Governance and human resource management in social entrepreneurial organizations

Scaling a social entrepreneurial organization
Marketing for social entrepreneurship


  1. Human resources in social entrepreneurship
  2. Building the Team
  3. Developing and implementing strategic HRM plan
  4. Planning, recruitment, selection and organization of the human resources
  5. Retention and motivation
  6. Staff evaluation
  7. Diversity and multiculturalism
  8. Working with volunteers
  9. Stress management
  10. Activities for readers
  11. References

Human resources in social entrepreneurship

Human resources are one of the most important factor for the success of the social enterprise. Building the perfect team is probably the hardest part in establishing the social venture. The team members should not only possess the right set of skills and competences for doing their job, they should be commited to the vision of the social enterprise and work for achieving it despite the possible dawnfalls and sacrifices they will need to endure. May be there will be times that people will have to work without being paid or to toil long hours in adverse, unhealthy and uncomfortable conditions or even take real risks for their lives and safety.

Building the Team

A common mistake that social entrepreneurs make while building their venture is trying to do everything themselves. Eventually, the ability to delegate and manage people prove vital for the scaling of the operations and increasing the impact. Finding likeminded people, who will support the activity and the idea of the enterprise is a must for its growth. Actually those people will be helpful at any stage of the business planning and operations: from the formulation of ideas and solutions, through search for funding, to the launching and actual work of the enterprise, even beyond in measuring impact and dreaming about the next step.
Those people will have different talents, knowledge and experience that will add value to the entire concept of the social enterprise. The team is not just the people you employ, but all those who works and supports you and have faith in your dream. The team might consist of:

  • Paid workers/employees
  • Friends, classmates, colleagues, relatives
  • Social workers
  • Leaders of grassroots organizations
  • Religions leaders and faith group members
  • Volunteers and interest group members

The practical way to assemble the team is by looking around and trying to attract and recruit those who are within your reach, who you know personally (or have references about). Those people should; 1) possess skills and competences needed by your organizations; 2) have interest (are motivated) to help you; 3) are available

The team members should be diverse in terms of age, gender, background and other characteristics, because they should be able to look at the situation from multiple perspectives. Those members should possess competences that complement each and expertise from a variety of fields.

Human resource management (HRM) is the process of:

  • recruiting and employing people
  • training them and providing career paths,
  • rewarding them,
  • managing their performance ntribution loyalty   policies relating to them, and
  • developing strategies to retain them.

More than an administrative activity but rather a strategic pursuit that is crucial to the success of the organization.

Developing and Implementing Strategic HRM Plans

  1. Human resource strategy is a set of elaborated and systematic plans of action. The company objectives and goals should be integrated in the objectives and goals of the individual departments.
  2. An HRM plan consists of six steps.
    • to conduct strategic analysis
    • to develop training and development to improve the skills of present and prospective employees
    • to identify any HR issues that might impact the business
    • to determine the HR needs of the organization based on sales forecasts
    • to determine remuneration and evaluate the performance of employees
    • to recruit and select the right persons for the job
  3. To make the most from a strategic plan, it is important to write the goals in a way that makes them measurable.

Planning, recruitment, selection and organization of the human resources

Planning the team

Planning the human resources in the social enterprise includes the following considerations:

  • Who is assigned to do what to bring the ultimate goal to fruition?
  • What kind of person is needed to reach the goal?
  • How many people are needed?
  • How should these people work to achieve this goal?
  • How long will it take to reach this goal?

Recruiting the team members

Recruiting the right team members is one of the key factors for success. Attracting the most suitable candidates for a particular position starts with an accurate description of the position requirements and a list of required, skills, qualifications and expertise that should be presented by the candidates.

The social enterprise may recruit paid personnel or volunteers. When recruiting paid staff, the usual approaches are used such as:

  • Posting a want ad online, or in the appropriate media
  • Shortlisting job applications from prospect candidates
  • Interviewing candidates
  • Drafting an employment contract (in which the conditions of the employment, payment and termination are stated as well as the remuneration and other bonuses paid to the employee)


The selection process refers to the steps involved in choosing the best candidate for the job opening. This step involves:

  • Screening – based on submitted documents, interviews and additional research, the most suitable candidates are selected
  • Qualification Assessment – examines the qualifications of the candidates according to the requirements of the position;
  • Deciding – to whom the job offer should go;
  • Appointment – the actual hiring of the right employee.


The good organization of work tasks is what determines the effectiveness of the enterprise. Moreover, organization leads to workers’ satisfaction and minimizes employee burnout. Good, everyday organizing involves:

  • Identifying and assigning workable tasks for team members to carry out: Workable tasks are those that a worker can accomplish with the skills and they have, in a time frame that allows the tasks to be carried out effectively and without stress.
  • Finding and mobilizing the best people to do so.

Regardless of the structure of the venture, it is important to have internal governance documents and guidelines. These outline the key principles, policies, and procedures that the company adheres to and holds everyone accountable to them.

