The Importance of HR Management in an NGO Environment

ngos sustainability skills management human resources
Tuesday, 16 April, 2013 - 15:38

NGOs should work towards effective employee management in order to be efficient in living up to their respective mandates

The importance of Human Resources (HR) in a non-governmental organisation (NGO) as a means of ensuring sustainable growth for an organisation cannot be overemphasised, as it is the fundamental strength upon which people, strategies, processes and operations are based. Effective employee management should be on top of the list of priorities for progressive improvement of an organisation. A NGO must strive to attract, develop and retain qualified and enthusiastic employees as they are the key to the success of one’s business. HR in a NGO is no different to HR in any other sector, but the problems that HR professionals face within the NGO industry are quite unique.
There are two main problems concerning HR in the NGO environment today:

  • The first is the high unemployment rate which causes an exceptionally high number of under qualified job seekers to stream into the childcare environment, the reason for this can also be attributed to an industry that does not have the competitive advantage when it comes to salary benchmarking. This leads to shortages of qualified skilled childcare workers in the industry; and
  • The second is retaining highly skilled and qualified people and keeping them motivated. Learning and development are central to both the performance and development of employees. It can be beneficial for an organisation to offer employees equal and full access to learning and development opportunities that are aligned to their career development, as well as the skills and competencies required to meet business performance and growth objectives.

Abraham Kriel Childcare is continuously developing and training their childcare workers to deliver high standard childcare services.  Interventions such as this help employees to feel valued. NGOs have an ever increasing need to attract the right people in the right positions in a constantly evolving environment.

Heads of NGOs and those long associated with the development sector will confirm that the supply of well qualified people, prepared to make the necessary sacrifices in respect of remuneration, for the sake of the cause, has diminished rapidly in the last 18 years or so. Job opportunities for today’s educated youth are more widespread. This has made a career in development less attractive to people in the age group from which the sector drew its strengths from in the 1970s and 1980s. The days when NGOs were driven by social activists are no longer. NGOs now have a high demand for skilled employees to help the organisation function at its best.

In the case of a NGO that works with children or vulnerable people, it is of utmost importance to implement a vetting system that screens all new appointees.
Applicable screenings would be:

  • The child protection register;
  • Qualifications,
  • Criminal record; and
  • Identity and professional registration.

Almost all the HR practices are being adapted by larger NGOs and the roles and responsibilities are equally challenging. Clear selection criteria must be created. A NGO should take advantage of the benefits of tools like psychometric testing in the selection process. Psychometric testing and other similar tools can contribute significant value by helping HR practitioners in placing the right types of individuals in the right positions. This also helps to ensure that new employees receive the correct training to enhance their own skills, specifically in critical positions such as childcare and management roles.

Providing employees with support and understanding is especially important in organisations that work with children and trauma cases. An example is that of a wellness initiative that focuses on the well-being of staff, including, health, trauma and employee stress. Such initiatives are aimed at retaining qualified, enthusiastic employees and developing a positive organisational culture. It is critical for HR practitioners to partner with businesses in understanding the needs of an organisation. As well as what challenges the industry is facing, skills shortages, salary disparities, best practice HR procedures and government policies that stands as a hindrance to the success of a NGO.
The personnel function in the NGO industry has evolved to the HR business partnering concept and is well embraced by many NGOs in recent years. Any NGO using the business partnering model with strategic intent in aligning people to business is bound to achieve organisational success. The NGO world is continuously evolving and is becoming an industry to be recognised as the change frontier in economic and social development in the country and with the right people it’s bound to achieve success.    

- Portia Sokkie is human resource manager at Abraham Kriel Childcare. For more about Abraham Kriel Childcare, refer to or

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