The Challenges of HR in Non-Governmental Organization: World Vision Mozambique Case


HRM plays the function of selection and recruitment to guarantee to hire of people who have the capacity to develop by engaging them in the process of training and development. Effective training and development approach at organizational and global levels foster career development by emphasizing talent management and mentorship programs. They contribute significantly when it comes to HR practices of selection and recruitment. HRM also engages in tasks such as setting rewarding and compensation structures in an organization and ensuring the elimination of any hazards for employees to work effectively.

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With reference to the case of World Vision Mozambique, the research proposal paper reveals that HRM in NGOs encounters challenges while executing the mentioned functions. It explores these challenges in the context of the existing literature on the roles of HRM in an organization and the embracement of the roles in NGOs. It also makes a proposal on the need to conduct research on benefits that NGOs may acquire by allowing full functioning of the HRM.


The key success factor in enhancing the capacity of a non-governmental organization to execute its functions rests on the productivity of its human resource. Non-governmental organizations engage in non-profit generating activities such as offering humanitarian support to disadvantaged groups of people in society. Thus, the productivity of the human resources cannot be measured from the paradigms of their contribution in increasing profitability levels, but from their effectiveness in terms of delivering services as defined by the purpose statement for a non-governmental organization.

Human resource constitutes a major capital that NGOs utilize to execute organizational goals and objectives. From an economic point of view, human capital implies “the stock of competencies, knowledge, and personality attributes, including creativity embodied in the ability to perform labor to produce an economic value” (Sami, 2007, p.491). By noting that NGOs rely on the effectiveness of their human resource to achieve their success tantamount to profit-making organizations, they (NGOs), experience challenges that are similar to profit-making organizations in the management of their human resources.

Some of these important challenges include understanding the contribution of human resources in NGOs, recruitment, maintaining low employee turnover rates, retaining good employees during organizational crises, and development and determination of how succession plans should function.

This research proposal paper addresses the challenges of human resources in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) while focusing on a study case for World Vision Mozambique. This motivation emanates from the fact that the researcher worked for 13 years with World Vision Mozambique. Over this time, he noticed some hardships on human resources together with some other areas where improvement was necessary. Thus, studying how NGOs can face the challenges of human resource management can offer solutions to the problems experienced by World Vision Mozambique and other NGOs operating elsewhere across the globe.

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The research proposal is divided into four main sections. The first section reviews the literature on the roles and challenges of human resource management in NGOs. The second section dwells on general analysis. The third section is a discussion of the current information concerning the subject of HRM. The fourth section offers a discussion of the challenges of human resource management developed in the literature review in the context of World Vision Mozambique, and NGOs in general.

Description: The Role of Human Resource Management in Non-governmental Organizations

Human resource management constitutes a major challenge encountered by NGOs. Nwaiwu (2013, p.4) claims that this challenge occurs due to “the multidimensional nature in which HRM issues manifest in the organizations.” In NGO settings, human resource management (HRM) embraces issues such as settings employee reward systems, staff recruitment, and employee welfare such as health and safety (Nwaiwu, 2013).

Different NGOs use different ways of managing rewarding strategies for their employees. Reward management refers to the “formulation and implementation of strategies and policies that aim to reward people fairly, equitably, and consistently in accordance with their value to the organization” (Korezis & Panagiotis, 2008, p.25). Hence, its concern is on control and analysis of remuneration programs for employees and other benefits with the main intention of enhancing employee motivation and performance.

The subject of reward management and its applicability in NGOs has experienced skepticism over the years from various scholars. For instance, Lewis (2001, p. 98) asserts, “It is part of the turgid, unimaginative, and inflexible world of wage and salary administration”. However, this perception of reward systems is inaccurate in the context of the need to enhance the effectiveness of NGOs such as World Vision Mozambique. Reward systems are tools for enhancing the success of organizations. They play significant roles in inducing and maintaining employee motivation (Korezis & Panagiotis, 2008).

