Posted: March 28th, 2021

Value of the Role of HR Function in Voluntary Organisations

Human resource management targets 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, significantly in 2010, one person in nine was over the age of 65 years??. As a result access to social services for people who require them is most likely a growing phenomenon. This raises questions for organisations providing services and how a model for delivery can perhaps address 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 need for 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.

This has stimulated the writer’s interest and therefore the aim of this management report is to:

Examine the current human resource practices in community voluntary social services.

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

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.

Recommend a framework to proactively support the functions of voluntary social services in the writer’s place of work.

These phenomena will be considered in the context of Castlebar Voluntary Social Services in County Mayo.

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 geographical 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, church gate collections, mini marathon and Halloween/Christmas childrens parties.

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 are diverse and include the provision of 80 meals on wheels per day, 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. This service was considered so successful by the stakeholders in Castlebar that it was used to form a template and was subsequently set up in several other areas around Mayo with the aid of HSE West. The overall aim of the programme is to enable older people in the community, who live alone and are isolated, to avail of a high quality befriending telephone service. Volunteers making the calls are trained by HSE Health Promotion Department.

The writer of this report is employed as a Manager of Castlebar Voluntary Social Services. The core duties are centred upon the human resource function in attempting to attain the smooth operation of the organisation. This employment coupled with the opportunity to develop academically, has rewarded the writer with a greater insight into the need to promote the human resource function. According to the Carmichael Centre (2007), who are the largest voluntary support for voluntary organisations, 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 opinion that the term social services has attracted negative connotations and the writer believes that 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 is undertaking this project.

Chapter 3 – Literature Review

3.1 Introduction

Literature reviews provide the foundation for any study. The reasoning for proposed research can be explained through a literature review and will show where the study once completed relates to existing knowledge (Hart, 2000). PAGE NO.

The literature review for this proposal was conducted by exploring some key phrases and words of relevance in the context of this topic across a number of databases, books, journals, thesis, conference papers, government reports and published articles.

The objective of this study is to make recommendations by exploring 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. Evaluation is primarily concerned with determining the merit, worth or value of an intervention, against an explicit set of standards, as a means of contributing to the improvement of the programme (Weiss, 1998). Carrying out an evaluation means making judgments about the value or worth of an organisations activities.


3.2 History of the Voluntary Organisation in Ireland

Donaghue (1998) as cited by Williams (2007) has identified that the Irish Community and Voluntary Organisations have developed over the past 150 years, where once 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 decline in the importance of religious organisations (notwithstanding that their presence is still indisputable) and a rise of community and independent Community Voluntary Organisations organised around issues such as social and economic marginalisation; 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’s study, Faughnan noted the diversity of community and voluntary organisations such that she believes the sector “defies precise description and lacks clear boundaries”. INDENT In its 2000 White Paper on a Framework for Supporting Voluntary Activity and for Developing the Relationship Between the State and the Community and the Voluntary Sector, 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). PAGE NO

3.3 Definition of Human Resource Function

According to Armstrong (2009), the role of the HR function is to take initiatives 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 to 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 organisational performance (Armstrong, 2009).

3.4 History of Human Resource Function

In order to properly understand the current nature of HR activity and its 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. Monk 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)

3.5 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. The core elements of good human resource practice include:

Recruitment & Selection


Health & Safety

Policies & Procedures

Training & Development


3.6 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 organisational performance (Gunnigle et al, 1997, p.1). INDENT

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). INDENT

The fact that there is no formal government policy on volunteering does not mean that best practice cannot be in place in voluntary organisations. Now more than ever, there is tremendous pressure on organisations to produce results with fewer resources. In order to achieve this, the implementation of best practice human resource systems is essential. It has been demonstrated that the implementation of human resource best practice policies has had positive outcomes in the private sector. Voluntary organisations should take their lead from this to maximize their current resources.

3.7 Policies & Procedures

Policies & procedures are guiding frameworks for decision making throughout any organisation. They provide direction for all involved in the organisation to achieve 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). INDENT

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

ensure consistency and fair treatment

formalise current practice

ensure best practice

The writer will focus on this area, as part of the questionnaire revealed a serious lack of policies and procedures in the organisation. The writer will include the results in chapter 5 findings and analysis.

