Resource Spotlight: An Insider's View of the HRH Tool Compendium with Tim Martineau


An Insider's View of the HRH Tool Compendium with Tim Martineau
Photo of Tim Martineau

If you are having difficulty selecting which HRH tool to use and where to find it, check out the HRH Tool Compendium. Launched on May 22, 2006, this website, published by THE Connection, provides overviews and reviews for 13 tools with more added regularly.

We recently caught up with Tim Martineau, the Compendium’s driving force, to get a behind-the-scenes look at how the Compendium was developed, what it means to the HRH community and what’s next. Tim is a Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management, International Health Research Group, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK. Contact him at

How did the idea for creating the HRH Tool Compendium first emerge?

The Compendium started as part of the work of the Joint Learning Initiative (JLI). There was interest in trying to define the HR (human resources) domain and understand what it covered. I agreed to write a paper about that for the JLI, which included trying to identify some of the tools that would help to analyze the situation in HR. When I did my search, there wasn't a single point where you could find the available tools. At the end of the paper, I proposed how we might move forward to identify more tools and make them more widely available. This fit with the aims of THE Connection, which provides HR-related support to countries, so they commissioned me to set up a Working Group to make HR tools more readily available.

Tell us how the Compendium Working Group, which reviewed the tools, came together and carried out its work?

THE Connection Steering Group and I identified ten people with an interest in developing and using tools, and the Working Group started in July 2005. Apart from a part-time administrative assistant, we are all volunteers. We established a process to select appropriate tools and review them. Members of the Working Group perform reviews, but we sometimes use other people if we need a special area of expertise, such as gender. Our main aim with the reviews is to help people decide if the tool would be useful for them. We provide tool descriptions and reviewers’ opinions. We exclude tools that we do not think will be useful. This project has already managed to bring together HR practitioners: members of the Working Group, additional reviewers and some of the authors of the tools who we have contacted, thus supporting THE Connection’s aim of developing networks. That’s been a pleasing spin-off the activity.

Describe how a typical tool comes into being and evolves?

There are two ways a tool develops. A practitioner may develop a tool for him or herself and gradually improve it–—its own form of testing—or a tool may be commissioned. That’s how I originally got involved. In 1995 a colleague at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and I were asked by the European Commission to create a tool for doing a broad appraisal of the HR situation.

Were there any unexpected discoveries (about HRH tools or the HRH field) as a result of the Working Group’s process?

We discovered that some people were developing tools but unaware that others were developing similar tools. We have seen that the project can help share information about who is developing what tools.

Who do you see as the main audience for the Compendium, and what challenges might they face in taking full advantage of it?

First and foremost, the Compendium is for HR practitioners who are looking for assistance in doing their job—for example, HR planners with the Ministry of Health or a large health organization. We don't yet have many tools on training, but those tools will be targeted toward people working in training institutions or providing in-service training.

The first challenge is access to the Compendium itself because it is web-based. But we are operating with limited resources at the moment and don't have any other way of disseminating it, and many people at the central government level have access to the Internet.

The next biggest challenge is people deciding what they need to do and what tools they need. Hopefully the Compendium will help them. But I do think that there is a stage before that when people need to consider which strategies they need to employ to improve the HR situation and then select the tools to help them do that.

Some of the tools will be very easy to use and self-explanatory. And experienced people will find a way to use them. But others may have a problem in understanding how to apply them to their own situation. A set of guidelines accompanying a tool may give the user an idea of how to implement it, but it will need to be adapted for individual use, and people find that challenging. In some cases people may need technical assistance to make the best use of the tools.

We are hoping to get some kind of dialogue going with the users of the Compendium through the feedback facility so that there is a way for people to make comments or ask questions. The feedback will be used to revise the reviews. We hope in the future to set up a forum for questions where other users of the Compendium could provide answers. At the moment, what we can do is put them in touch with the authors of the tool.

There will be challenges, but I hope the community of HR practitioners will share what they learn and ask for help through the website.

Any upcoming plans for the Compendium?

There are more tools ready for us to review, and we know that other tools are being developed. And, of course, we have the ongoing task of identifying other tools.

An interactive version of the HRH Technical Framework that appeared in the World Health Report 2006 is under development. This will link to the tools in the Compendium, and we are expanding the range of tools to cover the new areas like leadership and partnership.

The long-term view is to look at the process of developing tools and the process of dissemination so that HR practitioners have better access to more effective and appropriate tools. We are already collecting information on this from authors of tools currently included in the Compendium.

We are planning to add a “beta testing” section. If developers want, we will post information about their draft tools and channel feedback to them. We already have a candidate for this section and hope to add it soon. For major additions like this we will alert people via THE Connection E-forum and other listservs (when they are ready). Otherwise, users can request an e-mail alert from the Compendium when new reviews are added.