An analysis of the motivation of volunteer members in the auxiliary medical service in Hong Kong

by Ho, Kam-tim

Abstract (Summary)

Focus of study

Keeping a force of volunteers is of substantial importance to a voluntary organization, particularly through their efforts, all the activities are carried out by them.

Over the years, the Auxiliary Medical Service (AMS) has continuously been facing the problem of high dropout rate. In 1996, the LLA Pacific Limited Consultancy Project Report (LLA Pacific Limited, 1996) recommended the AMS to provide additional training courses which were believed to be able to reduce the turnover rate of volunteers. Since then, the AMS has put forward a series of driver training programmes with a view to retaining the members. Although a good deal of them has been implemented in the past seven years, the situation has yet been improved and the same drain of human resources continued.

There is a thinking that the main motive of people joining a voluntary organization is to serve the community. There are also many academic researches to emphasis that joining a volunteer organization is for different purposes. Unless we can trace their main motives of joining a volunteer organization, we cannot improve the situation. For seven years have lapsed, the number ofturnover rate has not been brought under control. For example, over the last three years, the dropout rates are 667, 560 and 550 in 2000101, 2001/02 and 2002/03, out ofthe strength of 4420, 4068, and 4040 respectively.


The tremors of the reversion of sovereignty of Hong Kong to the Peoples' Republic of China and the recent upsurge of financial turmoil in Hong Kong are still haunting in the minds of the people of Hong Kong. The high unemployment rate in principle ought to improve the situation, as the volunteers can get the pay and allowances if they attend training or performing duties (Auxiliary Forces Pay and Allowances Ordinance, Cap. 254) (AFPAO), but the fact is not the case. What are the culprits of causing such situation? In truth, an effective retention of them requires a clear understanding of the AMS volunteers' aims of joining the Service, or why they decided to discontinue the vo lunteer work after a period of years of services. It is expected that the rea<;ons for their resignation may be due to various causes, such as, their motive to join the AMS is not realised, job satisfaction cannot be achieved, the pay and allowances are not attractive etc. In the face of an average annual volunteer turnover rate of 12% of the strength and the high cost of training new AMS members (each member costs $8,385 for the initial recruitment training and expenses), the organization generally has little ideas of their reasons of leaving.

Having the above mentioned perplexities, coupled with the constant environmental changes being imposed on the organization, this study will look into the following points nowadays:

a) To analyse volunteers' socioeconomic status, interpersonal networks and demographic characteristic of members;

b) To understand the "reasons" of members why they join the


Auxiliary Medical Service;

c) To understand members' components of satisfaction and dissatisfaction of volunteer members;

d) To identity members' satisfaction level of the existing training and their implications on the motivation ofthe volunteers;

e) To give recommendations of improving the situation.

Conceptual Overview

During the last century, definitions of vo lunteerism have changed as often as the social problems with which volunteers have chosen to grapple. At one point voluntecrism was explained as action that stemmed from emotional commitment rather than from rational considerations of choice. Dewey (1916) views volunteerism as an expression of commitment to pragmatic concerns. At still other times, conceptions of volunteer action were shaped by the image of missionary service, which was motivated by a blend of dedication to a church and compassion for "unbelievers" (Ilsley, 1990). Modern theorists also differ in their conception of volunteerism. Karl (1984) believes that the word 'volunteer' belongs to a class of terms that can be best defined by contrast with an opposite term, as 'good' can be defIned by contrast with 'bad'. He surmises that for centuries volunteerism is considered opposite to religious doctrine and, later, to enforce military service. Other modern theorists have had other views of volunteer ism. Schattschneider (1984) describes volunteer work in terms of the pioneer "barn-raising" ethic, in which people give time and service in response to a known individual or community need. Popular literature denotes volunteering


as neighbourly, selfless commitment to the good of society (Bellah, 1985).

