Value of Human Resource Functions in Voluntary Work

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Human resource management aims at effective utilisation of manpower to accomplish an organisation's objectives. The strength of any organisation largely depends upon the quality of its human resource. Social services in Ireland have experienced major changes in the last ten years. In Ireland in 2010, one person in nine is over the age of 65 years. Access to social services for people who require them is a growing phenomenon. This raises questions for organisations providing services and how a model for delivery can confront negative attitudes and improve the level of awareness of service providers. Inclusiveness of all stakeholders is integral to the whole process. The organisation which is the focus of this report is a voluntary social service, company limited by guarantee with charitable status.

The rise in the population of older people is not unique to Ireland and it has been estimated that by 2050, almost a quarter of the world's population will be over the age of 60 years (United Nations, 2009). It is projected that by the year 2031, the proportion of older people in Europe as a whole will have almost doubled to between 837,000 and 858,000 people, representing between 18 and 21 per cent of the population (DoHC, 2001). It is also projected that by the year 2020, 16% of the total Irish population will be over the age of 65 years. This means that subsequent amount of resources will have to be put in place to support this group. Population projections suggest that between now and 2050 the numbers of people over the age of 65 will triple to approximately 1,435,000 (DoHC, 2007).

This increase in the number of older people will also bring with it social repercussions. The social needs of this age group will also have to be met if healthy ageing is to be accommodated for. There is an increase in the numbers of people living alone and living for longer. Over the last four decades of the twentieth century, life expectancy at birth increased substantially for Irish men and women, although life expectancy remains poorer for men than women (DoHC, 2001). Currently in Ireland the life expectancy for men is 75 years and that for women is currently 78 years. The life expectancy for women is slightly higher under the European average of 80 years.

Many older people live long and independent lives without the need for social assistance or assistance with daily activities; however, the utilization of health and personal social services increases with age and this utilization is not just in relation to services specifically aimed at older people, but all services (DoHC, 2001). 22% of people over the age of 85 years are living in their own homes at present in Ireland. In 2002, almost 60% of older people lived alone or as a couple (Fahey et al, 2007). Facilitating these people to remain in their own homes is a key goal that the government needs to tackle through policies and interventions directed at meeting the needs of these people. It is often the case that these people may be of sound health and requiring simply regular contact with people outside the home to ward off feelings of loneliness that can so often become a familiar feeling for people living alone. It is important to remember that quality of life for older people is influenced as much by social and economic factors as by individual and biological characteristics (Walker, 1981).

The need for a more efficient co-ordination of care and service provision for older people is a constant theme in reports, both by government and voluntary agencies. This represents a crucial challenge to the development of appropriate social care planning for the growing numbers of older people, as a proportion of the population.

The aim of this management report is:

To examine the current human resource practices in community voluntary social services

To assess the organisational and human resource challenges faced by voluntary social services in fulfilling the roles envisaged in government and local policy

To examine how services are addressing these challenges, in particular, to identify the factors, both internal to the organisation and in the wider health community, which have contributed to the success or failure of different structures, strategies and initiatives?

To recommend a framework to proactively support the functions of voluntary social services in my workplace.

2.2 Background

Castlebar Voluntary Social Services provides supports to persons within a 10 mile radius of Castlebar. The service is primarily accessed by persons over 65 years of age but is accessible by any age group. Mayo has a high proportion of older people with 15% of the population over 65 years of age, compared with the national average of 11 %.(CSO, 2008). Many of these people are spread over a large geographic area which can often lead to a high level of isolation and associated loneliness.

Castlebar Voluntary Social Services is partially funded in the form of grants by HSE West and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs through Pobal which provides financial support to employ staff at the organisation. Overall Castlebar Voluntary Social Services receives 45% of its annual costs through state funding and the remainder is generated through the normal trading of services, donations and some voluntary local collections such as flag days, bag packing and church gate collections.

Presently Castlebar Voluntary Social Services have approx 40 active volunteers and a paid staff of 10 consisting of 3 full-time and 7 part-time employees.

The activities of this service include the provision of meals on wheels, meals in-house, drop-in centre, transport service, laundry service and activities for the elderly and disadvantaged. Family crisis intervention is also facilitated in certain circumstances; however the main focus of work concerns the older person. The organisation was the first group in Mayo to launch a "Telephone Befriending Service" in October 2008 and is currently used as a template for other groups setting up this very successful service.

The writer is employed as a Manager of Castlebar Voluntary Social Services. The duties of the post are based on the smooth operation of the centre with a focus on the human resource function. Working in the organisation and the opportunity of undertaking the degree in personnel management has illuminated the need to promote the human resource function within the organisation. According to the Carmichael Centre (2007), the largest voluntary support for voluntary organisations is the quality of what happens on the ground at local level depends on the availability of support in areas such as governance, human resource management and finance. It is the writer's personal opinion that social services imply negative connotations and believes good human resource structures would promote a more positive proactive participation in this valuable community voluntary service. It is with this intention that the writer has embarked on this project.




