Overarching principles of SIL HR
Ethos of HR
Our purpose is to serve. Our purpose in all levels of HR is to serve, support, and equip our staff so that they and SIL can flourish and accomplish our mission.
Balance organisational and personal goals. Both care for people and meeting organizational goals are important. Personal needs and desires need to be balanced with the organization’s needs and fulfillment of our mission.
Balance grace and truth. Often people who agree to fill leadership roles have one of two tendencies - either they want to be the nice person who sympathizes with staff, or they want to be the rule enforcer. However, these need to be held in balance. When working with people and policies, we need to be always mindful to find the balance between grace and truth. Policies give us guidance, but we need to look at each case individually. God deals with us with grace and truth, and we try our best to give that to the people entrusted into our care.
SIL Policies and Guidelines
Where to find them. The HR policies for personnel matters at both international and entity levels are found at the Gateway link here. We recommend adding this link to your browser bookmarks so you can find it easily when you need it. In order to access Gateway, you will need to use your SIL IdP login.
Difference between a Policy, Standard and Guideline. When looking through SIL policies, you will see three different types of documents - Policies, Standards, and Guidelines.
Policy. A policy is a set of principles to guide organizational action based on the vision and ends the organization expects to achieve. It may specify direction, scope and set limits. There are levels of policy, some are high level and very broad (e.g. our global policies); others very specific and lower level (e.g. a particular OU’s additional policies). Policies provide empowerment by establishing a framework of acceptable action. The Policy answers the question "Why do I need to do this?"
Standard. A standard assigns quantifiable measurements to define how a policy is to be met. The Standard answers the question, "What is required?" These are the goals we are working toward, even if we don’t perfectly meet them yet.
Guideline. A guideline describes best practices and provides suggestions for the most effective ways to implement policy. Guidelines indicate flexibility, but they reflect experience and in-depth knowledge of the subject area. Thus they should be carefully considered, but are not binding and should be modified to fit the cultural context. The Guideline answers the question “How can I do this?”
Overview of policies, standards, and guidelines for personnel matters. :
Duty Of Care: Topics covered include Duty of Care, Crisis Management, Sexual Assault, Child Safety, Workplace Safety.
Care & Wellbeing: Topics cover Care & Wellbeing, Absence from Spouse, Adoption, Immunization, Marriage, Education, Families and Children.
Staff Behavior: Defines the conduct that SIL expects of its staff.
Staffing and Placement: Topics include Assignments, Professional Development, Secondment, Pre-Field, Serving on Boards.
Staff Misconduct: Defines SIL's commitment to fair process in responding to a breach of the staff behavior agreement. Topics include Staff Misconduct, Workplace Inquiry, and Appeals.
HR Admin Resources: Includes a variety of topics, including Creation Care, Ethics, Data Protection, Whistleblowing, and others.
Staff Engagement: Expectations for supervisors engagement with their direct reports - Annual Review resources, PRD resources, and more.
Whistleblowing. Each OU should clearly outline the process staff should follow to raise concerns. This will generally include a process of individual resolution, then escalating to supervisor, HR and/or OU director if resolution is not reached. However, if a staff person feels their concerns are not being taken seriously by those in positions of authority in the OU, or if they have a fear of retribution, SIL does have a whistleblower process. See website for details and reporting instructions. All reports to the hotline will be investigated, and the hotline should not be used for routine complaints that can reasonably be dealt with in the OU.
Interacting with the policies and guidelines of non-SIL organizations. Be aware that there may be different rules depending on a staff person’s passport country, and/or your particular country of assignment, and all these employment rules/laws/expectations need to be taken into account (i.e. government mandated maternity leave, working hours, vacation time, retirement, etc). SIL may have to be flexible to accommodate. If you are not sure how to apply, implement or accommodate these home country rules, please ask HR.
3. The HR Life Cycle.
There are various activities that occur throughout the stages of a person’s involvement with SIL. We’ve traditionally done well with getting people to serve in our units but the world is changing. We need to ensure that processes and tasks are done at appropriate times to ensure the wellbeing of our people and their contribution to the organisation. We use the HR Life Cycle to think through the tasks and processes that need to happen at each stage and ensure that we are doing the relevant activities.