Volunteering has long existed in our society. Volunteers are strong driving forces to development of social services. Therefore, in a modern society, voluntary service is an alternative way to provide service to the community when the regular service cannot meet the demand of the society. Alternatively, the government may make use of volunteerism as a way to encourage people to contribute their valuable efforts to the community without incurring much expense. Volunteerism can play dual roles: on one hand, it can. provide opportunity for those who are under-privileged to serve the others, thus providing a chance for them to integrate to the society; and on the other hand, provide a mutual assistance mechanism, that today I help you, perhaps tomorrow you may help me. Promoting the citizenship and community involvement, volunteer organizations can therefore play an important role in the effective use of human resources in a society.

Having the volunteerism in mind, this study will first defme the definition of motivation. Understanding the concept can enable this study to confme its boundary of research. As this study pays much attachment to the volunteers. The factors of social-economic status, interpersonal networks and demographic characteristic of volunteers are looked into, for they can provide a better understanding of an individual who volunteers. Moreover, the investigation of the altruism can also give some hints on the reasons why they volunteer. The study will take the from-general-to-specific approach. The two main categories of theories of motivation, namely, the extrinsic based rewards and the intrinsic


based rewards wi II firstly be reviewed, for they are the core and fundamental to the lmderstanding of the concept of motivation. Lastly, the effect of training on vo lunteers will be examined.


Cotton & 'I'uttle (1986) & Bluedorn (1982) conducted many studies of the causes of employee turnovers, most of them were on the formal 'workers'. But there is only a small percentage of study focused on volunteers. Additionally, it is conceivable that ditlerent motivational factors on volunteers may change over time and it is important to investigate into the root of the motivation problem. Hence, this study is undertaken to promote the body of research by assessing motivation in the aspect of expectations of the volunteers of the AMS, their needs, or motive their demographic and social characteristics.

For the avoidance of doubt, it is necessary to outline the bounds of the present study. Lee Jack-pui (1994) puts it in the following ways: "Volunteer "Anyone who chooses to act in recognition of others' need out of social responsibility without a regard to material award." The traditional defmition of volunteer especially outlined by Lee Jack-pui is not applicable to the AMS. The peculiarities of the AMS are that AMS is one of the government departments of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region under the Auxiliary Medical Service Ordinance (AMSO) and AMS members are awarded with pay and allowances when they have attended training or performed duties under the AFPAO.


I-laving such peculiarities, this study's target is confmed to the volunteer members of the AMS and to survey their motivation. Target population for soliciting their views is confined to the active members. The survey does not include those ex-members who have resigned or retired form the Service. The study is making use of minutes of meetings, government reports, official papers, past publications and papers, and other primary sources. Moreover, interviews of volunteers, distribution of questionnaires to the following grades of the AMS will be included:

a) Member (i.e. Auxiliary Dresser I Auxiliary Nurse II),

b) Non-commissioned Officer (i.e. Auxiliary Dresser I I Auxiliary

Nurse I or Senior Auxiliary Dresser I Senior Auxiliary Nurse),

c) Junior Officer (i.e. Assistant Supervisor / Supervisor),

d) Senior Officer (i.e. Divisional Officer !District Commander

Assistant Divisional Officer / Assistant District Commander),

e) Commanding Officer (i.e. Assistant Branch Commander and


This survey does not include those officers whose ranks are from Assistant Commissioner to Commissioner, because they belong to the most senior level. Their job nature is mainly related to the policymaking, decision making and strategy formulation. These are not comparable to the other junior officers. These posts being 9 in 2003, it is only 0.2 % ofthe establishment. Its effect is negligible and will not affect the reliability of the survey. Civilian staff and the


other fitll-time departmental permanent staff are also excluded, as they are not the vollmteers of the study.

In order to gain access to information, the author had obtained permission from the Chief Staff Officer (Head of the department of the permanent staff) to conduct the study in May 2003 (Appendix A).

Even though the interviewees will be asked the same questions of the questionnaire, there are multiple purposes to include interview in the survey. First, it can be an assurance to obtain adequate responses to complete the questionnaire, as there is no guarantee to know how many questionnaires will be responded and how many questions they will answer. Secondly, different responses can be obtained which are not outlined in the questionnaire. Thirdly, interview can enable the interviewees to express freely and more information can be 0 btained.

