Perspectives - LabourNet - Enable livelihood of Informal Sector


This column features a spectrum of diverse perspectives from the well informed and learned industry professionals. In India, the social enterprise ecosystem gained momentum little more than a decade ago and since then, has been growing at a very rapid pace. This edition carries views about ‘Issues pertaining to Human resources in Social Enterprises’ featuring Samant SP from Sattva Consulting Firm, Wilma Rodrigues from Saahas Zero Waste and Suresh K Krishna from YSBF – Bengaluru, sharing their perspectives on the motivations and value systems of the employees and what should the social enterprises be offering, for them to be working in the development sector.


Here is what they have to say…

1)  How difficult or easy is it finding employees, especially since the sector is not perceived to be as glamorous as the corporate sector?

Wilma: This perception is something we want to change. Social enterprises are now working towards being on par with the corporates and are complying with labour laws, minimum wages and employee benefits to create a comfortable work environment that makes the employees feel happy to be associated with the enterprise and offer immense job satisfaction for the kind of impact the enterprise creates.

Samant:  I believe that finding candidates who have a genuine interest (align with organisation vision and mission) to work in the social sector and also an authentic culture and organisation fit is one of the top challenges we face today.

Initially, across the development sector, hiring was solely based on internal references. But there has been a steady migration of top-level employees of corporate sector joining the social sector bringing in the experience of a corporate approach/out of the box thinking which is more result oriented and robust.

Suresh: Social enterprises face a variety of human resource challenges to varying stages of growth. They, therefore need stronger HR support than commercial businesses do as they are less capital and more labour-intensive organisations. Entrepreneurs should try to define roles for the in-house staff as precisely as possible. It is always convenient to assume that employees are not as passionate as entrepreneurs and long for job satisfaction. So, taking account of the nature of projects and to incentivise the employees to be in the social sector the compensations need to be higher than the market wages.

2) How do you promise to provide personal growth opportunities for the employees?

Wilma: We adopt a professional approach for every employee in our company. We look to develop both soft skills and technical skills for our employees and also provide them with exposure to MIS systems.

An executive team with middle management ensures growth opportunities and career prospects for everyone.

Samant: Social organisations provide an excellent career outlook and room for leadership opportunities. As a professional, one will have opportunities to work on various projects that deal with a broad range of social issues. When we work to address social, communal and environmental issues, we are transforming the lives of millions of people. This effect will be visible for the next few generations, and the employees will be privileged to serve millions of people across the globe.

Suresh: Working in a social enterprise requires a different level of attitude and commitment. The employees need to have a high Emotional Quotient (EQ) along with Intelligence Quotient (IQ). Social entrepreneurs are creating a conducive environment for employees to experiment and become intrapreneurs within the organisation ensuring their personal growth.

3)What retention strategies you think will work for social enterprises particularly for the middle management and non – leadership staff?

Wilma: It is important for the Social enterprises to show their middle management and non – leadership staff, the road map for career growth and also ensuring that they see the impact the enterprise makes. We also need to communicate our core values constantly. The effect is not just a word but an action, and this motivates them. The same narrative is also discussed with the non-leadership team even at the ground level where they see meaning in the work they do.

Samant: One of the significant concerns that all the organisations face is to attract and retain the best talent. There is an emphasis on maintaining the work environment in a friendly and cooperative mode, providing opportunities for growth, motivating, mentoring, listening to people’s voices, helping them improve work-life balance, and flexible hours.

Suresh: Social Enterprises most often than not face a significant challenge of hiring and retaining quality ground level staff which can work with the Bottom of Pyramid (BoP) people in implementing policies on the ground. To cope up with that, many successful social enterprises in India have made substantial investments in creating a training department to train freshers well and upscaling the existing staff. This strategy works well in reducing the skill gap and increasing the retention. However each individual needs to be motivated by his/her personal perceptions about why they are doing what they are doing in regard to the organisation and its vision. The individual’s ‘drive’ towards a pursuit is the best retention strategy there can ever be, all the leadership has to do is it to fuel it.

4) How important do you think, offering jobs to people with vision and value congruence is?

Wilma: As a social enterprise, we have to stand by our core values and demonstrate it through all our employees. While practising what we preach, we need to offer jobs to individuals who’s value systems align with the organisation’s vision in order to achieve unity in thought and purpose.

Samant: Value congruence between employees and their organisation complements delegation of decision-making, substitutes for monitoring and also associated with behavioural support for organisational change. Shared values in the social enterprise ecosystem enhance a sense of ownership, strengthen bonding and thus nurturing a cooperative relationship, which is critical for an organisation’s growth and success in achieving its vision.

Suresh: Offering jobs to individuals with vision and value congruence is of utmost importance. Having said that, Social entrepreneurs should always try to match market expectations, provide role clarity by setting up right expectations based on skills, formulate good HR practices and invest significantly in training people, only then can an individual align his/her values to the vision of the organisation.

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