3.8 Training & Development

The pace of today’s environment demands that organisations develop their staff to keep abreast of new initiatives, new technologies and increased consumer expectations. A changing economic and social environment has also brought about an adjustment in employment patterns with more and more people seeking fulfilment in a voluntary capacity. Therefore it is critical that volunteers in social services are upskilled and trained to meet consumer requirements. With this in mind it is important that organisations pay closer attention to their people. Put simply organisations have one choice to develop their staff or fall behind. Staff development and investment in people are critical factors in organisational success. Development of staff brings other good practices which is important in the voluntary sector. These include succession planning, organisational development and change initiatives. Training and development is an investment any organisation makes in its people to ensure its survival and the development to maximum potential of individual staff be they paid or voluntary . Getting the best investment from staff means making sure one invests in the right areas. In most organisations the training and development task sits within the HR function and is an important tool in ensuring that the organisation have people with the right skills, knowledge and attitudes to enable them to do their work to the appropriate standard.

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 trained to equip them to meet the job requirements.

Garavan et al (2003) wrote that many variables combine to explain the long-term contribution of training to individual and organizational performance. Nonetheless, you can make the following points when asked to justify investment in training and development:

Induction and basic skills training assist employees to attain the required standard more quickly, thus reducing the learning cost of the new job

Employees who have undertaken a T&D programme, or who are involved in continuous development, provide better quality goods and services

Staff who have been properly inducted and trained tend to remain longer with the organisation and achieve greater job satisfaction

Training employees in safe working practices reduces the number of accidents

Organisations that publicise their T&D policies attract higher caliber applicants to job vacancies and improve customer relations

Opportunities for T&D and career progression reduce staff turnover and sickness rates

T&D opens the opportunity for a more flexible use of human resources

General morale is raised when organisations offer development opportunities, leading to improved attitudes and perceptions

Individuals increase their market value by acquiring specific skills or knowledge required by other employees

Employees also enjoy enhanced self-esteem and job satisifaction

The benefits of training often occur some time after the initial financial outlay. This list of benefits may well convince an employer that investment in T&D is a worthwhile consideration (Garavan et al, 2003, p. 45).

3.9 Health & Safety

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2005 inform on the minimum health and safety requirements for the manual handling of loads into Irish Legislation. Employers are required to make efforts to avoid manual handling activities that present a risk of injury, if possible. Where it is not possible to avoid the manual handling activity, an assessment of the manual handling activity must be carried out with reference to the factors identified in the regulations. There is a responsibility on employers to make efforts to reduce the risk of injury, particularly back injury, by applying appropriate control measures.

Waters et al (2006) refer to focus group meetings conducted by National Institute Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) where healthcare workers rated housekeeping tasks as being as physically demanding as patient lifting and transferring tasks. A study by Thomas et al (2006a) is one of the few studies that identified non-patient handling workers as being a high-risk group. Another study by Thomas et al (2006b) highlighted the need to ensure that the employees’ physical ability matched the demands of the job, particularly in relation to older workers. The writer believes this is significant evidence in relation to this report.

Other, publications, in particular Hignett et al (2005) refer to the complexity and high cost of the back injury problem in health and social care and suggest that comprehensive, prevention programmes involving the employees are more likely to be effective than a prevention programme based on a single intervention. The manual handling of loads and of patients is associated with back injury, and consequently, information and training is an integral part of any programme to prevent manual handling incidents and back injury.

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).

According to the HSA Website the area of manual handling is an integral part of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Regulations 2007. The Health & Safety Authority indicates that training interventions mainly 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 the majority of cases the activity does not generally pose a problem. However it can potentially be a risk for an organisation when an employee or volunteer is required to handle heavy loads, which could result in a back injury. Risk assessments are now required to be carried out to ensure the competency of the person when manual handling tasks are undertaken. Employers must then take steps to avoid or reduce the risk of injury (HSA Website, accessed on 24th March 2011).

3.10 Induction

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 (Citizens Information Board, 2010).

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. In addition to this an effective induction programme will ensure that all employment legislation requirements are met. 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.

3.11 Summary

In this chapter the writer focused on the secondary data available on human resource function. While it is not feasible to explore all related areas, the writer will consider the results of the research and analyse the data accordingly and explore in further detail the critical areas. By introducing formal human resource practices will ensure that best practice will be delivered.

Chapter 4 – Research Methodology

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 anonymous questionnaire. The author 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 needed and using questionnaires only would not have any disadvantages.