The objective of this study is to make recommendations from the evaluation of the Value of the Human Resource function in a Voluntary Organisation. In order to provide a detailed overview both primary and secondary sources were utilised. The literature search revealed that while there is no formal government policy on volunteering, a voluntary organisation should still adhere to the legal requirements in its day to day running of the organisation.

Definition of Human Resource Function

According to Armstrong (2009), the role of the HR function is to take initatives and provide guidance, support and services on all matters relating to the organisations employees. Essentially, the HR function is in the delivery business - providing the advice and services to enable organisations to get things done through people. The function ensures that HR strategies, policies and practices are introduced and maintained that cater for everything concerning the employment, development and well-being of people and the relationships that exist between management and the workforce.

The holy grail sought by many human resource management researchers is to establish that HRM practices demonstrably cause improvements in organizational performance (Armstrong, 2009).

History of Human Resource Function

In order to properly understand the current nature of HR activity and the specialist function, it is necessary to provide a thumbnail sketch of its historical developments. This overview will highlight the major transitions that personnel management has gone through and give some indications of how HRM has developed as a specialist management function. Monk (1996) notes that it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when personnel management first appeared in Ireland but she refers to Barrington (1980) who, in his account of the development of the Irish administrative system, indicates that a personnel function has been established in the civil service after World War 1. Monks suggests that its official recognition in the private sector is probably best dated to the setting up of the Irish branch of the Institute of Labour Management in Dublin in 1937. This body was the forerunner to the current Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development - CIPD (Tiernan et al, 2006 p.216)

According to the CIPD (June 2009), the outsourcing of the HR function is defined as the purchasing of HR services from a third party supplier. With the economic downturn this is going to be a more common practice within organisation as they look for cost cutting measures. Figure 5 below breaks down the data from this survey. Private services dominate HR outsourcing activity, with 50% of organisation listed within this category engaged in HRO. Manufacturing firms are the second most popular users of HRO - 24% of firms outsource HR in these industries. HRO is used in 22% of public services organisations and in only 4% of voluntary and charitable organisations. It cannot be predicted that outsourcing in the organisation leads to a greater likelihood of HR outsourcing.

Best Practice

People are the life blood of organisations. A company's workforce represents one of its most potent and valuable resources. Consequently, the extent to which a workforce is managed effectively is a critical element in improving and sustaining organizational performance (Gunnigle et al, 1997, p.1).

For an organisation to believe that they are the leaders in their field and aspire for others to benchmark against them it would be imperative that they follow best practice guidelines. Best practice is generally taken to involve the identification of the 'best way' of undertaking a particular management function or task and ensuring this 'best way' is applied in all instances, regardless of context (Gunnigle et al, 2006, p52).

Policies & Procedures

Policies are general guidelines for decision making throughout the organisation. They provide direction for managers when using their judgement in achieving objectives. Policies help to establish consistency in decision making. Procedures are plans that outline methods for handling certain situations. In this sense, they detail the precise manner in which activities are to be carried out. Policies and procedures are quite similar in that they both seek to influence certain decisions ((Tiernan et al, 2006, p.137).

While there are numerous policies and procedures needed for an organisation to adhere to legal requirements, according to the Citizens Information Board (Citizens Information Board Website, accessed on 23rd March 2011) having a volunteer policy is essential for organisation intending to involve volunteers; it underpins effective volunteer management. A volunteer policy will help to:

clarify volunteer roles and responsibilities

establish values, beliefs and direction for volunteer involvement

strengthen good relationships within the team

ensure continuity over time and from staff to staff

formalise current practice

This is a crucial area that I will focus on as the questionnaire revealed a serious lack of policies and procedures in the organisation and I will discuss in detail later.

Training & Development

Training & Development is an essential element of any organisation if they are to keep abreast of the latest trends and ?.

Through my research I have found that the Charmichael Centre through, an Online Network for Irish Non-profit Organisations, offer free training and development short courses for boards, committees, management, staff and volunteers in charities and community groups and are designed to increase the effectiveness and impact of the organisation.

Assessing the training needs of employees and volunteers of a voluntary organisation and tailoring them to suit the needs of both groups is essential. This study will show the critical role training and development plays to ensure organisations' most valuable resources, its employees and volunteers, are successfully integrated and retained.

Health & Safety

The National Irish Safety Organisation will provide tailor made courses for voluntary organisations covering areas ranging from risk assessment to manual handling and dealing with stress. As a voluntary body, NISO is committed to providing support in health and safety to all groups and companies and will tailor a programme to meet the organisation's individual needs (The Wheel Website, accessed on 23rd March 2011).