Retention and motivation

Motivation is an important aspect of strategic human resource planning. In the standard business organizations, the motivation is often associated with remuneration. But with the case of the social enterprise, the motivation could have many dimensions and tap on human values, sense of fulfilment and working towards a meaningful, socially or environmentally beneficial cause. This is especially important when working with volunteers, who are not motivated with financial stimuli.

Compensation and benefits

The compensation package is an important part of the strategic HRM since most of the company’s budget is assigned for it. This includes salary, bonuses, health-care plans and other types of compensations.

Training and development

Training include various techniques and activities such as instructing, demonstrating, jobs rotation, lectures, discussions, simulations, work-based learning, role games, apprenticeship etc.

The team members should be motivated to participate actively in the training. The training could have the power of a motivator when the participants look at it as an opportunity to improve their skills. Moreover, training can be fun and enjoyable activity and can be used as a team building tool.

Staff evaluation

Providing reliable and regular feedback for your employees is important for many reasons: it boost motivation by providing open and trustworthy assessment of the quality of work, it pinpoints gaps in performances and areas which needs improvements, it helps both managers and employees to keep an open and trustworthy patterns of communications where the good performances are recognized and awarder and the problems are analyzed and addressed in a constructive manner. Staff evaluation is also a tool in career advancement. It comprises several activities:

  • Gathering information on the work performance of the employee;
  • Analysis of information;
  • Considering opportunities for promotions
  • Outlining gaps which need to be addressed with proper training/ motivation

Diversity and multiculturalism

Companies that promote work in a multicultural environment include employees from different countries, backgrounds, cultures, lifestyles, with different values, beliefs and attitudes. The multicultural environment is beneficial because:

  • Employees have different perspectives on problems solving which results in better end results;
  • Due to the heterogeneity of work teams, creativity is high, giving employees new ideas and perspectives;
  • Ability to attract valuable candidates who trust companies that effectively manage diversity (such companies do not encourage discrimination, provide opportunities for equal development that attracts attract candidates);

Working with volunteers

Volunteers work for social enterprises out of different motives than paid staff and must be managed differently. Usually, the motives that engage volunteers are one or all the following:

  • Altruism (selfless pursuit of well-being and interests of others)
  • Community engagement:
    • desire to solve a problem within the community
    • be a part of the community (or increase the interaction with its members)
    • a desire to give back to the community
  • Generosity
  • Compassion and sympathy (sensing another person’s suffering, caring for somebody)
  • Leisure: as a hobby, or systematic pursuit of some personal interest which are not related with work and payment (Example: someone may volunteer to train yoga in the local community club as a way of hobby activity or personal exercise without being paid for it or someone is willing to sing during an event, because he/she enjoys singing)
  • Volunteerism: In some cases, the volunteer work becomes a goal of its own. Being volunteer speaks well in the Resume and students/young people are willing to sacrifice time and resources to work pro-bono for a good cause in order to have more impressive experience to show, especially when applying for universities, social or religious related positions.

Recruiting volunteers could be done via local Volunteer centers (or other organizations) and web-based resources such as The contracts with volunteers are unusual. Volunteers are not paid, but they still look after nonmonetary rewards such as:

  • Personal enrichment
  • Development of skills, abilities and knowledge
  • Enhanced self-image
  • Fun or memorable experience
  • Socializing with others (either co-workers or community members)
  • Recognition

Some people volunteer for less than purely altruistic reasons. One such reason is to gain experience in an area that will lead eventually to a paying job. Although their motives differ from those volunteers who are serving for more purely altruistic reasons, their contributions can still be valuable.

On one hand, volunteers are more difficult to retain, because they don’t lose anything if they quit the social mission at any time. This makes working with volunteers risky, especially in moments where the operations of the enterprise need more stability and perseverance. On the other hand, volunteers are more motivated than the paid stuff and could work in worse condition and longer hours for the sake of the needed people, because they are not so much moved by the reason, but by their hearts.

Managing stress

While dealing with people, the social entrepreneur encounters many stressful situations which requires proper handling and management.

Sometimes people get burned out – physically or emotionally exhausted because of the long term stress, frustration or excessive obligations. Frequent burn outs might lead to loss of motivation, staff turnover and job absenteeism. Sometimes volunteers who burn out may quit the mission and get discouraged or lose their compassion for the people in need. That is why, avoiding burn outs is important, and here are some tips how to do it (Durieux and Stebbins, 2010):

  • Know your personnel. Learn as much as you can about each employee and volunteer. The more you know about a person’s skills, knowledge, and experience, the better you’ll be able to find the best fit between that person and his role in the enterprise, lessening the chance of burnout.
  • Be realistic about expectations. Assignments for employees and volunteers need to be manageable.
  • Rotate your team member: assign different people in everyday operations.
  • Be clear in what you ask for.
  • Issue plenty of reminders about when things are due, and check in often. Whether by phone or e-mail or face-to-face, make sure you know if someone has fallen behind in time to catch up and help that person get back on track. Give constructive feedback that will remedy the situation.
  • Highlight the importance of any project you’ve assigned.
  • Be a role model. For example, demonstrate through your own work habits a reasonable pace for meeting responsibilities and an ability to manage the stress at work.

