A soldier fights for his country and it does not matter to him that while the whole nation is celebrating a national holiday or relaxing in their beds on a Sunday afternoon, he is still patrolling the borders in a temperature less than 0 degree Celsius. He never complaints about his situation and is proud of what he does. He is proud to be a soldier because the whole nation sees him with respect and his village celebrates Diwali when he returns from a war alive. Also he has benefits from his employer for his family. He knows that if he remains alive till his retirement, he will never have to worry again and will live in comforts of a city like Dehradun or Delhi. At least the future of his family is secured.
I consider a rural development professional very similar to a soldier minus the perks a soldier gets. From here on I have denoted ‘he’, ‘him’ or ‘his’ for a development professional. (That does not mean that I have any less respect for the female development professionals) He quietly lives a soldier’s life where some of his relatives claim that all NGOs are made to siphon off the money or to turn “black money into white”. His parents are not comfortable in telling their friends and relatives that their son works for an NGO and earns Rs 30000/Month after doing B. Tech and then MBA from a top 20 college. Even the community for which he works for, does not respect him. Instead the community only becomes more demanding every passing day.
Following are the reasons for an attrition rate of more than 50% in rural development sector:-
Nil HR policies of an NGO
In the board meetings of a national level NGO taking place in an AC conference hall, the focus is never on HR policies and only new formats are decided for reporting in the name of discussion of HR policies. There is a huge communication gap between the Upper Management and the HR head. For example what if the CEO of the organization sanctions a holiday of an employee from 3rd August to 13th August on 1st August and the employee receives a mail from the HR head on 6th August that a review meeting has been kept on 10th and 11th August? How disgusted will an employee feel after that? The employees are made to work on Sundays and on national holidays like Independence day. This is a sector where an employee works from 5:00 AM to 2 PM on a Diwali only to find out that even then his organization does not care for him. Leave alone a compensatory leave or an overtime for his efforts, the big guys are even shy of appreciating an individual’s efforts. Forget a two day weekend holiday, a development professional is lucky enough if he does get a rest on one Sunday/month. And after all this exploitation, he waits for his salary at the end of the month which is peanuts as compared to his caliber. But here too he will have to beg in front his accountant several times to get his salary before he gets it on 15th of the next month. There are no retirement benefits for a development professional. He hardly earns enough to manage his family’s expenses. The upper management will always come up with a method to stop him from preparing for his life ahead. The best is yet to come. The organizations do not keep their word when it comes to their promises made during the recruitment period. An employee is bound to feel a disengaged from his work when his in hand salary is reduced by Rs 5000 after three months of his whole hearted service. How will one feel when neither his reports are replied on by anyone nor there is any reply from the HR Team when a two page complaint mail was sent by him seeking some clarifications. Guess who are the HR heads of these NGOs. They are not MBAs. Not even BBAs. They the people who are mere graduates with a field experience of 5-7 years. How can you expect a person with no knowledge of HR to frame HR policies of an organization with more than 200 employees?
The community you want to develop, does not want to develop
After burning his oil day and night for the community, expecting that he is doing good for his country, one fine day he learns that the community is drowned in alcohol and drugs by the help of extra money they generated with his help. Friends, that is the moment when he gets shattered and wants to leave everything. The very purpose for which he joined this dirty sector is defeated at that very moment and his dreams of becoming a change agent are burnt to ashes. The community does not want a sustainable solution for its problems. Instead they want short term benefits. The extra money they make is not saved by them. Instead that money is spent by them on some foolish religious practices or on alcohol and tobacco. Is this really development?
Once you are in, there is a very narrow bumpy road out
A rural development professional is placed in a small block which may not even have a railway station in it. If he wants to move forward and put himself to the test of some exams, he will need to take minimum three holidays to travel to a city and take the exam there. Moreover, he tends to loosen up his grip on spoken English due to a very low exposure to the language during his stay at the field of the operation. Thus his communication skills also suffer. There is a time in his job when he feels underutilized, and he wants to move on but as I said earlier, he has a very narrow bumpy road ahead of him.
The government and funding agencies
When he goes to the community, they respect him but in return they demand for everything free of cost. Unfortunately, the beautiful policies of the government have made them totally lazy and dependent on the pieces thrown by the government every five years. A lady who is the head of an SHG federation is getting beaten up by his husband everyday but the organization turns a blind eye to this because it is not in its project. When some determined young employees take to teaching poor kids of the village out of their own personal interest, the organization intervenes and stops them from doing this good deed, accusing them of not focusing on their work. Earlier I talked about the problem of alcoholism in the rural society and its effect. On an average approximately Rs 1200/month are spent by a villager on Gutkha, tobacco, alcohol and religious practices. Instead of discouraging these practices, the organization sometimes ends up encouraging it by indulging itself into the same practices. The organization does not even take a single step to stop this practice because they have only got funds for increasing the income of the households and not to regularize the expenditure. After all this, do you really want to believe that the organization wants to do something good for the community? The rigid funding agencies just want to stick to their norms without seeing the ground realities of the field. Their inflexible attitude makes it impossible for him to give benefits of the scheme to the community. Was he here to just execute a rigid project or to do good for the community? End Result: Zero satisfaction.
The cruel society
When his relatives hear that he works for an NGO, they look down upon him and marks him as a failure at that very moment. Especially when he is from a city, his uncles give him a pity look whenever he meets them. Being disgraceful to his profession, they show concern that how his bad luck has taken him to the shabby villages from a high tech city. This part of his life is called ‘being an odd one out’. Their words may not have concerned him if he was satisfied with the results of his work or if the organization would have respected him. But the organization, the beneficiary community, the government policies, the funding agencies and the society have failed him all together. Even he can have only limited personal ambitions for his life if he wants to continue in the same sector for his lifetime. How difficult it will be for him if he wants to marry a working girl who is not in the same profession, he is in, given the fact that he lives in a small block in a remote area? Hence it is a very common feature of a family of a male development professional that either he has a house wife or a person working in the same organization. What if his girlfriend works in a city and they both want to marry but his job stops him from doing so?
- The true HR professionals need to be hired by the NGOs to improve their nearly non-existent HR policies.
- The community can only gradually understand the importance of his work and hence he should remain patient.
- Instead of creating hurdles when an employee wants to move on, the NGOs should concentrate more on retaining talent by using better ways.
- The organizations should look beyond the scope of the projects from funding agencies. He should be given freedom to help the community independently until and unless he is not using the organization’s resources.
- The sector should be glorified in the same way as the armed forces. The image of NGOs needs a makeover as soon as possible.
- The NGOs should hire an employee only if it can respect him, both financially and personally.
- A person should join the rural development sector only if he has no expectations from his life and he wants to dedicate it completely to the service of his nation without expecting anything in return.