The Pilot Project

In early 2014, Crowflight Consulting Services developed models for Just in Time HR Services for Non-Profits in BC under a Labor Market Partnership (LMP) contract with Step Up BC.  A three-tiered model of the Just in Time HR Service was piloted and evaluated. Both a pilot and a second demonstration project showed the value of offering such a service.

An environmental scan, design framework and evaluation of the proposed services were conducted - summarized in the sections below...

Data from the 2007 Government Non-Profit Initiative (GNPI) said there were an estimated 20,000 non-profit organizations in B.C. with 85,550 full-time employees, 61,792 part-time employees and 1.5 million volunteers[1].

Twenty-three per cent of those employees work in hospitals, colleges and universities, and were not included as targets of this project. The remainder make up a workforce larger than the total employment in forestry, fishing, mining and oil and gas combined[2].

The largest percentages of British Columbia’s organizations were in the following sub-sectors: Religion (19%), Sports and Recreation (17%), Art and Culture (10%), Social Services (9%), and Development and Housing (9%)[3].

The non-profit sector has a substantial economic presence, contributing 11 billion dollars to British Columbia’s GDP in 2005, accounting for 7 per cent of the province's GDP and 6.6 per cent of the provincial workforce[4].

Most non-profit agencies (82%) in BC serve local and/or regional needs, operating at a grass roots level where they are able to galvanize communities through volunteerism and fundraising.

The majority of these smaller volunteer agencies have average revenues of less than $250,000 annually, yet they count for more than 65 per cent of the province’s volunteer capacity.

[1] From the Government Non-Profit Initiative (GNPI) web site, Data 2007, Accessed Mar 2014
[2] Statistics Canada (
[3] The nonprofit and voluntary sector in British Columbia : regional highlights of the National Survey of Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations, Imagine Canada, Accessed Mar 2014
[4] The Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector in British Columbia, Imagine Canada: 2005, Accessed Mar 2014

In general, all non-profits in BC could benefit from a Just in Time HR Service. The exception to this is the MUSH sector (municipal, universities, schools, hospitals) and business associations and unions as these are generally larger organizations with their own in-house HR capacity.

The project scope for "just-in-time access to HR advice and guidance" was limited to organizations with paid employees.

The project targeted non-profit employers who were not full members of the Community Social Services Employers Association (CSSEA) since they were already receiving HR support and advice under provincial mandate.

Non-Profit Sector Breakdown Used for Reporting

  1. Arts and Culture (Such as: Media, communications or visual arts; Performing arts; Museum or gallery)
  2. Sports and Recreation (Such as: Sports; Recreation; Service club)
  3. Education and Training  (Such as: Children or youth; Adult Job, employment or vocational training)
  4. Research
  5. Health (Such as: Counselling; Treatment and Rehabilitation; Public health and wellness education)
  6. Social Services (Such as: Day care; Child welfare and child services; Youth and family services; Services for the handicapped or elderly; Settlement/refugee assistance; Food banks and clothing distribution)
  7. Environment (Such as: Environmental protection; Wildlife or animal protection and welfare)
  8. Community and Economic Development (Such as: Community and neighbourhood organizations; Ethnic and civic associations; Economic development)
  9. Housing
  10. Law, Advocacy and Politics (Such as: Legal services, victims support, crime prevention, and rehabilitation of offenders; Civil rights associations; Advocacy and Politics)
  11. Philanthropic Intermediaries and Voluntarism Promotion (Such as: Grant-making foundations; Fund-raising organizations; Voluntarism promotion and support)
  12. Religion

Findings of the Environmental Scan

  1. Overall the scan supports the need within the non-profit sector for the development of just in time HR services in BC.
  2. In addition, there is strong support for building capacity of Executive Directors and managers tasked with HR activities within the organizations.
  3. There are a broad range of HR tools available through the Internet across the country, many of which are well designed.
  4. There are a number of specific HR areas that are presently served by organizations that can provide an excellent service. For Example:

i.    Community Social Services Employers Association (CSSEA)

The employer association services unionized non-profit employers as per provincial legislation (Members). It also services unionized and non-union organizations that do not qualify to be members (Associates)

                ii.    Legal Help for Non-Profit Organizations

The Solicitors’ Program is designed to facilitate the provision of specific pro bono legal services to charitable and non-profit community organizations of limited means.

               iii.    Certified General Accountants

Providing Volunteer Financial Services to Not-for-Profit Organizations

               iv.    Ontario Association of Social Service Insurance System (OASSIS)

Offer affordable and comprehensive Employee Benefits to not-for-profit organizations of all sizes across Canada

Note: The information gathered through the environmental scan was used in the development of the recommended frameworks for the Just in Time HR Services.