Workday is the HR Information System that SIL and many of our Partner Organizations use to complete these HR tasks.
Strategic Workforce Planning. This should be included as part of your strategic planning process. This tool will help you think through what positions and people you need in order to accomplish your strategic plans.
Seconded Staff Considerations. Staff are often hired by their sending organisation and remain in membership while in their SIL assignments, so we need to be aware that there may be legal implications for the Sending Organization when we make any potential changes in their roles. So changes need to be discussed with their sending organisation and/or sending church. (E.g. Leave, change of assignment, location, organization, etc.)
Recruitment & Screening. Finding and vetting potential SIL staff members
Posted positions. HR staff create and post positions on Workday or other platforms for their unit so that recruiters can see them.
Staff seconded by a Sending Organization (SO). When recruiters of Sending Orgs contact OUs with potential candidates for secondment, candidates still need to be screened for behaviors, issues, and skill sets for the role.
Staff directly hired or recruited by your OU. Other types of staff are screened as well, but the procedures in your OU may differ from screening procedures of seconded staff, as you won’t be interacting with a SO.
f. Placement & Onboarding. Putting staff members into an SIL assignment
Job Offer/Work Assignment. When an OU decides to offer a candidate an assignment, the OU issues a formal job offer.
Onboarding. New staff members will have to complete a set of Onboarding tasks for SIL, which includes signing documents and completing courses. Staff members should not begin their work assignment until all of their Onboarding tasks are completed. Your HR person can provide more information about these.
Additional Onboarding tasks for Seconded staff from non-Alliance sending orgs could include the signing of an individual or organizational MOU (memorandum of understanding).
Additional Onboarding tasks for Paid staff could include salary setting, contracts, labor and employment laws, probation, vacation & public holidays.
g. Orientation. Each OU will have a specific orientation to their particular OU and country that new staff need to complete. Language learning can also be a part of Orientation. If Onboarding tasks have not been completed, they should be included as part of orientation.
Seconded staff - pre and post arrival tasks, language and culture learning requirements, etc.
Paid staff - work contracts, agreements, probation, working for a Global NGO, cross cultural awareness, security, etc.
h. During assignment: Management & Development. HR is often responsible to support and monitor OU supervisors in specific ways as they lead their staff.
Clear Job Expectations. Clear job expectations are necessary for staff well-being so that each staff person can be confident that they are doing what is expected of them. Some instruments we use to provide this are PRDs and SMART Goals. HR staff are a support to supervisors in this task.
Performance feed-back. Regular check-ins and an annual performance review (APR - see template) with the staff person’s supervisor are important for staff to remain motivated and on track. HR staff help remind supervisors about these expectations, especially about the APR.
Care and well-being. This applies to staff and their families. SIL staff often work in difficult places and under stressful conditions. Being able to talk to someone is often what gives staff the hope and courage to persevere in challenging situations. HR has specific staff available to coach, counsel, debrief, consult with, offer team building, spiritual direction, family care, educational care, etc.
Professional Development. An important part of a staff person’s job satisfaction is the availability of development opportunities. Therefore the person’s personal and professional development goals need to be part of each APR. HR will support the supervisor and provide resources.
Crises. HR involvement is crucial when a crisis occurs. Together with the OU Director and those identified as responsible for crisis management, HR will work to ensure that people are brought to safety, their physical needs are met, and that they receive emotional care and help, e.g. through a debrief after the incident.
Conflicts. Conflicts in teams are sometimes inevitable for many reasons - cultural differences, miscommunication, differing expectations, etc. HR is often asked to help support leadership and teams resolve these in a good way.
Accountability. Sometimes staff are not compliant to SIL policies or are not meeting performance expectations. In addition to documenting these instances, HR will make sure that measures of discipline, if needed, are graciously, consistently, and fairly administered, always with the goal of growth and restoration in mind.
Temporarily for home assignment. Sending organizations of seconded staff will have policies of when and for how long they want their staff to return home to their passport country after serving outside of their home country. During Home Assignment, supervision and care responsibility return to the sending organization. If any SIL work is going to be done during Home Assignment, the Sending Organization needs to approve, and it needs to be recorded in the Home Assignment Plan.
