Top Ten Tips for...managing volunteers in the workplace

Top Ten Tips for...managing volunteers in the workplace

Volunteers' Week takes place in June every year and is a chance to celebrate and say thank you for the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK to businesses, organisations and charities.

If the recent events to celebrate volunteering in your workplace or community inspired you to develop volunteering opportunities, here are our Top Ten Tips for managing volunteers at work.

1. Think about a proper role description

Developing a volunteering role should be no different to creating a paid position. You need to think carefully about what key tasks you want the volunteer to undertake and how often. The role needs to be a good balance between what you need to achieve as an organisation or company and what will be fulfilling and interesting for the volunteer.  Remember, the volunteer role needs to be something which a paid employee wouldn’t do.

2. Engage with colleagues about volunteering opportunities

If you are unsure about what volunteering roles you could offer then your employees are the best place to start. They may have plenty of ideas about how volunteers can help to make a difference in their working environment and can help you develop the role description and specification. If they have had an active part in developing the role, your employees are more likely to be enthusiastic about welcoming a volunteer into their work space and to mentor them going forward.

Related: Top Ten Tips for engaging with your employees

3. Ensure you have a recruitment process in place

Recruiting volunteers doesn’t necessarily need to be as robust as for a paid employee but you do need to have a basic framework in place. This should include inspiring advertisements of the roles you have to offer, an interview process, reference checklist, a budget for DBS checks if necessary and a welcoming and informative induction process.

4. Organise a welcoming induction

Just like any new job, taking on a volunteering role can be daunting. Ensuring you have a comprehensive, informative and welcoming induction process in place is essential. You could invite your new volunteers to inductions at the same time as paid employees as this will emphasise the respect you have for them and the roles they are due to undertake.

5. Showcase the impact your volunteers have

‘Wanting to do good’ is the most common motivation to volunteer. In 2017/18, 46 per cent of people said they volunteer to improve things and to help others, according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. The best way to recruit and retain your volunteers is to show the positive impact they continue to have. Getting involved in national celebrations such as National Volunteers’ Week is just one way you could do this.

6. Celebrate and reward your volunteers

In 2017/18, 20.1 million people (38 per cent) in the UK volunteered formally at least once a year and 11.8 million people (22 per cent) did so at least once a month. The estimated annual value of volunteers helping UK volunteers is £22.6 billion. So volunteers really do help make the world go round! Making sure your volunteers are appreciated is incredibly important. You could do this in so many ways from sending them birthday and Christmas cards, hosting an awards ceremony, marking their volunteering anniversary and including them in any positive news stories about your organisation.

Related: Top Ten Tips for celebrating your achievements

7. Have regular catch ups

Just like regular employees - you need to invest time, effort and compassion into nurturing your volunteers. Regular one-to-ones are a useful way to do this. Remember, that people volunteer for many different reasons so it’s important to check that the role is still suitable for them and fits in with their home-life, other paid work and caring responsibilities.

8. Provide opportunities for volunteers to network

Volunteering in different teams or departments means that your volunteers may not see each other regularly, especially if their volunteering days or shifts are staggered. Being a volunteer is rewarding because it’s like being part of a community and the camaraderie and friendship is an important factor. You need to think about providing ways for your volunteers to meet up, whether it’s at group meetings or weekly coffee mornings, for example.

9. Offer development opportunities

People volunteer for many reasons. They may want to develop their skills and confidence, to make friends, to boost their employability, to give something back to a charity or organisation which means something to them or to keep active once they have retired. Just like regular employees, some might want to carry out the same regular duties but others may want to develop further or have more variety in what they do. Offering volunteers diverse roles and opportunities to learn will make the experience rewarding and fulfilling.

10. Mentor your volunteers

Taking on a new volunteering role can be exciting but also daunting for some so it’s important to make sure your new recruits feel confident. Some volunteers may be pushing the boundaries of what they are used to doing and learning completely new skills. A mentor or buddy to show them around the environment, introduce them to new people and to show them the ropes will make the process feel much friendlier.

For more information about developing volunteering in your workplace, please get in touch – we’d love to inspire you further.

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