the objectives of effective sanitation unless their working environment is geared towards meeting those objectives. For example, if there is no transport for project staff to visit sites when required, the community will become disheartened when the expected visitors do not arrive. Similarly, if there is no money to disburse loans to householders when promised, or if there is a lack of supplies, materials and tools, the project will lose momentum. To overcome such problems requires a willingness on the part of management to use all possible means to overcome institutional difficulties.
In addition, project staff, particularly those working directly with the community, require constant encouragement and recognition of their contribution to the project. Suggestions for improving work conditions include:
• regular visits by supervisors and colleagues to those working in isolated situations;
• regular meetings and seminars so that all staff on a project feel part of a team;
• the provision and maintenance of appropriate transport (car, van, motorbike or bicycle);
• alternation of work at rural and urban locations;
• payment of overtime where necessary; and
• ensuring that personnel have occasional postings near their home.
Adequate motivation of agency staff and householders is a prerequisite for successful training. Of particular importance to project staff is the possibility of future career development beyond the present project. If the staff can see a chance of transfer to other projects within a continuous programme, they are more likely to be prepared to learn and improve their skills, and to share their expertise with colleagues and householders. It is important that status, conditions of service and salary scales should compare favourably with those for other available employment. This is particularly important for senior posts where the holders have to work away from home.