Trends in the not-for-profit sector

More than half of not-for-profit organisations are planning to recruit more HR staff over the next six months, according to the latest figures from the Recruitment Confidence Index, produced by Cranfield School of Management in association with Personnel Today.

The survey also reveals that 59% of employers in the sector are on the lookout for professionals to join their HR teams. This compares to just 18% of public sector employers and 11% of private companies.

This strong demand could signal new opportunities for HR to gain experience in not-for-profit organisations. Jessica Jarvis, learning, training and development adviser at the CIPD, says: “Some HR professionals would like to work for a non-commercial organisation that gives them more meaning and allows them to ‘do their bit’. Gaining experience in new sectors can be positive for your career.”

Shaun Tyson, director of the HR research centre at Cranfield School of Management, says the survey indicates a sea change in the sector’s view of HR. “Increasingly, organisations that were once old-fashioned are becoming more entrepreneurial. Many have begun to realise the value of professional HR practices.”

Tyson says this change could have been sparked by the regulatory burdens being felt by the sector. “Organisations dealing with vulnerable people are now required to meet higher standards of operation. There is an increasing need for HR to manage these organisations,” he says.

Derek Manuel is global HR director at international charity Save the Children. He says the results reflect what is happening in his organisation.

“A significant number of HR jobs have recently been developed, mainly in other countries. We are trying to move HR jobs closer to the regions they are responsible for so they can work more strategically,” he says.

Manuel says this sector-wide demand shows how HR is adding value. “Good people management is clearly important to an organisation that is based on helping people. Organisations are focusing on how to deliver their mission through the people working for them,” he says.

Who is best suited to an HR role in this sector? “There is no time for amateurs in this field,” says Tyson. Manuel shares a similar attitude: “It’s not an easy option. It doesn’t matter which sector you come from, but the level of technical skills needed shouldn’t be under-estimated,” he says.

In addition to the usual functional duties, HR also has to deal with challenges unique to not-for-profit organisations. At Save the Children, HR staff are posted in locations that may put their security or health at risk. “Every organisation in the sector will have its own set of similar challenges. You need to be very professional to cope with this, with a degree of flexibility and stamina,” says Manuel.

Sought-after skills include being business-focused and practically minded. “We look for practical people above academics,” adds Manuel.

Which skills are sought after?

  1. High-level technical ability

  2. Business acumen

  3. A practical mind

  4. Flexibility 

Why is the not-for-profit sector recruiting more HR staff?

  1. Regulation has increased, meaning staff have to meet higher standards.

  2. Pressures to secure funding mean organisations need to operate more professionally.

  3. Organisations have to lead by example, so fair people policies are a must.

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