Article: Managing people in social sector: Does the nature of the goal matter?

Strategic HR

Managing people in social sector: Does the nature of the goal matter?

NGO Deepalaya's case study shows difference and similarities between a profit and non profit organization: Does the nature of the goals to be achieved matter?

The new generations of social workers are developing a professional orientation and they are more focused, ambitious and trained


NGOs aim to promote human welfare, in a similar manner to that in which businesses aim to drive profits


NGO Deepalaya’s case study shows difference and similarities between profit and non profit organization: Does the nature of the goal to be achieved matter?

In my eight years’ career with development sector, I have come to realize that NGOs & corporates have distinct work cultures and problems but when it comes to getting results, they are not that different. A defined vision, with focus management and the right people seems to be the right combination, regardless of the nature of the business thus making the social sector, in a way, at par with the industry in terms of career opportunities.

NGOs are going through a culture change in terms of approach and the cause thereto. The new generations of social workers are graduating into professional orientation and they are more focused, ambitious and trained. The activities of NGOs are becoming target and result oriented in place of being relief and welfare oriented.

Graduating from Personnel Management to Strategic Human Resource Development, Deepalaya, like any other organization in the corporate world, meets its strategic goals by attracting, retaining and managing employees effectively.

About Deepalaya

Deepalaya,meaning “the abode of light”, is an India based non-profit organization that supports the overall development of poor children, their families and communities in rural and urban areas with special focus on children in difficult circumstances. For over three decades Deepalaya has been striving to provide the less fortunate with a sense of physical and emotional security, instilling in them a sense of self belief and pride – all the while keeping their sense of independence intact. “Every child deserves a chance” is what Deepalaya believes in and what it work towards.

Evolution of Human Resource Management in Deepalaya

Human Resource Management has come to stay as a professional system in any progressive organization, which is result-oriented and which makes an impact on the society. While managing human resources is popularly practiced by corporates, social sector organizations are fast catching up with the phenomenon as they professionalize themselves. Deepalaya is no exception.

Deepalaya institutionalized Human Resources Management way back in the 1980s but the emphasis at that time was on Personnel Management. Over time, the various elements of Human Resources Management have been added, making the internal talent management process comprehensive enough to become a match with corporate model. Deepalaya has institutionalized Manpower Planning, Recruitment, Induction, Orientation, Objective Setting (KRAs), Capacity Building, Compensation & Benefits, dealing with Turnover, incentive for Performance, management information system (HRIS) and many more.

Accordingly, Deepalaya’s HR practices have been compiled into an HR Manual. This manual is seen as an instrument of systems and procedures, controls and compliances for Human Resource in Deepalaya to abide by.

Deepalaya Human Resource Development Processes

Deepalaya’s HRD processes have been defined by applying industry best practice to the needs of the organization. These processes have changed the organization’s approach and have become a key business function. Emphasis has been given to:

  • Focusing and responding to the strategic goals & objectives of the organization and aligning them to employees and collaborators.
  • Developing employees’ capacity to increase productivity and improve the service to beneficiaries.
  • Proactively manage Deepalaya’s human resource by manpower planning and development.

Unique Challenges

Deepalaya operates in conditions which are different from the corporate world, but are equally demanding. It is good to appreciate these difficulties of working in social sector whilst considering social development as a business and a profession. Thus, we at Deepalaya have dual challenges to address:

Social work as a profession: The objectives and deliverables of employees in the social work have a different flavour from those of the corporate world. The Human Resources function in Deepalaya plays a vital role in this process, as it needs to create the linkage between the organization’s vision and mission, and the employee’s objectives through the implementation of management by objectives.

Profit in an alternate perspective: NGOs aim to promote human welfare and making people self reliable, in a similar manner to that in which businesses aim to drive profits.

Different Skills & Attitudes required from workforce: We therefore need a very special breed of professionals who are prepared to face these challenges, while at the same time expressing the following attitudes - compassion for the underprivileged, ability to communicate with the society, determination to contribute silently and professionally.

The common challenges: Besides all of this, Deepalaya also aims to tackle certain universal challenges of managing resources, e.g. finding the best talent, maintaining the motivation levels, knowledge retention etc.

Success Stories

Talent management practices in Deepalaya have helped us earn the reputation to produce some of the best talents within the social development fraternity. On the one hand, a parting employee leaves a gap but on the other hand his/her growth sets an example for others in the organization and takes the learning and values to many more beneficiaries through other organizations. Infact, we have been able to maintain an attrition rate of about 10% over last three years which I consider is healthy.

At the same time, many of our beneficiary alumni have come back to us as employees. As many as 10 girls who have educated themselves from Deepalaya are today teaching in our schools, which show the loyalty, trust and commitment of our students to the project and vision of the organization. Additionally, many people who started working as interns or volunteers join the organization as employees and some of them have even risen to the levels of managers over a period of time. Besides this, with the policy of re-hire, many of our people have come back with additional competencies to stay, making us feel proud to be a good employer.

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Topics: Strategic HR

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