What is a UN roster?

A crash course to rosters, pools and pipelines

In this article, I will provide you with insights into the world of pools, rosters, pipelines, and clusters at the UN. All these terms have a shared objective, to proactively gather strong candidates to increase the quality, diversity as well as pace of their recruitment processes. 

Secretary-General António Guterres calls for gender parity at the UN. One of the solutions in his United Nations System-Wide Strategy on Gender Parity is the creation of talent pools.

For the past 25 years, the idea of using pools and rosters has been high up on the UN's solutions list to fix issues with diversity and the slow placement pace.

If you represent an international organization considering implementing rosters, I suggest you also read this article about five steps to take for successful implementation.

Today, the UN has created very many rosters and pools, out of which a vanishing few are functional and active.

Over the years I have seen several reasons why rosters at the UN don't fly, if that is a topic that interests you, I suggest you also read this roster article.

What is a UN roster?

In most cases, 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.

Often these rosters are established in two different ways:

Rosters are built based on a dedicated campaign. In this case, organizations are advertising a generic position, it could be a Communications Specialist, P4 with the purpose to be able to assess and place several talents in a roster to meet forecasted demand. If your organization’s rosters are built up this way, it is important to invest resources in outreach to not risk missing out on strong talents.

The other way rosters are established is related to the recruitment for individual jobs. The organization interview four talents for a Communications Specialist, P4, but only one can be selected. If more than one talent is recommended by the panel, the alternate candidates can be placed on a roster to be selected for future Communications positions. 

What is an Active roster?

An active roster means that the organization actively places talents against vacant positions. This is a quite rare roster type.

When a talent is placed on the roster she/he/them can either wait for the organization to actively place her/him/them or actively apply for interesting jobs that are coming up on the career site of the organization.

A roster is only applicable for a role within the organization that the talent has been assessed for, hence the UN is not working across organizational borders.

For the UN (delivering as one), this is an expensive transaction cost, as it would be more cost-effective if some transferable profiles (such as HR, Communications, Supply-Chain, Administration, and Procurement) could have shared rosters across organizational borders.

What is a Passive roster?

A passive roster means that an applicant must actively apply for positions while placed on a roster. The organization is passive.

In some passive rosters, the candidate is provided access to see vacant positions as an internal staff member, but most often the rostered candidate must search for jobs through the external career site.

The UN YPP is one known type of passive roster where the applicants must apply for jobs to be successful in securing a position.

What is Cluster recruitment?

Cluster recruitment is a way for organizations to group recruitments to lower the administrative burden.

The organization advertises a job that is 'clustered', it could for example be a job consisting of five Human Resources Specialists in a specific region or similar finance positions in country offices (3 Finance Associates).

The difference between the cluster and the UN roster above is that the cluster recruits for real positions (vacancies), while the UN roster aims to build a talent pool to respond to future expected positions. 

Instead of advertising five individual jobs, different offices of an organization are gathering their efforts and advertising one job together. When applicants applies for a cluster job they apply for one of, an often-stated, number of positions.

If you are an HR policy nerd, you may say that a ‘cluster recruitment’ should not be seen as a roster. However, it's a more and more common recruitment method within the UN system. 

What is a Talent Pool recruitment?

Another popular recruitment term is Talent Pool recruitment (not to be mixed up with a sourcing pool). Similar to rosters, the purpose of a pool is to build a bank of talent. However, in a UN context, the pools are more sophisticated than the rosters and include a portion of training and preparation of the candidates.

Also what differentiates the rosters from the pools is that pools are more or less only used for internal positions.

Pools are commonly used for Country Director, Deputy Country Director, or Resident Coordinator positions – basically rotational senior management positions in the UN.

The procedures to be placed in a pool within the UN system differs between organizations.

One common way is to allow Regional Bureaus of the organization to nominate talented staff members for the pool. These nominated individuals will then be assessed and deemed as:

  1. Ready

  2. Ready with training needs or

  3. Not ready.

If a candidate is not ready, she/he will not be placed in the pool. If a candidate is deemed ready, she/he/them can be selected for jobs immediately.

If a candidate is deemed ready but with training needs, she/he/them will get an individual training plan, and would not until when the candidate has gone through all mandatory training steps be deemed ready to take on a role that she/he has been assessed for. Famous pools out there are UNDP's RC pool and UNFPA Country Director/ Deputy Country Director pool.  

What is a Talent Pipeline?

A Talent pipeline is a combination of Talent pools and rosters. The pipeline is similar to the roster, but includes the training and learning components of the pool.

Pipelines are recommended in the System-Wide Strategy on Gender Parity as a tool to achieve the goals. The pipeline is also often targeting external candidates and could be a strategic way to build capacity in areas where the organization lacks effective recruitment through their existing channels (e.g. women IT managers, women logistics and supply chain expertise etc).

Are you planning to implement pools or rosters? I am happy to meet you, I never say no to an opportunity to learn. Fill ut the form below and I will reach out to you.