Future-proofing your charity's workforce

  • There is an increasing demand for highly skilled workers within the voluntary charity sector
  • In turbulent times it is even more important that the sector is able to recruit and retain skilled and motivated workers
  • Dr Donald Macaskill, Chief Executive of Scottish Care shares his thoughts on the challenges facing voluntary and charity workforces, and how they can be overcome

In our latest guest article focusing on the Scottish voluntary sector, Dr Donald Macaskill, Chief Executive of Scottish Care, shares his advice on how to overcome the challenges currently facing charity workforces.

There is an increasing demand for highly skilled people within charities, particularly care organisations. This means developing both the technical and physical abilities of your staff, along with recognising the value of soft skills, including empathy and an ability to deal sensitively with families, which are just as important.

Formal qualifications aren’t the be-all and end-all

Qualifications can be great ways to cement skills and to offer personal and professional development for individuals. However, I’ve not seen any clear evidence that academic qualifications necessarily deliver better outcomes for the people we support. It would be counterproductive to see people who could offer a lot to charities being excluded from workforces due to a lack of formal education.

Place a value on work

As a culture, charities can place a lower value on caring for and supporting local communities than shuffling piles of money around. It is important to keep shouting about the importance of the often invisible work that care organisations and other charities do.

Involve staff in a meaningful way

To recruit and retain good quality frontline workers, charities have to involve them in influencing wider strategy. At Scottish Care we have a rule that any policy working group must include representation from frontline workers. That means we never have the option of second guessing their experiences or aspirations.

Fight for better pay, terms and conditions

Charity workers, particularly care providers, are chronically underpaid and often face poor terms and conditions of work. This is not only bad for the workers themselves, but it can also mean charities struggle to compete for the best staff against sectors such as retail and hospitality. It’s in everyone’s interest to keep shouting about the real cost of care and put pressure on decision-makers to improve the offering for charity staff.

Get ready for Brexit

Scottish Care has been auditing the proportion of European workers in the care workforce, and it looks as if the numbers are even higher than initially thought. The sector needs these people to stay, and to continue attracting staff from overseas. This will require an effort to reassure European care and charity workers that they are still very welcome in Scotland.

Embrace diversity

The care workforce is around 85% female and, on average, considerably older than other sectors. An ageing population and an ageing care workforce, combined with the increase in people controlling their own staffing through self-directed support, means that there is likely to be a growing demand for a broader range of people in care roles.


In Scotland, health and social care integration is leading to multi-disciplinary teams involved in supporting people. This means that charity workers need to learn to work alongside groups such as medical staff, social workers and allied health professionals. All these groups need to develop a mutual respect and learn to think and act collaboratively. 

Nurturing your workforce pays real dividends

When staff are engaged, informed and involved, there are clear benefits for those individuals, the wider organisation and the people charities support. Attracting and retaining good staff is one of the biggest challenges that service delivery charities face, so it makes sense to invest in the staff you have rather than chasing new people.

Well-supported and valued workers will perform better and are more likely to stick around.