One of the major HRM challenges facing NGOs with respect to reward management encompasses wage efficiency. Wage efficiency focuses on increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of labor. While making reward decisions, NGOs should consider setting pay and other forms of rewards well above the industry’s equilibrium (Lewis, 2001). The premise for this claim rests on the need to increase the productivity of employees in the effort to reduce direct costs that are associated with poorly motivated employees such as turnover costs and increased time for execution of tasks. Brockbank (2006) criticizes this methodology by claiming that it only produces short-term positive effects in enhancing employee effectiveness.

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The application of the various HRM methods underlines the difference between NGOs and corporations. Padaki (2007) says that NGOs often encounter a dilemma where there is a need to strike a balance between rewarding and strategies for enhancing performance. Corporations’ operations are driven principally by the need to make profits. This claim suggests that performance-based rewards may help to induce higher performance levels.

NGOs acquire their funding from well-wishers through public funding and donations. Challenge emerges on how performance-based rewarding strategies can be sustained or even justified. Nwaiwu (2013) observes that donors often negate the inclusion of overhead costs in their funding allocation. For the total project cost, staff cost accounts for a very small percentage. James and Mullins (2004, p.577) support this assertion by adding that donors also “insist on verifiable results and impacts of programs.” This requirement forms their basis for justifying project costs.

Non-governmental organizations utilize volunteerism to supply the needed workforce. Padaki believes that this strategy exposes them to the challenge in deciding “the value of volunteerism and the significance of professionalism” (2007, p.71).

From a similar perspective, Kim (2009) confirms that NGOs utilize the increasing number of people who are willing to volunteer in providing labor at various degrees of expertise together with advocacy tasks. In this context, the challenge that faces HRM in organizations is how to respond to the needs of employees such as increased rewarding and/or career development. Padaki (2007) suggests that the HRM in the organization needs to establish trade-offs in increasing rewards by adding compensation that is commensurate with an increase in the employees’ cost of living.

The establishment of appropriate staff recruitment approaches forms an important challenge for NGOs in the management of the human resource. Human resource management personnel in non-governmental organizations should ensure that an organization recruits the most productive workforce, remunerates them accordingly, resolves conflicts between employees, presents the work concerns raised by the employees before the organizational management and administrative teams and that employees remain committed to the business of an organization (Brockbank, 2006, p.338).

HRM recruits people with the right caliber in various ways such as acquiring the correct information on the potential employees’ details to mitigate the risks associated with employing people of inappropriate professional and ethical caliber. This role implies that the HRM must scrutinize even the personal information of employees. In this quest, the challenge of complying with the ethical and human rights of people to have their privacy protected emerges.

Unlike in corporations, NGOs encounter an enormous challenge in recruitment together with the development of staff. This claim implies the staff members in the organization work for a specified period. This creates challenges on investments in the development of employees at the NGOs. In fact, Nwaiwu (2013) notes that NGOs’ HRM places people at work without undergoing the induction process in the effort to train them on organizational culture. Consequently, aligning people with common norms and organizational values becomes problematic. This way, probabilities exist that destructive organizational conflicts may arise.

Retention of employees in NGOs poses significant challenges to the HRM. For new recruits, the NGOs’ benefit rewarding structures make their jobs unattractive since they fail to be competitive in comparison with the benefits packages offered in corporations (Padaki 2007). Hence, people prefer stable employment opportunities in corporations in comparison with NGOs’ project-based employment opportunities (Bhalotra 2002).

While struggling with the dilemma on how to make NGO job opportunities attractive, the HRM also encounters the challenge of mitigating work-life conflicts. For instance, NGO staff people suffering from long-term health challenges such as HIV/AIDS need to have some time off to take care of their health issues (Nwaiwu, 2013). Thus, HRM must eliminate work-life conflicts for employees. Failure to accomplish this need translates to higher operational costs due to low performance arising from low-quality work, higher redundancy costs, and elevated costs of recruitment when employees decide to quit.

Ensuring ardent strategies for the protection of employee welfare such as occupational health and freedom from work hazards is an important challenge that HRM in NGOs faces. Working conditions, which pose threats to the safety or occupational health of employees, constitute one of the issues that may influence the performance of NGOs. Organizations seeking to ensure success in achieving their goals and objectives through employees endeavor to reduce occupational hazards while minimizing labor loss (turnover). Pfeiffer and Gellar (2003, p. 8) note, “Today, because of the recognition of the crucial importance of people, HRM in an increasing number of organizations has become a major player in developing strategic plans and facilitating changes within an organization”. One of such plans is looking for mechanisms of enhancing employee motivation such as enhancing safety in working environments.

