Strategic volunteer management planning and implementation in Scottish third sector organisations: understanding the volunteer psychological contract
Wu Berberich, Bing
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Third sector organisations (TSOs) have been operating in a turbulent environment of social, political and economic changes, presenting challenges to their continued activities. The volunteer workforce, as a key component of TSOs’ human resource, has long been considered crucial for the sector. Despite this acknowledgement, existing research suggests that TSOs have not effectively managed and supported their volunteer workforce in order to sustain development. There are claims for TSOs to place volunteer management (VM) onto a strategic level, and it is considered crucial for TSO managers, CEOs and volunteer coordinators (VCs) to achieve sustainable organisational development through the strategic planning and implementation of VM practices. However, existing research has focussed more on articulating volunteer motives; and little attention has been paid to considering the ways in which individual perspectives influence effective VM. This study addressed the gap by exploring key players’ (CEO, VC and volunteer) perceptions of the policies, practices and processes used to attract, engage and retain volunteers in small to medium Scottish TSOs. It aimed to provide insights into the importance of strategic VM in sustaining TSO performance and in understanding the crucial role of VCs, through unfolding the processes of making and fulfilling individual volunteer psychological contracts (VPCs). Three case studies were carried out within three Scottish TSOs; in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with participants occupying different roles, CEO (n=3), VC (n=5) and volunteers (n=16). Supplementary data were obtained through documentary study of VM policies and practices. Data collection was guided by a conceptual framework developed by embedding the Resource Based View (RBV) of HRM and HR devolution to the Line into the process of making and fulfilling the psychological contract. Results support the claim that TSOs would benefit from more strategic management of their volunteer workforce as a competitive resource. Examining VM through the lens of the VPC provided empirical evidence to confirm that it is crucial to engage and retain volunteers by shaping their expectations and motives within the TSO, and thus ensure more sustainable TSO performance. The results further support the salient role of VC as volunteer line manager, in attracting, engaging and retaining volunteers through effective VM implementation. In arriving at these results, this research has extended the theoretical debate on the importance of strategic HR management and the key role that line managers can play in achieving this beyond the more dominant private sector focus.
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