Volunteer managers sometimes ask what they can do about volunteers who are keen, but don’t always do what is needed, or do it in the wrong way. It can feel awkward to correct behaviours, and especially if the situation has been going on for a while.

Volunteers are giving their time, energy and experience, and we know how important it is to recognise this and treat them with respect. However volunteers must be involved in ways that meet, rather than compromise, organisational and service user needs

So what are the things that we can do to support and enthuse volunteers to meet and exceed the standards we expect?  Here are some useful ideas, adapted from the work of Roderic Gray* . Gray identified various key drivers of workplace behaviour and performance; the things that make people tick. Five of his key checkpoints can help us to establish and maintain standards with our volunteers. Ideally volunteers will be able to say “yes” to each statement.

What are you doing to enable your volunteers to agree with the following?

1.    I know what I am expected to do (clear role, responsibilities, standards and expectations)

For example, how clear are your written role descriptions? How are expected standards of behaviour conveyed as part of induction and initial training? Do volunteers experience staff respecting the boundaries of their roles? Do they see staff modelling the expected standards of behaviour? If a volunteer is struggling to meet expectations, do you give feedback, training and support? Do you make it clear to everyone, what is and is not negotiable?

2.    I want to do it (motivation, commitment and interest)

For example, do you have processes to match volunteers to roles, when they join your organisation? Do you keep abreast of the volunteers’ levels of motivation and interest, through structured but informal reviews? Do you help the volunteer to see how their contribution is making a difference?

3.    I have the ability to do it (necessary skills, knowledge and understanding)

For example, have you done a thorough analysis of the knowledge and skills required to carry out each volunteer role? Do you expect to recruit people with the relevant skills? Or more likely, do you provide initial and ongoing training? Do you provide links to helpful resources and websites? Do you offer group problem-solving sessions, to deepen your volunteers’ understanding of client needs?

4.    Someone (who matters) will notice if I do it (I get feedback)

For example, do you expect a volunteer supervisor to give concrete and specific feedback on what the volunteer does well? What sort of feedback do you expect from management and trustees? Do you provide any high profile recognition to individual volunteers?

5.    Processes and resources help me to do it

For example, do volunteers have the training and equipment they need? Is your system for claiming expenses straightforward and accessible? How do volunteers contribute their ideas to organisational thinking? Do staff understand and follow processes for including and valuing volunteers?

How people work, Gray, 2004

What do you do to help your volunteers achieve high standards?  Please share your views below…

What do you think?

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