Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

The Engagement and Retention of Non-Profit Employees in Belgium and South Africa

Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

The Engagement and Retention of Non-Profit Employees in Belgium and South Africa

Article excerpt


According to Schaufeli and Bakker (2003), the emergence of positive organisational psychology has resulted in positive aspects of well-being becoming popular in research studies. Work engagement is one such aspect (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2003), described as 'a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigour, dedication, and absorption' (Schaufeli, Salanova, González-Romá & Bakker, 2002, p. 4). Employees have a desire to be engaged in work that helps them feel that they are positively contributing to something larger than themselves (HayGroup, n.d.). Along this line, Lin (2009) found that employees who worked in organisations that were perceived to demonstrate corporate citizenship behaviours exhibited high levels of work engagement. This suggests that employees who work for organisations that are socially responsible, as in the case of non-profit organisations (NPOs), will exhibit high levels of work engagement. Consequently, one can be led to believe that NPO employees would by nature be engaged in their work, especially in choosing to work in their organisations because they perceive that they are contributing to society or making a difference in the lives of others.

However, Glicken and Robinson (2013) explain that individuals who work within helping professions are prone to compassion fatigue, a condition in which individuals experience a decline in their ability to care for others and feel joy. This typically occurs when high levels of energy and compassion are expended, yet little internal peace or positive feedback is received in return for such efforts. Employees working in NPOs may be prone to such fatigue because their purpose is to operate to benefit the lives of others. If such fatigue is experienced, NPO professionals may begin to experience what Glicken and Robinson (2013) refer to as secondary traumatic stress because of the emotional trauma that results from caring for others in need. Such individuals bear the risk of decreased levels of engagement, which could lead to them exiting the NPO sector. However, when individuals are engaged in their work, they display lower turnover intentions (Bothma & Roodt, 2013; Park & Gursoy, 2012; Robyn & Du Preez, 2013; Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004).

Kuttner (2008) mentions that high levels of turnover are the industry standard for low-paid, human-service jobs, which provides insight into Sokkie's (2013) finding that a primary issue for human resources in the non-profit environment is the retention of highly skilled and qualified employees. Surtees, Sanders, Shipton and Knight (2014) mention that retention is as important for NPOs as it is for organisations operating in other sectors, because NPOs operate with the lowest overheads possible and, thus, cannot afford absences or potential waste in terms of employee investments. Owing to the fact that NPOs face pressures in the form of being forced to compete for scarce funding and resources, they must be able to retain their talented employees as well as maximise their performance in order to avoid collapse (Bussin, 2013). Consequently, Ryder (2008) states that NPOs must begin to focus on employee retention if they want to guarantee their own long-term sustainability and program delivery. Philanthropy News Digest (2012) is in agreement with this fact, mentioning that NPOs need stronger retention programmes, because three quarters of the NPOs mentioned in their article claimed to have no formal retention strategies in place. Given the fact that NPO employees are, on average, paid less than private sector employees (Tippet & Kluvers, 2009), there also exists the possibility that extrinsic rewards are not the best means to retain NPO employees.


As service organisations, NPOs play a significant role in society, particularly with regard to the economic, cultural and social development of a country (Lynn, 2003). Despite the constraints experienced within the non-profit sector, organisations operating within this sector have managed to make significant social contributions (Lynn, 2003). …

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