Giving as good as they get

first_imgIn recent years, charities have mushroomed and grown, which has provided HRdepartments with a range of employee and management challenges.  Roisin Woolnough talks to four HR directorsabout working in the voluntary sectorThe charity sector in the UK is relativelyyoung. Many charities were formed after the Second World War and have grownexponentially since. As a result, issues of management, career development andconsistency have become increasingly important for HR charity teams. Manyorganisations are in the throes of introducing employee and managementdevelopment programmes, performance management systems and other HR tools tomeasure their effectiveness.A big issue is, as ever, recruitment and retention. While fewcharities have problems attracting sufficient volumes of potential employees,they are hard pushed to compete with the private sector in terms of pay toattract the best staff. Many employees are attracted to the profession becausethey believe in it, but providing a solid, comprehensive benefits package helpsto retain them. International charities are striving for consistency in termsof the pay, benefits and career planning they offer. International rates tendto be paid for senior international posts, but at a lower, local level, charitiesbelieve it is better to pay competitive local market rates. How to meet theneeds of a global workforce and ensure consistency and best practice is aconcern for any global organisation. Personnel Today has spoken to four HR directors, with experienceof working in the charity, public and private sectors, at UK-based charitiesabout what their jobs entail. Andrew ThompsonInternational HR Director at OxfamWhat are the big HR issues in the charity sector? In the UK, it’s can we afford to keep pace with the general market in termsof pay? We have to look at the total reward package – maternity leave, flexibleworking. Also, we’re doing a lot more, particularly on the international side,on career development and enrichment. But how far should we go in becoming aprofessional, modern organisation without being top heavy and having all thedonated money spent on management costs? What is your big HR challenge for 2004? Redesigning our approach to recruitment and improving management skills. Weneed to attract more quality candidates, so we are looking for people withtransferable skills. Charity is a relatively young and rapidly expandingsector, so it doesn’t have a strong management history. There are a lot ofissues around people management, such as contracts, benefits, performancemanagement and project management How does the sector compare to the public and private sectors? The big difference is that most people are very committed to the aims of theorganisation. Also, unlike the public sector, we are not influenced bygovernment politics. With regard to the commercial sector, the bottom line isdifferent and we are accountable to a different set of people – that’s itreally Why do you work in charity? I come from the public sector, but I started working for the charity becauseit offered me a very interesting job What do you like about it? Virtually the complete absence of personal politics. The diversity of peopleI get to meet around the world and seeing what life is really like. It is a veryinvigorating cause to work for What do you dislike about it? Trying to educate people about how we do our work. There is a big gapbetween the surface image of how people believe our work gets done and the complexityof an organisation like this. You have to explain it without getting the simpleanswer ‘How much do you spend on admin and management?’ About the charity www.oxfam.org.ukOxfam has about 4,500 employees worldwide, with 3,000 in the internationaldivision. Founded in 1942, it works in roughly 80 countries The HR team There are 21 HR professionals, plus 52 support/admin staff with HR duties Ben EmmensHR service manager at People in AidWhat are the big HR issues in thecharity sector?Security is a big area – health and safety, duty of care,insurance, and so on. Since September 11, this has become increasinglyexpensive. Legislation too. There are big issues in terms of consistency andequity because of the global workforce of expats and locally hired staff. HRprofessionals are having to think more laterally about staffing structuresWhat is your big HR challenge for 2004?Looking at internationalism – how People in Aid responds to aglobal management and how we support that How does the sector compare to the public and privatesectors?The dividing line is not so stark. There’s an increasingawareness in the sector that charities are not just accountable to donors andbeneficiaries, but to staff as well Why do you work in charity?I had some frustration with the corporate sector and the insanehours and was looking for a change in directionWhat do you like about it?You really do contribute to alleviating poverty and suffering,so job satisfaction is high. My role is about helping individuals reach theirpotential and organisations benefit as much as they can from their staff What do you dislike about it?Sometimes there’s a lack of urgency in decision-making and lotsof consultation, so progress can feel slowAbout the charitywww.peopleinaid.orgPeople in Aid is a network of international relief agencies, including Oxfam,the Red Cross and Action Aid. Registered as a charity in 1999, it supports aidpersonnel and promotes good management practice through lobbying, workshops,seminars, research, and so on. It has three full-time staff, a board of 12trustees and around12 consultantsThe HR teamEmmens is the sole memberJill TombsDirector of HR and governance at MencapWhat are the big HR issues in thecharity sector?Across all charities, it’s recruitment and retention and theassociated strategies of reward, recognition, workforce development and careerplanning. We’ve always trained staff for specific roles and looked to developthem, but we have to provide more career paths and opportunities. Another onewould be diversity, particularly regarding disabilityWhat is your big HR challenge for 2004?Strategies for having people with learning difficulties more atthe heart of what we do and improving staff communications are the mainchallenges. We are also bringing in a new people management system to improveour business processesHow does the sector compare to the public and privatesectors?The most immediate difference is the stakeholder culture. Thereis a strong identity in this sector and often a very personal commitment. Butthe differences between the sectors are no way near as great as people thinkWhy do you work in charity?It was an opportunity to use my experience in HR and socialservices and in an area that interests meWhat do you like about it?The variety, the challenge and the supportive environment.There is a lot of openness, commitment and sharing across charities, with a lotof cross-charity initiatives. You don’t have political manoeuvrings What do you dislike about it?The resource challenge is always there, but you have to focuson what will make the biggest difference. Communication is hard in a scatteredorganisation like thisAbout the charitywww.mencap.org.ukMencap works with people with learning difficulties, their families and carers.It provides direct services, such as residential care, education, employmentassistance and community support. Made up of roughly 5,500 staff and somecasual workers and volunteers, it has a network of affiliated local groupsThe HR team There will be 26 HR professionals when HR and payroll split Sue BarringtonHead of personnel at St John AmbulanceWhat are the big HR issues in thecharity sector?The challenge from the centre is to support local branches,while ensuring consistency to salaried and non-salaried staff. Legislation isthe biggest issue. The Disability Discrimination Act is particularly focusingour attention at the moment regarding the need for inclusiveness of less ablepeople in the training services we provide. We’ve got to have thousands ofproperties adaptedWhat is your big HR challenge for 2004?The main focus is the quality of our people management andconsistency. We’re delivering selection interview skills to all managers andappraisal system training, a new system linked to performance related pay.Plus, in January, we are implementing of a new HR information resource system,and I’m setting up a staff consultative forumHow does the sector compare to the public and privatesectors?Ten years ago, charities were seen as poor relations to theprivate sector in terms of HR issues. Benefits and remuneration packages wereperceived as better. Now the gap is closing and we’re bringing in businessprofessionals. That brings in new standardsWhy do you work in charity?Having worked in the private sector for 20 years, I was drawnto the ethos of St John. We provide an essential contribution to society andsave lives What do you like about it?I love the variety of my role and the daily sense of purpose. Iam very involved in policy and I enjoy the knowledge sharing among colleaguesWhat do you dislike about it?The pace of change can be frustrating. Communicating to anational network and consulting for overall acceptance can be a slow processAbout the charity:www.sja.org.ukSt John Ambulance, which is 900 years old, trains half a million people ayear in first aid. It has 2,000 salaried staff and 43,000 volunteer membersacross the UKThe HR teamThere are three HR professionals at HQ, with HR officers atcounty level Giving as good as they getOn 9 Dec 2003 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.last_img