How Talent pools can contribute to achieve Gender parity at the UN

The use of talent pools is one recommendation in the Secretary-General’s System-wide Strategy on Gender Parity, in this article we list 7 best practices to build effective talent pools in your organization and what has made talent pools to fail in the past. Use our tips how you best use talent pools to reach gender parity in your organization!

The whole sector of mission driven organization must urgently take the diversity and gender parity work seriously. Even if several NGO’s can fly under the radar today, it is safe to assume that donors, when deciding on funding, will be more closely following organizations’ internal work for inclusiveness and how organizations work to reach gender equality/parity. Ever since the UN contractual reform in 2009, “roster” has been a buzzword among Human Resources professionals and recruitment managers. It is therefore surprising that the development of rosters within these organizations has moved so slow and unstructured.

A beloved child has many names, organizations use many different names such as  Pools/Rosters/Pipelines/Cluster recruitments etc. In short, a roster is a list of assessed candidates. Some common differences between talent pools and rosters are that rosters mainly consist of external candidates, in comparison to pools, which more often are used for internal succession planning. This is however no complete truth as there are several pools including external talents too, such as different Country Director pools and Resident Coordinator Pools

Another difference is that talents placed in rosters are often left to their own fate, while pool members are more often given access to a learning plan, coaching and career counseling support to easier take their next step in their career. 


A pool member would also know that they are placed in, and are a member of a pool. For a rostered candidate it is not equally sure they even know that they are rostered by an organization.

Pipelines combine the roster (external focus) with the learning plan, coaching and career counseling included in the pools. We will describe this concept more in detail below and also explain why this concept could be a catalyst for gender parity. 


Back to 2009

In 2009 the roster concept was ground-breaking. The rigid UN recruitment policy opened up to comply with best-practice and started to allow for fast-tracking of assessed candidates. This new opportunity was warmly welcomed by the whole UN Family. But what happened with this opportunity, why didn’t it fly?

The term ‘Roster’ is widely used within these organizations and refers to different things in different organizations. In most cases (at least at the UN) a roster is defined as - a list of pre-assessed and endorsed candidates that can be hired for similar positions without a new competitive process.

As touched upon above, very few organizations are effectively managing their rosters and we see several reasons as to why rosters of this type haven’t turned out to be a success. 

To start with, too many organizations are not even informing talents that they are placed on their roster, in some cases the reason is poor planning (organizations don’t even inform that they have selected someone else), but equally often organizations are super worried that they create any kind of expectations among talents. 

Another quite common reason for low Return on investment, ROI, is that there is a strategy to increase the members of the pools, but not how to “tap out” inactive talents of the pools. There are examples from the UN when pool members have been deployed at a junior position after waiting in their pool for 15 years, eventually deployed to a role that most likely is no longer relevant. Too many pools are flooded, but no one dares to take anyone off the pool. In recent years several organizations have implemented a 2 years limit, after 2 years everyone is out of the pool irrespective whether the pool member is active or inactive. Rather than defining a strict time limit, Impactpool’s pool tool is built based on our belief in frequent availability checks and engagement with the talents. This is how we believe that organizations should work to determine at what point a talent still adds or no longer adds value to the pool.

Another quite common reason for low ROI on rosters is how they are managed. Excel is a great tool, but not for managing people. A screwdriver is also an amazing tool, but not as a hammer. Excel has been the ‘political solution’ as IT departments want to use delivered systems and HR wants to build effective systems. The delivered tools by Oracle (PeopleSoft, Taleo) and SAP (SuccessFactors) are built for private sector recruitments. Very few private firms invest money in building pools of talents that are lined up to be ready, but probably never used. In the private sector, pools are often built for quick deployment, in international organizations pools are equally often built to respond to future crises and hypothetical needs.  


Until Impactpool launched our pool management tool, none of the larger tool providers have provided any solution pertaining to the needs of pools for International Organizations. We launched our pools in May and we already work with UN Peace Operations, UNFPA and IDLO. 

Senior Women Talent Pipeline - business best practice how Pools/Pipelines can be a solution to achieve Gender parity at the UN

UNHCR and UN Peace Operations are pioneers in the area of generic roster recruitments. This means that they build rosters that are not pertaining to one career level, they focus more at building a sourcing pool and that pool could be more than one seniority and more than one expertise area. 

The roster profiles these organization are selecting are generally profiles where they have a high turnover of staff, a profile more challenging to find through established channels and/or where they know that there will be a constant need for certain profiles (in other words the organization predicts their future needs based on forecasting and workforce data from previous years).


UN Peace Operations have taken the generic rosters to a new level. Kristina Koch, Chief of Recruitment at UN-DFS, introduced the Senior Women Talent Pipeline (SWTP). SWTP is a pipeline with a clear entry point, a personalized learning program while in the pipeline and and the intention of being placed on a post. The pool is hosted by Impactpool and customized for the needs of International Organizations and UN Peace Operations specifically.

SWTP is an innovative and smart set-up that also recently was recommended in the SG’s gender parity report. So why does the Senior Women Talent Pipeline give hope to the SG’s gender parity strategy? We have listed our 7 top reasons:

The Senior Women Talent Pipeline has several career tracks, all strategically selected to respond to assessed and forecasted needs for hiring highly qualified/talented candidates

The talents are already at the stage of submitting their applications made aware of what the Pipeline will give them, what is expected from them as pipelined talents and what roles they are expected to take on.

The pipeline is strategically established to ensure effectiveness focusing at the following areas:  Engagement, Education, Accuracy, Availability and Access.

The Senior Women Talents placed in the pipeline will be engaged by Impactpool’s automated algorithm that provides matched job alert, relevant post reports and access to career related forums.

The Talents of the pipeline are given access to learning opportunities and structured educations to increase preparedness for when jobs appear. This is done through comprehensive online career training contentinterview trainingsample questions and individualized coaching;

To remain active in the pool (and to avoid flooding) the talents will be asked to indicate availability and to keep personal information accurate. In the past this has been a manual effort, in Impactpool’s pool this as an automated feature. What makes this pipeline unique is that if you are not available or not active, the pool administrator will be able to see this and remove the individual after an agreed timeframe. This is an important feature especially when searching the pool.

The last but not least important success factor is the access component. Access to the Senior Women Talent Pipeline can be given to all UN Peace Operations and provides them with an opportunity to search and directly invite women talents to their recruitment process or immediately deploy them to vacant matched positions. Access to the pipeline could even be given outside the organization, to help other UN organizations to draw upon the women of the pipeline. This is unique for Impactpool, as most other tools on the market cannot allow access outside the organization. 


If you plan to build a pool in your organization, dont hesitate to Contact us.