HR Management for the NGO Sector

capacity building ngos recruitment human resources
Wednesday, 13 February, 2008 - 22:38

The Importance of Recruiting the Right Person

Fifteen years ago, an idea for an agency specialising in placements within the NGO sector was born from a need to ensure that rigorous recruitment processes are followed in appointing appropriate people for posts within this dynamic and crucial sector.

Responding to this growing need, Action Appointments was born.

Many NGOs follow a fairly informal approach to recruitment - with people growing into jobs or taking them on organically. This is often due to limited resources, convenience and, sadly, less demand for accountability from donors and stakeholders.

These types of appointments sometimes worked out alright. But equally often, they led to unqualified, unskilled and often just the wrong people ending up in jobs which they did not perform very well in.

Having the right person in the right job is extremely important for NGOs and other development organisations. These types of organisations use public money to run their projects, and the services that they offer are usually aimed at assisting and empowering the most needy and vulnerable communities and individuals. To have the wrong people in positions which carry such massive responsibilities can have disastrous consequences and be very damaging to society as a whole.

Many NGOs have learnt through bitter experience how costly it can be to have inappropriate people taking on crucial jobs. In some instances having the wrong person in a key post in a NGO has actually led to the demise of the organisation and terrible waste of public funds.

Fortunately there have been a lot of changes within the NGO sector over the past 15 years. Most organisations are run along far more professional lines - there is a greater need for transparency in recruitment processes and a lot more emphasis and energy is spent on ensuring that the right person is located for a vacancy. NGOs have had to become more accountable to donors and stakeholders, and have also learnt a lot from the influx into the country of many international NGO’s and development experts. 

In my opinion as a NGO recruitment specialist, it really is worth spending time, energy and money on ensuring that the best possible candidate is located for a position. I think one of the dangers for NGOs, and one I have certainly come across in my years in development recruitment, is managers’ willingness to be pressurised to start implementing programmes and satisfy donor requirements and rush recruitment processes simply to have the bums on the seats.

Most clients who use Action Appointment need their new staff member yesterday, and while I really do understand how the sector operates and how vital it is once the money has come in for the programme to get started, I can’t resist a caution – it is far better to wait a month for the right person then grab a less-than-right person just because they are immediately available. It is also worth running a proper comprehensive transparent process right from the beginning rather than discovering half way through a large and vitally important project that the person running it is lacking some key skills.  

I think that recruitment agencies like Action Appointments, focusing on the development needs of the NGO sector provide a far more valuable service than most people realise.  Many NGOs do not have dedicated HR departments or HR Managers and simply do not have the time or capacity to run thorough recruitment processes themselves. By choosing to use an agency which understands the needs of this very unique sector, small specialist NGOs can ensure that their recruitment process is run professionally and transparently and that they do end up with the right person for the right job.

- Written by Action Appointments Director, Lisa Garson.

NGO Services

NGO Services