One of the most productive steps the HR teams and hiring managers can do is to create a strong culture that helps employees be themselves at work.

1. Successful employee communication

Companies that use good communication tend to have less turnover and less absenteeism. The situational leadership model, which looks at the relationship behavior, task behavior, and professional suitability of the employees, is used to recommend different management styles. Task styles focus on getting the job done, while people-centered styles focus on relationships.

2. Managing employee performance

HR professionals should develop a set of policies that deal with performance issues at the workplace. The advantage of having such policies is that they allow smooth and mutually beneficial implementation of labor contracts. In general, employees are released from duty in 3 ways. First, an employee can resign from an organization. Second, an employee is terminated for performance issues. Third, an employee absconds (the employee abandons his or her job without submitting a formal resignation).

3. Employee assessment

A performance evaluation system is a systematic way to examine how well an employee is performing in his or her job. Some errors can occur in the process. These include halo effects or comparing an employee to another as opposed to rating them only based on objectives.

Activities for readers

Answer the Question

  1. Which of the elements of HR planning you find most difficult, and why? Which would you enjoy most, and why?
  2. Why is it important to plan your staffing needs before you start to hire people?
  3. Why is training important? Why do we need it in organizations?

Watch the videos

  1. Liane Hornsey: Best Practice HR Tips from Liane Hornsey, Google VP Operations | MeetTheBoss
  2. Christine Clifford on Selling Yourself

Start a research

  1. Describe the profile of the perfect employee for your starting social enterprise.
  2. Imagine that you are a recruiter. What questions will you ask the candidates who wish to work in a SE? Make a list of the questions.
  3. If you are a social entrepreneur, what kind of initial training you will provide to your team?

Set a Brown Bag Session

A brown-bag” session is a training or information session during a lunch break. It also helps increase employees’ motivation and involvement and is a wonderful team building tool. Here are some ideas of how to set off a brown bag session in a short notice and with a minimum preparation effort:

1. Find a sponsor

There is nothing more appealing than the free meal. But free stuff requires finding someone who would pay for them. Adequate sponsors for the Brown Bag Session could be the HR manager or CEO. If no sponsor is available, the trainees could contribute with small sums to buy a few pizzas or sandwiches.

2. Find a suitable day and room

Check Outlook (or other tool) to see which convenient room is available over lunch in the next months. Block the room.

3. Find initial speakers

This maybe the hardest part: Inspire some of the Departments head about the idea of Brown Bag Sessions, offer yourself for the first sessions, ask external friends or ex-colleagues. If you’re really having problems to fill the speaker slots for the first 3-4 sessions, you could even show some TED talks or other conference videos and insightful materials.

4. Inform everyone about the first session

Via E-Mail, Intranet, Wiki, Flipchart… Even better a combination of those options. You should provide at least the following information: What is a Brown Bag Session? Why are we doing this? What is the first session about? Where will it happen (room)? What time? What will be future sessions be about/Who are your speakers? Use an easy Google form (or other) to get information with a deadline: Who wants to attend? Who wants which pizza (veggie or non-veggie)?

5. Order Pizza/ Sandwiches or other

If you decide to do this regularly, you could actually negotiate lower prices and prime service and delivery with a local fast food company. You may also use the resources of the in-house canteen or cafeteria if such is available. With the Google Doc (see 4) you know who will attend and who wants which food. Order on time because there is nothing worse than hungry people in front of a speaker.

6. Conduct the Brown Bag session

Think about how to document your “Brown Bag Sessions” – you may use camera and then provide video plus PDF presentation. This way you may review later with your trainees or provide the sessions to those who have missed them for one reason or another.

7. Gather feedback and prepare for the next session

Ask the participants about what they liked and what they didn’t during this session. Solicit some ideas for topics of discussion for the next time. Remember that this is supposed to be an informative but fun activity, so make an extra effort to create a relaxing and entertaining atmosphere. After all this all happens during the lunch break, so don’t make it feel as a work.


References and self-study resources

Muller, M., 2009. The Manager’s Guide to HR: Hiring, Firing, Performance Evaluations, Documentation, Benefits and Everything Else You Need to Know, AMACOM Publ.

Armstrong, S. & B. Mitchell, 2018. The Essential HR Handbook: A Quick and Handy Resource for Any Manager or HR Professional, Publ. Red Wheel/Weiser

Smith, S. and R. Mazin, The HR Answer Book: An Indispensable Guide for Managers and Human Resource Professionals

Sartain L. & M. Finney HR from the Heart: Inspiring Stories and Strategies for Building the People Side of Great Business

Reidy, L., 2015. Make that grade: Human resource management. 4th edn. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan.

Wilkinson, A., T. Redman & T. Dundon, 2017. Contemporary human resource management text and cases 5th ed.

The open University of Hong Kong, Human resource management, 2016,