Criteria that Informed the Design

  • A multi-tiered HR service delivery model is generally regarded as the best practice approach to service delivery[1]
  • The goal was to not compete with existing services but rather to redirect and refer others to existing services where appropriate (e.g. CSSEA, legal hotline)
  • Recognize rural/ urban and other cultural differences in design and resourcing decisions
  • For human contact, operate during office hours
  • Offer both phone and email options integrated at the back end
  • Acknowledge (in design and resourcing decisions) that there are two main categories of potential clients
    • Persons doing HR off the side of their desk (operating with widely varied knowledge/experience levels)
    • HR professionals in HR roles in orgs

Design Framework of the Just in Time HR Service

Tier 1 (Web Portal): Tier 1 delivers service through the web HR portal. This ideally is the first stop for organizations seeking information or resolution of an HR issue and includes searching an HR knowledge base of files. If a manager bypasses Tier 1 and contacts the service center through email or directly via telephone, they begin their interaction at Tier 2. HR portals are likely to be the first source to check when looking for information and a well-executed portal experience can help deflect calls from the HR service centre[2].

Note: It will be critical that the resources within this service are monitored for accuracy and that tools and resources are up-dated as required.

Tier 2 (Call Centre - Generalist): Issues are directly handled by an HR Generalist working within Tier 2 and are logged in a central database. HR Generalists within Tier 2 of the service center receive HR inquiries from callers and provide advice and resources as required by the particular issue(s). Depending on the client’s issue and needs, cases may be resolved in one call or require follow up calls.

Tier 3 (Call Centre - Specialist): The next service delivery level, Tier 3, contains the project’s HR subject matter experts and specialists, who provide a more in-depth level of expertise in specific areas of HR. Issues handled at Tier 3 are escalated or reassigned by HR Generalists working in Tier 2 when they cannot resolve a matter because resolution requires a specialized skill set or involves a significant amount of time commitment.

Design Recommendations for the Just in Time HR Service

In reviewing the (very positive) evaluation data detailing why clients highly valued this service, it should be noted that great value was derived not only from the service structure (easy access, quick response times, etc.), but even more so from the quality and nature of the service they received. The following capture these key characteristics and offer them as recommendations for service design:

  • HR resource people need to be familiar with the NP sector and its unique culture(s) and HR challenges; ideally they are also strongly values aligned with / committed to the sector (this was all true of the HR professionals in the pilot, and it was strongly noted and valued)
  • HR resource people need to have the motivation and skills, and time/ permission, to approach delivery of the service in a capacity-building mode (ie. take time to really dialogue on issues, take a coach approach when confidence building is needed, walk people through tools and processes, etc.). Maintaining this level of service gets challenging as demand on a service increases, but should be a service delivery goal, given the strong need to build
  • HR capacity in the sector. The hugely positive results of this being the norm for service during the pilot were clearly evident. There needs to be a strong focus on delivering service in a manner that is very friendly and supportive, respectful of busy ED’s time and non-judgmental (eg. of low levels of HR expertise) so that trust is built.

For anyone who wishes to access the call center to directly interact with an HR Generalist, there should be dual options for contacting the service: sending an email message or calling via a 1-800 number or similar method (Tier 2 and 3).  This type of call centre is available across the Province in what are called virtual offices that can set up 1-800 numbers and provide reception services with forwarding to the HR Generalists for a very reasonable monthly fee.

To market the program and encourage organizations to sign up for the service there should be a web page that describes the program and how it can be accessed and what its value is to NP organizations, in language and messages that appeal to clients in the sector.

There should be no-cost access to the HR material on the web portal (Tier 1). The information here will be a critical support to the operations of Tier 2 & 3; therefore the information needs to be relevant and up to date.

There are directs costs associated with running operations at Tier 2 and 3 and these will need to be covered by some source of stable, direct funding, through cost recovery from client subscriptions to the service, or through a combination of these different funding avenues.

