Cegos and DisasterReady.org have formed a unique partnership to empower humanitarian aid workers across the globe with a one-of-a-kind soft-skills development curriculum. Academics and aid experts agree that, while logistical skills are critical for the relief worker and humanitarian aid worker alike, an equal if not greater focus must be placed on developing their “soft skills”—namely the nontechnical skills needed to effectively manage problems and work with others in high-stress situations. Thanks to the generous support of Cegos, DisasterReady.org is able to make a collection of soft-skill courses available to humanitarian aid workers at no cost.

DisasterReady.org, a signature program of the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation, is a collaborative nonprofit effort informed by an advisory committee of prominent aid agencies including Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee, Project HOPE, the UN Refugee Agency, Mercy Corps, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, World Vision, Oxfam America, and others.

Created in 1926, Cegos is one of the world leaders in professional development. The expertise of its 3,000 consultants and 1,000 employees powers 103 courses that cover all areas in the professional sphere, as well as the development of skills for business success.

Why humanitarian aid workers need soft skills

A number of studies over the past 10 years focused on identifying best practices for training aid workers have found that soft skills, often left out of training programs, are critical to implementing logistical assistance. The typical focus of training has been on developing functional knowledge, or “hard skills—legal process, transportation and communications logistics, shelter, and food preparation, etc. The success, however, of transmitting that knowledge effectively in high-stress situations in unfamiliar cultures is directly tied to workers’ soft skills capacity, or their ability to relate the hard skills to the situation itself in a humanitarian way. As Atish Gonsalves, director of DisasterReady.org, explained, “From the start, our advisory committee has placed a high priority on including training in people- and project-management. We can’t be more thrilled to have a partner like Cegos enabling us to offer high-quality eLearning courses in this area to our community of more than 45,000 humanitarians.”

Generally, soft skills are the cognitive, social, and personal resource skills that complement technical skills and facilitate task performance. Good communication, leadership, teamwork, decision-making, and situation awareness are all part of that base.

Incorporating soft skills into eLearning on DisasterReady.org

The importance of soft skills is recognized as critical to success in the business world. Sixty percent of managers claim that soft skills are more important than hard skills in getting a job done and are more sought after in employees. Hence, training and resources for developing these skills in employee populations within business cultures have been honed over decades. Cegos, which works with 250,000 people in 50 countries with eLearning courses, is one of the leading providers of training in this area. Pascal Debordes, director of channels and alliances at Cegos, commented, “We are honored that our business training programs are part of this critical initiative and are playing a small but important part in improving the operational effectiveness of humanitarian missions around the world.”

Specifically, Cegos and DisasterReady.org have combined to offer more than 40 training resources on the Soft Skills page of DisasterReady.org including:

  • Leadership Skills: 5 Levers for Producing Great Leaders; The Role of Ethics and Integrity in Assessment.
  • Communication Skills: Successfully Adapt your Message.
  • People Management: Making Success of Your First Management; Project Management Essentials.
  • Project Management: Dealing with Time-consuming Tasks; Focusing on Your Key Priorities.
  • Interpersonal Communication: The Relational Skills of the Manager.

A new model for soft-skill training directed to humanitarian workers

The most powerful aspect of the partnership is the blending of proven soft-skill business content together with proven humanitarian content via videos, case studies, and live webinars. For example, the Essential Skills for New Managers curriculum, derived from Cegos professional development courses including Becoming a Manager Coach, includes commentary from humanitarian champion John Fawcett on how to effectively apply managerial concepts in a remote relief effort. Through a short interview on the experience of managing a relief project and a longer webinar on cross-cultural team building in emergency settings, Fawcett provides a real-world perspective to put the soft-skill concept into practice.

This combination of Cegos’ eLearning courses with recorded webinars from experts in the humanitarian sector has been very well received by DisasterReady learners. As Christine Amy, senior emergency preparedness coordinator at the International Rescue Committee, described, “These new soft-skills courses have advanced our training to the next level. DisasterReady has done it again—identified exactly how to transfer key concepts in the most effective way possible to our relief workers.”

Professional development courses for humanitarian aid workers and their managers

Managers, trainers, organizational leaders, and on-the-ground aid workers alike can access all of these professional development courses for free immediately just by registering on DisasterReady.org. Courses are available in English, French, and Spanish, and today only a computer, an Internet connection, and 30 – 45 minutes are needed to develop a new skill.