By Dominique Zwinkels on April 26th, 2019

Here is our third blog, kindly written by Dominique Zwinkels and Alexis Strader. Enjoy the read and please let us know your thoughts.

Picture this: you are a health supply chain professional who’s just returned from a global supply chain conference. While there, you attended several days’ worth of workshops, presentations and site visits. You’ve got a notebook with pages of notes and a pocket full of business cards. Now that you’re back at work, you’re ready to take this new knowledge and put it into practice. As you think back over the agenda and the conversations you had, you notice words like, “capacity building,” “retention,” and “skills-building” keep popping up. And you realize that indeed, a supply chain is only as good as the people who manage it, so perhaps a good place to start improving your own supply chain organization is by looking at the needs of your workforce.

This seems like an overwhelming task – you need a structured way to look at staffing, skills, working conditions, and motivation in a systematic way that will guide you in choosing priorities and identifying specific activities that will help you achieve those priorities. You will also need a way to measure your progress as you work towards meeting your workforce development goals. You frantically look through your business cards, hoping to find a name of someone that might have ideas. Then you remember! During the conference, you learned about the new People that Deliver Building Human Resources for Supply Chain Management Theory of Change. And lucky for you, it’s free and available to download from the People that Deliver website! If only everything else could be this easy!

Finding the right resources for your work is not always easy, but when it comes to human resources for supply chain management, People that Deliver is working hard to develop new tools and resources with real-world applications. The People That Deliver (PtD) was established in 2011 to advocate for a systematic approach to human resources (HR) for health supply chain management (SCM). Our ultimate goal is to have a competent, supported, and adequately staffed supply chain workforce deployed across the public and private sectors within the health system. Our newest resource: Building Human Resources for Supply Chain Management Theory of Change (HR4SCM TOC) is meant to be the starting point for a supply chain organization in the strengthening and developing of its workforce.

Supply chain management is complex and requires the appropriate staff, organizational structure, skills, working conditions, and resources to function optimally. The HR4SCM TOC is a valuable learning tool that allows governments, donors and technical partners to appreciate the complexities that govern HR in health supply chains and understand how programs and their activities can navigate complex environments to create change. The HR4SCM TOC adds further depth to the understanding of how outcomes relate to one another and provides detailed insights for consideration in developing country-based strategies for improving HR in health supply chains. It provides a useful basis for strategic planning, by providing a foundation for developing strategies and monitoring and evaluation, by identifying and specifying ways to measure activities undertaken to make change.

Rwanda is the first country to use the HR4SCM TOC to identify, select and prioritize workforce development activities within the health supply chain. Applying a Theory of Change (ToC) approach helps supply chain practitioners to assess the impact of hard-to-measure areas, such as capacity strengthening and institutional development on supply chain performance. You might be wondering, “what kinds of workforce development activities and indicators does the HR4SCM TOC recommend?” It’s important to note that every country and specific context will have different priorities. However, in Rwanda, the Ministry of Health (MOH) identified potential action items that could be applicable in many places. The HR4SCM TOC maps four distinct pathways—Staffing, Skills, Working Conditions, and Motivation, and assumes that interdependence exists between each of these areas and that making progress in one area can lead to improvements in other areas.

Using the HR4SCM TOC narrative and indicators catalogue as their guide, the Rwandan MOH is in the process of identifying and validating several key activities and indicators. For example, under the “Staffing” pathway, the MOH could include SC roles in the standard MOH staffing structure which would ensure that adequate positions exist and are funded to support SC activities. Under the “Skills” pathway, the MOH could prioritize skills strengthening by establishing a competency framework for SCM at all levels, conducting a SCM competency mapping exercise, and implementing individual staff development plans. Under the “Working Conditions” pathway, the MOH could make the work environment safer by potentially implementing a checklist and developing training materials on establishing a safe and clean work environment. Lastly, under the “Motivation” pathway, a potential outcome could be the strengthening of supervisors’ skills in communicating feedback on performance. A list of indicators is useless unless you have a clear plan for how you will implement your activities and how you will fund this work. A costing plan to determine what resources would be required to implement the activities is very useful. To monitor progress, the MOH could develop a monitoring and evaluation framework, collect baseline data and regularly monitor performance indicators. Once activities are underway and several rounds of data collected, the MOH could use these data and subsequent analysis to re-calibrate and adapt their plan as needed.

The Human Resources for Supply Chain Management Theory of Change (HR4SCM TOC) analyzes the conditions needed to ensure that workers at every level are performing optimally, to fulfill all the necessary functions of an effective SC system. Four pathways—Staffing, Skills, Working Conditions, and Motivation—are necessary to build human resources for effective SC management. The HR4SCM TOC enables SC practitioners to understand and articulate the pathway of change that connects interventions in HR to performance improvements and, ultimately, to improved health outcomes.

What are the existing HR for SCM issues facing health supply chains in your country?
Who would benefit most from the HR4SCM TOC methodology?
How would a more detailed understanding of the current HR situation help your organization prioritize activities?

For more information please see:

IAPHL Blog Article – Sustainable Workforce Development Starts with a Theory of Change