Recommitting to our goals on May Day: Fostering an organization’s key asset – its staff

May 1, 2023
Photo: UNDP Kazakhstan

"An indicator of management quality – ordinary people 

doing extraordinary things” 

Peter Drucker

Today we mark International Workers’ Day, also known as May Day, a global holiday that commemorates the contributions of workers and the labour movement. Also referred to as the Labour Day, it is recognized around the world as an opportunity to raise awareness on the importance of fair labour practices, employees' rights and creating a positive environment for personnel.

This applies to working conditions in offices because policies and practices directly affect employee well-being and productivity. When staff are treated fairly, enjoy a safe environment and are free of any forms of harassment, they feel valued and motivated to perform in a brisk, creative and dedicated fashion. Under poor working conditions employees may experience stress, burnout and other negative impacts on their mental and physical health.

Photo: UNDP Kazakhstan

Creating an office that revolves around staff and their specific needs 

In the 21st century May Day takes on new  meaning and forms. At UNDP one of the goals of its People for 2030 Strategy, launched in 2019, is to introduce modern, effective management tools and policies to help managers and personnel feel valued and give their very best. This is part of the Strategy’s main goal of achieving transformational change in UNDP’s people, culture and capabilities for better development results.

A human-centred workplace, one embraced by UNDP, prioritizes employees’ needs and well-being. The work environment is designed to promote collaboration, communication, and transparency. A culture of trust, respect and empathy is fostered, and management recognizes the value of investing in employee development and growth. 

By creating such a workplace, organizations can improve employee satisfaction, reduce turnover and increase productivity and impact. The common phrase, “Staff overcome all challenges!” today has gained a new meaning with the Country Office working on principles of openness, transparency of process and equal access. This has benefited UNDP Kazakhstan’s diverse workforce who comprise various nationalities and backgrounds. 

Photo: UNDP Kazakhstan

Steps forward in building a committed workforce 

At UNDP we believe our staff is our most valuable asset. The Country Office is putting a lot of effort in creating the working environment that is safe and rewarding. The key measure taken with this regard was adapting the global People for 2030 strategy to the local needs with the involvement of every staff member of the office. 

One of the priorities of the new strategy is to build a positive atmosphere. The latest survey among UNDP Kazakhstan shows that staff believe they enjoy favourable working conditions thereby highlighting the ongoing success of the People for 2030 Strategy, although several challenges need addressing. 

The main one – the limited number of core positions in the office, including for projects, means the workload in the country office is quite heavy throughout the year. Staff members often work long hours, including overtime, to meet deadlines. To address this issue, several measures have been introduced to support staff well-being and to foster a positive work environment:

  • Thanks to flexi hours all staff can balance their personal and professional commitments better. Today 90 percent of employees use flexible working hours, adopted to the local context. For example, employees who telecommute can balance personal/family and working life.

  • To minimize turnovers, the national staff salary scale is reviewed regularly to maintain competitive remunerations in the local market, which helps ensure the staff’s financial security.

  • A generous benefits and entitlements package is guaranteed to employees. Medical and life insurance has worldwide coverage and includes dependents if an employee enrolls them.

  • To address the heavy workload and recruit young talent, the Country Office adopted a paid internship policy. Since summer 2022 five interns joined our team, both national students and graduates, and internationals. 

  • UNDP is also hiring UN Volunteers, both fresh graduates and professional experts, to implement projects and programmes. UNVs receive adequate remunerations and benefits and after working with UNDP enjoy good career prospects 

  • UNDP Kazakhstan also invests in professional and career development of staff through online studies and programmes with e-higher education diplomas and certificates via Coursera and eCornell. Popular courses include career and leadership development, public procurement, project management, digital communications, and climate change. 

  • To unleash the potential of both women and men and advance diversity in the office UNDP Kazakhstan exercises gender-sensitive and inclusive talent recruitment and retention strategies. 

  • The importance of employees’ physical health is a key UNDP concern, that is part of creating a positive work environment. Office facilities and equipment enable our staff to perform their function from anywhere. Organized sports – yoga classes, volleyball, ping-pong –– allow staff to build relationships outside work.

The plan of action implemented by the Country Office has also become a trigger for many ideas implemented in other UNDP offices as well. 

Although the work environment has changed dramatically since Labour Day was founded in support of workers, May Day is ever relevant today. Staff well-being, a work-life balance equals a motivated and committed team which translates into an organization’s goals being better achieved. This is the narrative of UNDP Kazakhstan where management’s aim is both to make its staff an advocate of change, of positive development outcomes and to broaden its partnerships in Kazakhstan. To encapsulate our message – the “sky is the limit”.