Focus: People Management - Case study - When staff retention becomes a priority

Graham Willgoss,

Interights called in a consultant to determine the level of salary increases it could realistically afford.


Interights is a charity that works with lawyers and other NGOs to promote the protection of human rights through law. It supports people whose human rights have been violated to bring claims before courts and tribunals.

The charity does this by providing training programmes and material on the theory and philosophy of human rights law in local languages in Africa, south Asia and Europe.

Staff had expressed concerns about salary levels, particularly that they were not remaining competitive with other voluntary sector organisations.

Interights did not have the resources for a salary review, but did not want to risk losing key staff to other organisations.

It called in Sarah Hopkins, an HR generalist who takes part in Cranfield's free management consulting programme for small- and medium-sized charities. She worked with Interights' senior management team and staff over a period of six months.

How it worked:

Hopkins began by establishing exactly what Interights wanted to achieve from the salary review. "I had discussions with the management team to get an understanding of the organisation, what it actually did and what it wanted to achieve," she said. "It wanted someone to look at its pay structure and provide it with a pay-grading scale. Staff felt the pay structure was unfairly balanced, lacked transparency and wasn't competitive."

When Hopkins had a clearer understanding of Interights, she began benchmarking its pay scale with 16 organisations of a similar type and structure.

In particular, Interights wanted to identify staff that had dropped behind the benchmark and bring their pay up to a competitive level.

"The benchmarking process - approaching organisations, getting permission to use information about their salary scale and structure - took a long time," said Joe Curran, finance director at Interights.

"This meant it was important that we kept our staff informed of where we were with the review. Transparency was a vital part of the process."

Curran and Hopkins put together a proposal for the board of trustees, who agreed that the organisation could afford to support the new pay structure.


We have established more suitable wage boundaries, ones our staff are satisfied with," said Curran. "The particular problem we had was with legal staff; non-legal staff salaries were already competitive, so their increases were fairly modest.

"On the whole, salaries have increased substantially and are now in the upper quartile compared with the organisations we benchmarked ourselves against.

"The rises have been generous because we have done everything possible within the organisation's means. Staff retention is no longer an issue."

- The Cranfield Trust ( puts charities in touch with management consultants prepared to work with them free of charge. It also runs HRNet, an internet advice service. This is one of a series of monthly case studies.

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