Meeting the needs of the employees requires providing a safe working atmosphere. NGOs compromise between funding their core activities and improving working environments. Hence, human resource management encounters the challenge of establishing a match between the strategic initiatives for a non-governmental organization and its mandate of eliminating safety hazards in workplaces. For NGOs, the safety of employees constitutes aspects that may be out of the control of the organizations.

The effectiveness of NGOs is affected negatively by the lack of capacity to guarantee and control employee safety, especially in conflict-torn work environments. In some situations, inadequate security for NGO workers hampers the delivery of services to suffering people. Goodhand and Chamberlain (1996, p. 200) claim that HRM encounters the challenge of reluctance by employees to assume responsibilities in areas they consider insecure and posing threats to their life. Any compulsion to assume work responsibilities in such areas leads to employee turnover.

During a crisis, HRM develops strategic plans on how to retain good and high-performing employees. One of such strategies encompasses developing programs that address employee motivation. The programs consume monetary resources. In NGOs, as revealed before, the focus is on successful projects with the main emphasis being on the costs of running a given project (Nwaiwu, 2013). This assertion implies that HRM in NGOs has a scarcity of resources for employee motivation during the organizational crisis as a strategy for retaining good workers.

Corporations focus on succession plans that do not serve the functions of getting new people to fit new positions or left positions. Rather, they focus on the creation of succession plans that aim at supplying talents that are desired at various levels of an organization. This plan ensures the long-term performance of any corporation that builds its success around people (Goldsmith, 2009). The foundation of the succession plan for a non-governmental organization is based on the need to develop experience. This mission is accomplished by identification of the necessary experiences that are required to fill positions that are critical for increased performance.

In the case of corporations, Goldsmith (2009) says that failure to do so hinders an organization from attaining its business objectives since talented and experienced people act as sources of organizational success. This situation calls for the identification of the capabilities of people. Such an effort helps in the development of both succession plans and in setting the performance anticipations, which are critical in the establishment of mechanisms of assessing performance. While the HRM in corporations plays an essential role in conducting performance assessments, NGOs rely more on voluntary work. This disparity makes the HRM in the NGOs encounter challenges in the development of succession plans depending on past performance records.

General Analysis

World Vision Mozambique operates under the core values of World Vision International. The global organization’s main goal encompasses enhancing the “sustained wellbeing of children within families and communities, especially the most vulnerable” (World Vision International, 2011, p.3). This goal is achieved through development, provision of relief, and advocacy for disadvantaged and poor people. While executing the activities of World Vision Mozambique, the organization draws recommendations together with the direction-set World Vision International Board. In the provision of the directions and recommendations, employees of World Vision are not represented directly (World Vision International, 2011).

This observation suggests that HRM approaches are not incorporated in the World Vision’s organizational structure. Rather, World Vision relies on “various mechanisms (such as staff surveys) for the international board to listen to the views of internal stakeholders” (World Vision International, 2011, p.10). Employees fall in the realm of internal stakeholders.

The above claim suggests that World Vision does not give priority to the contributions of employees in its operation. Therefore, it sounds sufficient to infer that World Vision does not embrace mechanisms of employee retention through motivation and job satisfaction such as delegation and involvement of employees in decision making. In World Vision Mozambique, employees serve the purpose of implementing directions issued to them without alteration. Therefore, even though employees may have the ability to improve on the ideas and directions to achieve better outcomes, such ability is hindered. This observation perhaps reveals why training and development in the effort to increase employee talent potential in NGOs hardly find any consideration.

The challenges in human resource management in NGOs as identified in the literature review play out differently in diverse NGOs. In World Vision Mozambique, the HRM challenge of attracting and retaining good staff through rewarding and compensation programs comes out strongly. World Vision International (2011, p. 10) admits, “With the exception of the International President, members of the World Vision International Board do not receive any remuneration from World Vision”.