Note that when staff want to return from home assignment back to their OU, two things need to be in place: an invitation/work assignment offer from the OU and permission from their sending organization to return.
Permanently. This can be for many reasons - retirement, resignation, termination, or reassignment to a Partner Organization.
Debrief. Encourage the provision of a final exit interview with the staff person. This helps SIL learn from the staff person, and helps provide closure and support to the staff person.
Transition. All relevant SIL work needs to be backed up/archived/passed along to the appropriate colleague.
End of sil.org email. The staff person’s SIL email is connected to their SIL assignment, so it is created and activated when they begin their SIL assignment and is deactivated when they permanently leave their SIL assignment. Losing their SIL email address can be extremely stressful for some members, so be sure to give them plenty of warning.
Consideration for Retirement.
Seconded staff. Be careful about how you discuss retirement with staff so you are not demonstrating age discrimination. Seek guidance from HR and/or discuss options with the sending organization.
Direct hire. Local laws and processes will need to be followed.
4. Getting Organized
File Storage. The storing, organizing, and sharing of HR information, whether electronic or hard-copy (if your OU keeps physical files), is very important - both for doing your job well, as well as for data protection. Be sure to know how your OU handles file organization.
Electronic Files. Many OUs use Google Workspace to organize their electronic files. If you are new to Google Workspace, here is a link to a training that the GTIS team has put together.
Physical Files. If your OU has physical files, it should follow SIL policy for accessibility, distribution, and retention of files.
Data Protection. Here are two helpful links on data protection for your reference:
Principles of GDPR:
Informed consent: People should know in advance what you plan to do with their information and agree to it.
Portability: A person has the right to demand a copy of their data.
Right to be forgotten: People can request to have their data deleted.
Information security: You are responsible for the safekeeping of any personal information you’ve gathered.
5. HR Related Domains.
With Global. Although your Area HR person will be your primary organizational HR contact, there will be times when you will interact with those in global HR.
Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO). The CHRO is the top of the HR chain in the organization. This person supports the Executive Leadership team, negotiates MOUs with Partner Organizations, manages a team of HR related domain leaders, and interacts with the Area HR Directors. The CHRO can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SIL Global HR has five HR domains - Workforce Management, Staff Care, TCK Care & Education, Security Risk Management, and Learning & Development. However, some units organize their departments differently, so in your unit you may find that some of these domains are not under your HR department and your HR department may have additional domains not listed. In larger units, you may have one or more staff serving in an HR domain, whereas in very small units there may be one person responsible for more than one HR domain.
6. Dealing with difficult situations.
Grace and Restoration: Remember how God deals with people. Our intent should always be to help the person grow and be restored.
Confidential information/legality. Be aware that you may hear confidential and/or sensitive personal information in the course of your work. The Confidentiality Agreement that you have signed as part of your SIL assignment reads:
You may not make use of or disclose Confidential Information obtained as a result of duties as a staff member of SIL.
You are not obliged to keep in confidence, nor will you incur any liability for disclosure of Confidential Information:
Which was already in the public domain or comes into the public domain without any breach of your obligations;
Where such disclosure is required by law, court order, court proceedings or government or regulatory authority having jurisdiction in the matter as long as you promptly notify SIL so that it can legally protect its information as needed;
Where such disclosure is consented to in writing by SIL; or
Where the safety and/or security of another individual is concerned including, but not limited to, self harm, child abuse or other breaches of the staff code of conduct.
To think of it in different terms, there will be things that you:
Can’t share with others. Example: A staff member leaves the field for a moral-lapse issue but tells everyone they are being sent home because they didn’t learn the language fast enough. You know what really happened due to your role, but you cannot comment nor attempt to correct the narrative. Correcting the story would mean sharing confidential information; doing so violates SIL policy and could possibly set SIL up for litigation.
Must share with certain people. Example: A staff member confesses a serious breach of the SIL behavior agreement to you, but asks you to “respect confidentiality” by not telling anyone. When it comes to safety and code of conduct, you can promise discretion but not confidentiality. Some offenses even come with mandatory reporting laws. If you aren’t sure what to do with information shared with you, check with HR, your supervisor or someone higher up in HR (Area HR, etc).