The main source of information is mainly from the questionnaire. The questionnaire is designed to solicit information from the members. Although the majority of the volunteers are Chinese, it is decided to have the questionnaire in bilingual, the English version is catered for expatriate members and the Chinese version for the Chinese members. It is believed the misunderstandings and language barrier can be minmised.

For the purpose of having a systematic approach, the questionnaire . is divided into three sections. The first section is designed to obtain demographic,


social social-economic status, interpersonal relationship details of the respondents; these are sex, age, lengths of service, education, occupation, marital status, rank and factors influencing a member's joining the AMS. Specifically, respondents will be also asked to indicate their job nature other than the AMS. They will be asked whether they are medical professions; whether they are administrators of private or public sector; their social relationship with the other members. These are made in a bid to investigating whether there are any connections between their individual personal characteristics and the staying or jo ining the AMS.

Since job satisfaction is considered to have relation with absenteeism and turnover, section II tries to investigate the respondents' aims of joining the AMS; their feelings of job satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the activities of the AMS. They will be asked of three questions relating to expectations of joining the AMS, whether their expectations have been achieved. A series of questions are set through the Hersberg (1959), Adam's Equity (1965) and Maslow's (1987) theories to solicit their thinking. As there may be other reasons to join the AMS, respondents will be allowed to have at most three choice among five choices and if these do not cover the respondents' choice, they may specify- them in the 'others' column. Due to the nature of the information solicited, some questions are designed to ask the respondents to select one choice. Through these questions it is hoped that some insights can be gained of the motivation.

In section III, it focuses on the issue of training, asking their feelings of training, their needs and their satisfaction on training. Again, the respondents


will be asked to rate each statement using the I-choice format.

As the questionnaire cannot comprehensively cover all the background scenario of all the respondents, they will be allowed to make their own comments. As such more in-dept information can be obtained.

Interviews and distribution of questionnaires were made on 25 May 2003 and 1 June 2003 in two meetings in which 309 and 206 members attended respectively. Of all the 515 questionnaires issued, 246 and 162, making a total of 408, were returned on 25 May 2003 and I June 2003 respectively. The response rate is 79.2 %. The response rate is considered quite high.

At the same time, in the morning on the same days, as other activities were conducted in the same building, interviews were conducted. There were altogether 10 members (5 on each day) interviewed. The interviewees were asked the same questions as listed in the questionnaire. Hence, these 10 questionnaires were pooled into the questionnaires issued in the gathering. Therefore, the total number of returned questionnaires is 418.

Structure of the Dissertation

This study is divided into 5 chapters and the flow is briefly as following:

In Chapter two, this study will review the major theoretical aspect of motivation. It will take the from-general-to-specific approach. It includes the


two mam categories of theories of motivation, namely, the extrinsic based rewards and the intrinsic based rewards. These two will firstly be reviewed. Then, the concept of altruism will be discussed, the factors of social-economic status, interpersonal networks and demographic characteristic of volunteers will be studied. Lastly, the eftect oftraining on them will be examined.

In Chapter three, It will contain the AMS's historical development, background information, the roles and responsibilities of the organisation. It describes the detailed works ofthe volunteers, the turnover of membership ofthe organisation, the types of training and the costs of the turnover.

[n Chapter [()Ur, the findings and analysis of the survey will be delineated; the social-economic, interpersonal networks and demographic data will be tabled and analysed. Attempts to relate the motivation concept to the AMS members' feelings will be made. The research is designed mainly in the form of survey and document research of the AMS. The collection of data and analysis data will be explained. It is hoped that some insight of the degree of satisfaction of the members with their jo bs will be taken and therein some information can be collected to improve the degree of satisfaction.

In Chapter five, conclusions of the findings, and recommendations based on the findings are outlined to conclude the study.


Bibliographical Information:


School:The University of Hong Kong

School Location:China - Hong Kong SAR

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:hong kong china auxiliary medical service allied health personnel psychology volunteers


Date of Publication:01/01/2003

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