A structured and formal induction programme contributes to the ease and confidence at which new employees and volunteers adapt to their new environment. A study undertaken by the Citizens Information Board on 'Volunteering in Citizens Information Services' showed that over two-thirds of volunteers (68.6%) stated that they had undergone a period of induction before volunteering in the Citizens Information Board. The majority of those who underwent an induction period were 'very satisifed' with their induction (see Table 3.15).

Having a volunteer management programme in place is the most straight-forward way to ensure effective volunteer management. An effective induction programme for new employees raises retention of the workforce, gives new employees an easy transition into the workplace and gives a professional and positive impression of the organisation. The area of induction has been highlighted as an area which needs a serious overhaul in order for the organisation to achieve its highest potential.

Manual Handling

The area of manual handling forms part of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Regulations 2007. The HSA tell us that current scientific evidence now tell us that training interventions predominantly based on technique training have no impact on work practices or injury rates. Manual Handling is a physical activity that takes place in every workplace, and in some cases the activity does not pose a problem. However it can be a potential workplace hazard when an employee, for example, is required to handle heavy loads, which could result in a back injury. It will be necessary to carry out a risk assessment of existing manual handling tasks before making an informed decision on which manual handling tasks need to be avoided or reduced. Employers must then take steps to avoid or reduce the risk of injury (HSA Website, accessed on 24th March 2011).

Presently, there is no form of manual handling training and this leaves the organisation open to serious legal implications if it is not addressed.

The Role of Human Resource Management in a Voluntary Organisation

The Current Human Resource Practices in a Community and Voluntary Sector list the following as "best practice" in order to adhere with legal requirements and to be accepted as a professional and integral organisation who embed good people management practices:

Policies & Procedures

Health & Safety

Training & Development



Recruitment & Selection

3.10 Conclusion

While it is not feasible to explore all related areas, I will take my lead from the results of my research and analysis the data accordingly and explore in further detail the critical areas.

The History of the Voluntary Organisation in Ireland

According to Ian Williams of the Charmicahel Centre for Voluntary Groups, he writes that in general terms, Freda Donaghue (1998a) has identified that the Irish Community and Voluntary Organisations has developed over the past 150 years from one where there was a predominance of religious bodies that 'focused on charity to a present situation where a concern with self help and community empowerment is manifest'; in more recent years she comments there has been a fall off in the importance of religious organisations (notwithstanding that their presence is still indisputable) and a rise of community and independent Community Voluntary Organisations organized around issues such as social and economic marginalization; furthermore she reasons that more recent Community Voluntary Organistions tend to be more critical of the state and structural causes (The Nature of Highly Effective Community and Voluntary Organistions, 2007).

Despite this belief that the community and voluntary sector is valuable, there is no consensus on its definition in Ireland. While reviewing the sector in Ireland for a 1990 study, Faughnan noted the diversity of community and voluntary organisations such that she believes the sector "defies precise description and lacks clear boundaries". In its 2000 White Paper, the Government concluded that "a pragmatic approach to the issue of the definition of the sector is necessary, given the range of Departments and agencies that engage in relationships with a wide range of Community and Voluntary organisations at different levels (Pay, Conditions and HR Practices under Different Government Programmes in the Community Sector).



4.1 Introduction

The focus of this study is to look at the Value of the Human Resource function in Castlebar Voluntary Social Services. The research methodology used in the compiling of this report was an anonomyous questionnaire. I initially intended to use a mixed method of interviews and questionnaires but changed direction and decided that using both methods would not enhance the information I needed and that by using questionnaires only would not have any disadvantages.

Primary Data Collection

The results of the primary data were brought about from questionnaires given to four different groups of people involved in either a paid capacity, professional capacity or a voluntary capacity within Castlebar Voluntary Social Services. The four groups which contributed to the questionnaires were:

Public Health Nurses

Home Helps



In designing the questionnaires a combination of open ended and closed questions were used. The fact that the questionnaires were anonymous gave the participant a more open forum to be honest in their response. Recommendations and conclusions will be formulated later in this report. The majority of the surveys were distributed in person with the exception of a portion of the questionnaires which were sent via email to the Public Health Nurses as I was unable to contact them after several personal visits.


Advantages of Survey

Disadvantages of Survey

Limitations of using a Survey

Ethical Considerations

Secondary Data Collection

This secondary data was formed from a variety of literature as mentioned in Chapter 3 and referred to throughout this report. The following is a list of organisations that were also contacted and used to source secondary information:

HSE West

Volunteer Centre

GMIT Library

Castlebar Public Library

Library at Mayo General Hospital

National Council on Ageing and Older People

Citizens Information Board

Extensive use of the internet was also utilized in sourcing secondary data.