Testing the Effectiveness of HRM Practices Among Expatriate Humanitarian Aid Workers

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 4:30 PM
Room: 414
Distributed Paper
Miranda VISSER , Sociology, University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
Liesbet HEYSE , University of Groningen, Netherlands
Melinda MILLS , University of Groningen, Netherlands
Vincenzo BOLLETTINO , Harvard
Abstract: Staff turnover has become a major concern for humanitarian organizations. On the one hand this can be seen as something humanitarian organizations have to live with, but on the other hand it has also been blamed for reducing effectiveness and efficiency due to discontinuity in staffing and loss of institutional memory. The general public pressured for greater efficiency and accountability. Professionalization, and especially adopting for-profit management practices, for example regarding human resource management (HRM) was deemed to be key to achieve enhanced efficiency and accountability. In short, no sector is this dependent on the employees and their loyalty and at the same time is experiencing a very high risk of turnover. Therefore, this is the perfect setting to study the effectiveness of HRM practices. Yet, while much discussed, in-depth research on the consequences of human resources practices on attitudinal outcomes of employees, like trust in management, job satisfaction and leaving intentions in this sector has so far not been conducted. So far, most studies have been conducted in the for-profit sector and to a lesser extent in the public sector. While it is assumed that HRM practices should also be effective in humanitarian organizations empirical data was lacking in order to actually test this. To the knowledge of these authors, this is the first empirical attempt to study these issues among a sample of humanitarian workers (N=140) working for one of the largest agencies in the field: MSF. Preliminary results show that HRM practices are positively influencing individual attitudinal outcomes (job satisfaction and turnover intentions) and that trust in management is an important factor mediating this relation. HRM practices are conducive to building trust in management, which in turn is positively related to job satisfaction and intention to remain with the organization.