Note: 95 % of organizations that participated in the pilot (and filled out the evaluation) indicated they were willing to pay to gain access to a service like this, and 100% of these chose the lowest cost option presented from a range of options, indicating in comments that finding money to pay would be a challenge, but something they would try hard to do given the value they received

[1] Oracle White Paper - Is Your Current HR Service Delivery Model Working for You?, 2011, Accessed Mar 2014
[2] Ibid

Based on the results of the pilot and feedback from the participating organizations and the project contractors, the following set up is recommended.

1.    In Tier 2 a number of HR generalists will collaboratively resource this service, answering phone (1-800) and email inquiries, during business hours. These can be full-time or part-time staff.

2.    The service should be offered, during business hours, Monday to Friday.

3.    Callers are prompted to indicate the urgency of their requests. Target response times are set at <4 hrs for urgent issues and <24 hrs for non-urgent issues. Within these target ranges, clients will experience service that ranges at different times from immediate response to a call-back within 24 hours.

4.    The HR generalists offer clients the following:

  • Answer questions and offer advice on issues within their scope of expertise,
  • Direct clients to appropriate web-based resources,
  • Directing clients to other advice/ information services where appropriate (eg. Employment Standards Branch),
  • Walk clients through analysis, process, and resources with the goal of building their HR understanding and capacity (within reasonable limits of time) and/ or
  • Escalate issues beyond their scope to the next level of the service (Tier 3 - HR Subject Matter Experts)

5.    In referring on to Tier 3, the HR generalists connect clients to more specialized HR Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) as and when required. These Tier 3 resource people will be sourced from a pre-prepared list of SME’s who have committed to responding in a timely manner to calls for the service (ie. have agreed to meet set service standards for response times). During the pilots, these individuals were employed on an as needed basis, and paid an hourly wage for hours worked.

6.    All inquiries are handled within a central tracking database tool. The goal for implementing this kind of tool would be: to ensure effective and efficient case management, to enable HR practitioners to cover one another and pass cases between them as needed, and to access background information for case that are referred on, etc. Information would also be gathered that helps to evaluate and tweak the service model and design, such as:

a.    Utilization of the service (number of calls, typical duration, times of day, etc.);

b.    Types of information requested and what actions resulted

c.    Experience of the service (quality, design, service standards, appropriateness to their needs, modality preferences, etc.)

This information can be used to evaluate the operation and could be used to create a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) portion of the web site. This FAQ can help to build capacity and would become another source of valuable HR information. This in turn will reduce the number of calls into Tier 2.

Resources Required for Tier 2 & 3

1.    Project Management/ Administration

2.    HR Generalists (Number based on program scope)

3.    HR Subject Matter Experts (Number based on program scope)

4.    Materials

a.    Access to HR information, templates, etc in a web portal pertaining to possible responses for HR issues

b.    Access to email services

c.    Access to 1-800 telephone services and reception (virtual office)

d.    Database tracking tool

e.    Descriptive Marketing Information for prospective Non-Profit Organizations

f.     Support materials for staff operations (Job descriptions, orientation information, reference information, etc.)

g.    Research potential liability issues - During the pilot the organizations signed a consent form discussing how their personal information would be treated confidentially and protected and that the Just in HR project was not liable for any injury, loss or damage suffered by the non-profit organization as a result of participation in the project.

h.    Research insurance issues

There were 31 non-profit organizations from across the Province and from a number of sectors that participated in the pilot. The largest groups were from the social services sector and community development.

  • 83% of the organizations utilized the service during the pilot. When not used “lack of time” or “no issues” were cited as reasons.
  • 74% utilized the service once or twice during the pilot
  • 100% found the service easy to access
  • 95% found the service times met or exceeded their expectations
  • 95% found the service quality met or exceeded their expectations (with 61% saying it exceeded expectations)
  • 95% said they would seek access to this kind of service
  • 86% would be willing to pay an annual fee for access to this kind of service

Next Steps

Just in Time HR services are needed by non-profits in BC and the models provided in the report have been demonstrated to meet those needs.

What is needed is an organization or groups of organizations to take on the development of these models into a viable operating entity that will help to ensure the effective delivery of HR services to a wide range on BC non-profits.