Charity staff crisis begins to hit home

first_img Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Charity staff crisis begins to hit homeOn 12 Nov 2002 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos. Crippling skills shortages and increased competition from the public sectoris bleeding charities dry when it comes to attracting and retaining staff. RossWigham discovers it is not solely an issue of payCharities’ efforts to tackle staffing difficulties are being undermined bythe tight labour market and an inability to hold on to key staff. Crippling skills shortages, low pay and heightened competition from thepublic sector are presenting serious challenges for the sector. These problems are highlighted in a new report by the National Council forVoluntary Organisations which shows that staff turnover is rising and HRstruggling to recruit new faces. Karl Wilding, head of research at the NCVO, blames the problems on a tightlabour market and chronic skills shortages. “Staff turnover has increasedfrom last year and half of all the respondents are having recruitment problemsbecause there’s a lack of specialist skills in the UK,” he said. The Voluntary Sector Salary Survey shows that staff turnover has increasedfrom 8.5 to 10.7 per cent despite wage increases being above the rate ofinflation. In fact, average salaries and earnings rises are outstripping theprivate sector, rising at a rate of 4.7 and 4.4 per cent respectively. Despite this, organisations are still struggling to recruit new staff with50 per cent experiencing difficulties in finding suitable candidates. Althoughthis is a smaller proportion than in 2001, it still paints a disturbingpicture. Wilding said charities must now invest in skills as they face toughercompetition for staff from the rejuvenated public sector. “Organisationsare increasingly realising they are competing against the private and publicsectors as well as other voluntary organisations.” Claire Smith, HR director of Leonard Cheshire, the charity which providescare for the elderly, said a whole range of factors were contributing to staffturnover and recruitment problems in the care sector. She blames the high costof living, an abundance of available jobs and staff being more empowered tomove elsewhere. Smith said while most sectors were having trouble recruiting new staff, dueto the low unemployment rate, charities were suffering particularly badly.”I don’t believe the increase in turnover is directly related to pay, butthis shows the voluntary sector is falling behind. It is especially difficultto recruit care workers who are attracted by other industries such as retail.”The sector really struggles at senior management level and it’s currentlythe worst I’ve ever known it,” she added. Smith said she believes the sector will have to start competing on pay toattract suitable candidates. “Voluntary organisations need to look at howthey can start to attract the right sort of staff and there’s also a questionover funding. Charities need to start thinking if they can afford not toimprove salaries,” she said. Julie Foley, a manager at the UK’s largest hospice St Ann’s, introduced arange of initiatives to improve the retention and recruitment of volunteers,but admits that finding paid staff was still a major headache. St Ann’s employsaround 320 paid staff but is struggling to get more people – especiallyqualified nurses – into the charity. “It’s hard to recruit but I think that’s a national trend. It’s beenespecially difficult for us to get nurses but that’s not because of salary, aswe have the same levels as the NHS,” she said. She added charities would have to start increasing management salaries orface more organisational difficulties. “We’ve increased our fundraising efforts because we need to sell theorganisation and raise the money to attract the best people. Charities need tostart competing with private and public salaries to keep them afloat.” St John Ambulance has recently implemented a range of initiatives to helpmodernisation and combat the staffing issues within the sector, following areview of staff issues. Head of personnel Sue Barrington said she had anticipated a rise in staffturnover and introduced flexible working and new conditions to try and minimisedisruption. “We expected a large turnover so put a strategic vision inplace to make it a more attractive place to work. We have to continue tomodernise to keep one step ahead,” she said. Barrington believes the main issue for charities lies not in raising managers’salaries, but in investing in training for all staff to ensure theorganisation’s aims are delivered. Andrew Thompson, head of International HR at Oxfam said charities must startincreasing career development. “Pay isn’t the be-all and end-all but ifthere isn’t consistent career development salary can become the final straw.Staff in the charity sector are generally quite young and are looking for anemployer to invest in them,” he said. However, the advantage charities have over other sectors is the goodwill ofstaff and the potential to ‘change the world’. Many highly intelligent peoplego into the sector not for money or prestige but for the satisfaction ofhelping others. Oxfam often aims to attract top managers looking for a sabbatical by sellingoverseas roles as a life changing experience that will prepare them for futurecareers. “There’s a tradition of staff taking jobs because they areworthwhile and people are still looking for meaningful work. Charities need tomake more of this and sell the job as an experience,” he said.

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