4.2 Primary Data Collection

The results of the primary data were elicited from questionnaires distributed to four different groups of people involved in the delivery of services at Castlebar Voluntary Social Services. The population groups were:

Public Health Nurses

Home Helps



The questionnaire design was a combination of open and closed questions. The rationale for this was based on the fact that the questionnaires were anonymous and this gave the participant a more open forum to be honest in their response. It was important to get a profile of the volunteer to determine the length of time they had been volunteering and also to give volunteers an opportunity to give their views on the service. Recommendations and conclusions will be formulated later in this report. The majority of the questionnaires 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. To safeguard the anonymity of the responses the questionnaire was emailed in PDF version and respondents asked to print off, complete and return by post.


4.3 Advantages of Questionnaire

They reduce bias and will not influence the respondent to answer questions in a certain manner.

Questionnaires are less intrusive that interviews or telephone survey.

They are inexpensive and easy to analyse.

Most people are familiar with questionnaires so they feel less apprehensive about participating.

Many questions can be asked giving you quite a bit of flexibility to your analysis.

4.4 Disadvantages of Questionnaire

Standardisation of questions may not cover what is appropriate to all involved.

A controversial question could mean not getting a truthful answer as the options open to the respondent may be too narrow.

Open-ended questions can generate a lot of data that can take a lot of time to analyse.

People may not wish to answer with honesty in case they feel there might be repercussions if they give a negative response. TRY AND QUOTE

4.5 Ethical Considerations QUOTE

Ethics is a discipline dealing with what is good and bad or right or wrong with moral duty and obligations. The writer believes that it is imperative to clarify the intentions of the report prior to distribution of the questionnaires. Deciding the purpose of this report, who will benefit or be affected by this report and implications for participants, was clarified for all participants in an explanatory letter which is appendixed to this report. The manager of CVSS granted ethical approval for this report knowing it would not impact negatively on the service users of CVSS. The questionnaires do not collect any information about the service users of CVSS beyond that collected in routine data collection, does not breach confidentiality or infringe on any individuals rights.

Each questionnaire is anonymised, will be given a unique identifier for data analysis and the writer will have sole responsibility for their disposal on completion of this report

4.6 Secondary Data Collection

This secondary data was formed from a variety of literature as mentioned in Chapter 2 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 utilised in sourcing secondary data.

4.7 Conclusion

Chapter 5 – Findings and Analysis

5.1 Introduction

In today’s society, older people are living longer and are increasingly living alone or with an older partner. Facilitating older people to remain in their homes for as long as possible should be a target for policy makers and services. Policy in Ireland in particular has to date not adequately met the needs of this group of the population. The quality of life of older people should be a key concern for social policy-makers. That very issue has given rise to a large volume of research into the area of loneliness and social isolation among older people (Treacy et al, 2004).

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 Irish government has recognised the need to put in place special supports for vulnerable groups, such as older people, in order to prevent social exclusion and achieve social isolation (DoSFA, 2003). In Ireland, legislation such as “Care of the Aged” introduced in 1968, “The Years Ahead” brought into action in 1988, “Quality and Fairness – A System For You” of 2001 and “Towards 2016” are all policies introduced into this country and have yet to perform many of their proposed functions for the elderly population.

5.2 Findings from Questionnaire to Volunteers

This chapter examines the results attained through primary research. These results will be demonstrated in four sections covering the four groups who participated in the questionnaire.

The first question asked was to confirm which category of the respondent belonged to as outlined in figure 1 of 4.2 research methodology.

Question 2 outlined the number of volunteers within the service as approximately 40 people. There were a number of contributing factors as to why all volunteers did not complete the questionnaire. These include the number of hours some volunteers are committed to, this can be as little as 1 hour per week or due to holidays or other commitment and their non availability at the time the questionnaire was circulated. The questionnaire was distributed to 75% of the volunteer population and of that there was a 53.3% response rate from those who participated.

Question 3 focused on the education received by volunteers on their commencement with the organization. Of those volunteers who responded only 25% received some form of induction. 100% of volunteers did not undertake any form of health & safety training or manual handling. Only 12.5% were aware of the policies & procedures of the organisation. 18.75% of volunteers received some form of training & development.

In question 4 volunteers were given a number of statements and asked to identify the option which was most appropriate to them as individuals.

Option 1. “The training I received when I started was more than adequate”

Option 2. “The training I received when I started was of good value to me”

Option 3. “The training I received when I started was of some value to me”

Option 4. “The training I received when I started was of lit


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