2. Policies - Familiarize yourself with the SIL policies and the levels of severity
When encountering any difficult personnel situation, your first step, together with your HR worker, should be to contact your Area HR Director for advice. Your Area HR Director can guide you to the relevant policies and offer advice on what to do next.
A Workplace Inquiry is an investigation of a complaint or of possible wrongful behavior, and your Area HR Director can help you find the specific resources you need. If someone reports bullying, harassment or discrimination, respond promptly.
Do not dismiss the report but follow the steps identified in inquiry guidelines and the Workplace Inquiry Public version. Other information related to Staff Misconduct can be found here.
It may be helpful to know that workplace inquiries are separated into three categories: minor breach, major breach, and child-related major breach.
Begin documenting early - concerns and conversations, both with the person and with others about the person. Follow up on any verbal conversations with a written summary or email. Make sure everything is documented with dates. Good documentation makes a clear statement of the situation: What happened? Who was involved? When? Where? What was the impact?
Some helpful tools for recording personnel concerns include:
Documentation of Issue
4. Mediation/Conflict resolution. Keep it informal as long as possible.
Conflict is normal! Whenever people work and live together there will be conflict. Sometimes it can damage teams and dramatically lower morale. Yet, the fact that conflict exists is not necessarily a bad thing. It can also lead to productive change. Knowing how to manage and resolve conflict successfully can increase understanding within your team, and improve people’s relationships with one another.
Levels of conflict: Conflicts can be less or more severe. They can range from just a problem to solve, over disagreements and contests to fights and even to being unresolvable. Depending on the level, you may be able to resolve the conflict yourself, have to engage outside help (e.g. a mediator) or just debrief the conflicting parties and provide a healing process. Before trying to help solve a conflict, assess what level the conflict has reached and then decide whether you can help yourself, need outside help or can only pick up the pieces.
What to keep in mind: Listen first, talk second. Keep people and problems separate. Relationships take priority.
Preventing conflict from escalating: Teams need to develop ways of preventing conflict from becoming damaging. Here are some tips:
Deal with conflict immediately – avoid the temptation to ignore it.
Be open – issues should not be allowed to fester. Practice clear communication – articulate thoughts and ideas clearly.
Practice active listening – paraphrasing, clarifying, asking questions.
Don’t let conflict get personal – stick to facts and issues, not personalities. Don’t look for blame – encourage ownership of the problem and solution. Demonstrate respect.
Practice identifying assumptions – asking yourself "why" on a regular basis. Encourage different points of view – insist on honest dialogue and expressing feelings.
Focus on actionable solutions – don't belabor what can't be changed.
5. Child safeguarding training and cases.
Child safeguarding training. It is mandatory for each staff person in your unit to remain current in their SIL child safeguarding training. For seconded staff, this is in addition to whatever child safeguarding training is required by their sending organization. SIL International will notify staff (via Workday) when they are due to renew their child safeguarding training, though it is often HR’s practical responsibility to encourage members toward completion. Training can be completed either online or in person; HR will often arrange for in-person training (like at their group conference) if large groups of their staff are due for the refresher course at the same time or if it needs to be offered in a local language for local staff. The contact for the global Child Safeguarding training office is email@example.com
Child safeguarding cases. Unlike a regular workplace inquiry, a child safeguarding inquiry in your unit will be handled primarily by the global Child Safeguarding team. If someone in your unit brings a child safeguarding concern to you, immediately contact the global Child Safeguarding team at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org & cc your Area HR Child Safeguarding officer.
For adult to child cases, an Initial Report form should be prepared and submitted within 24 hours. Other forms are available for child-child & historical incidents. Contact your Child Safety Officer or Area HR Director if you need assistance with these matters.
6. Legal potential awareness/issues
Make sure you are aware of any local labor/employment laws in consultation with your leadership or Area HR.
Supervisor’s Toolkit Session Recordings and Materials
Handling Difficult Conversations - Karsten van Riezen
Upcoming Foundational Training for all Team Leaders/Supervisors - in development
Leadership Courses at https://course-connections.sil.org/
East Zone Care & Well-Being Site