The organization further reveals that the employees together with senior executives of the World Vision engage in the work they do because of commitment to work, Christian identity, and the core values upheld by the organization. Hence, any person considering working for the organization can only make such a decision based on these aspects, but not competitiveness in compensation and rewarding of effort.

At World Vision, a trade-off is established between compensating employees accordingly to attract and retain them and the need to enhance commitment for stewardship of various dominated funds to meet donors’ expectations for effective utilization of funds.

This suggestion reinforces Nwaiwu’s (2013) claim that NGOs mainly focus on using funds to ensure the set projects are completed within the required time under minimal expenditure of the donated funds in other costs such as wages and salaries. In fact, the effectiveness of non-governmental organizations is measured in terms of the ability to efficiently use funds raised through donations or public allocations in a particular project. Any attempt to establish a kitty for the development and training of employees constitutes a non-core activity for an NGO.

Current Information

To formulate new approaches for the turnaround of HRD (human resource development) in World Vision Mozambique, it is important to fulfill all of the following objectives:

To evaluate the worthiness of tasks that various employees are recruited to execute

In this objective, World Vision Mozambique needs to provide a response to the query on the appropriate norms to follow to enhance optimal gain from employees while determining the necessary budget that ensures high motivation and job satisfaction in a bid to increase employee retention rates. This strategy can enable World Vision Mozambique to answer a question that has proved problematic in the past. This question is, ‘what are the right benefits and salary packages for people working in non-governmental organizations while factoring in the concept of volunteerism?’

To embrace the perspective of the performance-based mechanism of rewarding, which has been highly avoided in the past by NGOs

From this objective, it is important to hold the viewpoint of the performance-based system of gratifying. In terms of spending on people as a source of success, growth or employee advancement raises interrogatives that demand tough decisions. One of the major concerns is that corporate organizations spend on people using funds generated in the form of profits. Organizations earn these funds (Goodhand & Chamberlain, 1996). For World Vision Mozambique, such funds are derived from donators. Hence, issues such as the increment of benefits and salaries that are paid to employees and spending on their development are at the expense of public financial resources or donors’ funds.

To provide a conclusive resolution of the conflict between values of professionalism and the concept of volunteerism

In this regard, the question of whether “people expect advancement, growth, rewards, and career prospects” (Padaki, 2007, p.71) becomes relevant. World Vision Mozambique questions reward systems from this fundamental point of reasoning. However, it cannot run away from differentiation of employees based on its organizational worthiness. Why should they then not incorporate performance-based systems for rewarding employees?

World Vision can respond that any addition in employee reimbursement should barely depend on increasing the rate of livelihood. Anything away from this level attracts serious reckoning. This theory may fail to apply in World Vision Mozambique, as it does not engage in profit-making. What can one say about the need to effectively use people to complete projects under the established time and monetary constraints? Does this not require motivated and effective people?

A common understanding is that 20 percent of key things account for 80 percent of the organizational success in all organizations, both profit and non-profit making organizations. From the context of World Vision Mozambique, success may mean the completion of projects with 80 percent effectiveness of time management or at 80 percent efficiency in the expenditure of donors’ financial resources. The biggest challenge in NGOs is the determination of the things, which account for the 20 percent, resulting in 80 percent success. Padaki (2007) is certain that human resource is one of these things. Indeed, he adds, “Most experienced managers of development programs would readily agree that HRM is among them” (Padaki, 2007, p.66).


Human resource management executes various roles and responsibilities in an organization including developing employee deployment strategies as well as transactional roles that are operative in an organization. The rate of change portrayed in conducting HR activities measures the quality of the human resource growth and productivity in an organization depending entirely on human resources. As the driver of an organization’s success, HRM should display competence, focus, and develop strategies for enhancing the performance of employees. However, in NGOs, these concerns become an immense challenge to the HRM. For instance, World Vision does not involve employees in the development of organizational advocacy, development, and relief strategies.

To refurbish and maintain human resources, corporate organizations invest in refreshing and updating their personnel with the appropriate training to keep them vibrant to enhance the sustainability of the life of an organization. In NGOs, such as World Vision Mozambique, this endeavor attracts little concern. The main concern is enhancing stewardship for the funds raised through donations. This challenge suggests the need for the development of alternative approaches in human resource management for enhancing NGOs’ employee career development.

