2.1 When is the right time to train staff in an emergency?

You shouldn’t try to pull staff away from their work for a 5-day training course at the start of a humanitarian response.

That doesn’t mean you wait until “people have time” to train them. People never “have time”. They (and their managers) make time.

The most important point about training at the start of an emergency response is to make it directly relevant to their work. This is always vital for training, but perhaps you can get away with it when time is less precious. When time is short it must be specific and actionable.

– Don’t train people on general “humanitarian principles”, that aren’t linked to their work

– Do train people how to identify who needs assistance on the basis of need alone, making sure they are clear that discrimination based on religion or ethnicity is not allowed.

– Don’t train people on the history of accountability standards

– Do train them on how to note and respond to complaints from affected people

– Don’t train them on gender theory

– Do train them on reporting cases of sexual exploitation, and on involving women, men, boys and girls in project design.

It makes sense to try and fit training sessions into 1/2 day or one day blocks. Longer blocks are difficult to schedule. This is risky, because it is easy to cancel these to allow “real work” to get done – and this is harder with bigger, more formal training. It is still overall a better approach.

Often in emergencies, you are recruiting lots of new staff or volunteers. Many of them will be new to humanitarian work. In order for them to succeed they will need training by someone. Think about the state you want to get to, and how you’ll make that happen.

Where you are starting a new project or initiative, train all (at least big groups of) the staff on important points together before they start work.

– Train survey enumerators on how to collect data, how to submit it, how to interact with people

– Train distribution teams on how to register people for a distribution, how to [give out] items, how to count and account for items

– Train storekeepers on recording stock movements

This is easier to remember.

What is often forgotten is training on topics like:

– Correct way to request purchases

– Code of conduct and reporting sexual exploitation

– Interacting with community members

One of the reasons we “don’t have time” for training is because we are rushing to make up time already lost. We will lose more if we don’t train people and they are out making mistakes on the job.

More than our time, it is unfair on people affected by crisis that we let people “learn by doing” with their assistance and their lives. Train early and often.