Main Focus of TM
To assure its employees of fairness, MSF wants an objective system outlining and communicating the desired skills and comparing employees’ existing skills with them:
Actually, what we are aiming for is to have something a little bit more structured where we all agree on some criteria. Otherwise, it becomes too subjective. We need to identify the ones that are particularly promising, that we want to invest in.
TM initiatives at MSF were started originally with the aim of improving succession planning:
We are . an emergency organisation . so it is hard to convince anyone to do anything if it is not urgent. succession planning. is very important and very quickly becomes urgent if someone leaves. So this is how we framed it. But, in the future, my vision of TM would be something that is much more ... But we are still very far from that.
One of the interviewees, who had worked for other not-for-profit organisations, argued that practice is becoming closer to that of the private sector, in areas such as talent identification and succession planning. She argued that TM at MSF is still based on defining competence on the basis of experience, whereas TM at the NFP where she worked before was more structured and explicitly communicated. In her opinion, big corporations have even more structured programmes, with better resources and desired employee behaviours outlined:
MSF does not want to put all its people in a box. It is quite happy to have the people who do not always necessarily conform . so they have some difficulty in saying. we need people who display behaviour A, B and C. They say [that] we want people who express [themselves] and if this is their personality. then so be it. So they are less normative.
A particular problem of TM at MSF is to manage dual-career couples. In the medical profession, particularly, it is common to find both partners involved in medicine but with each engaged in their own careers. The challenge with expatriate assignments is to accommodate the career needs of the partner. For MSF, it is rare that both partners are doctors and/or nurses, which would make it easier to move them together. Furthermore, MSF wants to ensure that its employees are committed to their work rather than being dependent on their partners. It has been argued that trailing partners play an important role in ensuring the success of expatriate managers  and although there may be reasons to be suspicious of these suggestions  they do have an influence. However, since MSF assignments might require expatriates to go to conflict-ridden areas, it is not always possible for expatriates to take their family along on their assignments.