Programs and strategies designed to facilitate the perpetuity of personnel development ensure well-equipped personnel that matches the organizational goals. While examining how HRM in NGOs implement these programs, it is crucial to understand that besides training and development, there are many other functions in the umbrella of HRM mandates. For instance, a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (2008, p.12) found out that recruitment, compensation, and succession are held with more significance by some organizations in comparison with training and development. Considering that voting constitutes the main approach for the selection of top executives for World Vision, it will be interesting to see how NGOs develop their future succession plans.

Employees are evaluated to determine the skills and development requirements before being engaged in training and development programs. In fact, the desired performance that is reflected by various organizations emanates from a knowledgeable, skillful, and inventive workforce. In this sense, HRM plays important roles in training and development to equip and enhance employee performance through upgrading their skills, which enable them to cope with the demands for organizational change and/or competitiveness. The limitation of NGOs on the need to ensure stewardship in terms of allocation of the donated fund’s subjects HRM to challenges of executing effectively some of these responsibilities.

The concept of competitiveness is also not important in NGOs since they do not engage in competition or profit-making ventures. Consequently, employees are only important in the implementation of directions issued by directors to fulfill the donors’ interests and project anticipations. This situation exposes HRM to challenges of effectively executing its function of motivation, enhancing job satisfaction to reduce turnover, and increasing its effectiveness.

Training and development foster growth, thus enabling employees to utilize their potential to attain their individual goals in addition to the organizational objectives. The chief purpose for any training and development program encompasses raising workers’ self-esteem while enhancing job satisfaction, creativity, and enthusiasm to carry out their jobs effectively (Sveiby, 2009). Professional and management development training nurtures talent and a sense of responsibility among the staff. Consequently, employers in corporate organizations develop the capacity to carry out the necessary performance review that is relevant to the development goals without prejudice.

During the process of developing training and development programs within an organization at both national and global levels, human resource leadership and supervisory personnel ensure the incorporation of the set goals of an organization in the training and development programs. The absence or limited availability of resources for commitment in programs for enhancing the productivity of employees in NGOs only reduces the purpose of HRM in the organization to employee conflict management and recruitment.


Literature on human resources and human capital management provides evidence that people are one of the most important resources available to an organization. Upon their proper management, they can help to yield organizational success. Getting the best group requires recruiting the right people, training and developing, and rewarding them according to their contribution to organizational success. However, these functions of HRM encounter challenges in NGOs. NGOs focus on the achievement of results for programs with little diversion of donated funds in other activities such as the improvement of employees through training and development.

This challenge stems from the fact that NGOs manage their activities in the form of projects. Thus, research is necessary on the potential benefits that NGOs such as World Vision Mozambique can acquire by permitting HRM to function fully in executing its purposes just like in corporate organizations. This strategy can help to provide evidence on whether NGOs can build their success around people.

Reference List

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Brockbank, W. (2006). If HR Were Really Strategically Proactive: Present and Future Directions in HR’s Contribution to Competitive Advantage. Human resource management, 38 (4), 337-352.

Goldsmith, M. (2009). Efficient Succession Planning. Harvard Business Review, 3(2), 212-219.

Goodhand, J., & Chamberlain, P. (1996). Dancing with the Prince: NGOs’ Survival Strategies in the Afghan Conflict. Development in Practice, 6(3), 196-207.

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Nwaiwu, B. (2013). Critical management challenges facing NGOs-Examining the Impact of Legitimacy and Human Resource Issues on NGO Effectiveness. London: CEDE Trust Fund.

Padaki, V. (2007). The Human Organization: Challenges in NGOs and Development Programs. Development in Practice, 17(1), 65-77.

Pfeiffer, E., & Gellar, S. (2003). Scared safe: How to use fear to motivate safety involvement. Occupational Health and Safety, 6(1), 6-10.

Sami, M. (2007). Assessing Human Resources for Science and Technology: The 3Ds Framework. Science and Public Policy 34 (7), 489-499.

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