Using human resource management tools to support social enterprise: emerging themes from the sector

Maureen Royce (Senior Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University)

Social Enterprise Journal

ISSN: 1750-8614

Publication date: 30 March 2007



To devise a human resource management (HRM) approach capable of application to the management of employees in social enterprises.


The difficulty of applying traditional HRM techniques to social enterprises, where the workforce tends to be volunteers, is discussed. Reviews HRM concepts and their relationship/applicability to social enterprise (labour market relationships within social enterprise, resourcing and skills to support social enterprise, leadership and operational strategy within social enterprise). Presents two case studies, involving an inner city credit union in northwest England; and an inner city after‐school club. Reports on a pilot questionnaire survey focusing on the strands identified by the earlier research.


The results indicated a heavy reliance on volunteer labour with almost all organizations working with volunteers. Notes, however, that when asked whether volunteers were crucial to the running of the organization, only 59 per cent felt they were, with the remaining 41 per cent being uncertain or felt that volunteers were not crucial and only a small fraction (12 per cent) having more volunteers than paid workers. Reveals that the infrastructure to support coherent people‐management systems in social enterprise do not appear to be robust and piecemeal support and advice through a range of well‐meaning board members, fragile networks and higher education institutes cannot provide a strong framework for growth and sustainability in managing human resources in the social enterprise sector. Concludes that labour market relationships, resourcing and skills, and leadership and operational strategy have nevertheless been recurring themes in research in this field which suggests that there may be a very real opportunity for HRM tools and expertise to support social enterprise organizations in achieving their business and social goals.


Sheds light on the HRM aspects of social enterprises.



Royce, M. (2007), "Using human resource management tools to support social enterprise: emerging themes from the sector", Social Enterprise Journal, Vol. 3 No. 1, pp. 10-19.

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