The human face of quality standards

Quality standards are mainly about people. But they are almost always marketed on the benefits to organisations and, of course, there are many benefits to them. Also quality standards can seem quite dry until you discover they have a human side. They improve the lives of staff, volunteers and beneficiaries. They are about real people.

The focus for most quality assurance systems is usually developing policies and procedures to enable organisational development. But to be in any way successful, the human element is key. After all organisations are more than a set of systems they are made up of people. So how can focusing on policies and procedures benefit people?

We agree that as human beings we are all different. So when we come together to try and achieve a common goal, some kind of framework helps (including good communication and understanding). Otherwise there is a danger we spend a lot of time discussing how we proceed and are then very busy but never quite achieve our goals. Good quality assurance systems must have people at the core of their policies and procedures to achieve their full value to the organisation.


Managing people well is probably one of the most important jobs within organisations but line-management skills are often taken as read, undervalued or even overlooked when the pressure is on.

The consequences for both manager and staff and the organisation can be big and add stress at all levels. A framework including relevant procedures and policies gives staff assurance that they are valued. Their role and its fit within the organisation is clear. It will attract new staff and keep them for longer, giving them a clear view and a stake in the aims and objectives of the organisation. Staff are happier.


With the right focus and policies which acknowledge the difference in involving volunteers (as opposed to staff) the volunteer experience is a good one. The volunteer is chosen and feels valued for having the right skills, knowledge & experience needed. They know who they are accountable to and understand their role and its place in the delivery of outputs and its contribution towards the wider aims and objectives.

Their role is understood and valued by staff throughout the organisation and their experience will enthuse others. They may also stay longer. But when it is time for them to move on they are more likely to consider what’s next on the volunteer journey.


A quality mark also empowers beneficiaries to make better choices and achieve better outcomes. It shows them a commitment to continuous improvement which will impact on services, support and customer experience. It gives them access to effective services and will give them a voice. An independent accreditation will give confidence they are in safe hands as the organisation is promoting an outward focus in being accountable and transparent.

Quality standards improve peoples’ lives.

NCVO commitment to quality

NCVO’s Quality Standards Unit can help you to make the right fit when it comes to quality assurance and from 21 January 2016 NCVO members are entitled to a 10% discount on four of our five standards. For more information see NCVO Quality Standards or email


Winning hearts and minds: using theory of change to demonstrate your impact

How can you use theory of change in your organisation? Join our Annual Conference workshop and discover what it can do for you.

Find out more about NCVO Annual Conference 2016


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John Carlin John is NCVO’s volunteer centre support manager. He is responsible for NCVO’s strategy for maximising the impact and sustainability of Volunteer Centres and other local organisations in England.

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