Friday, March 26, 2010

Should volunteers and paid staff be managed the same?

John Ramsey has a great blog on the AVM website this month.

My own thoughts on this subject?

I would say not exactly the same but certain skill sets, procedures and ways of doing things can be transferred to and from both HR and VM management. I think that over the years we have adapted some practices from HR such as how we do interviews, references, position descriptions, policies, risk management etc.

I do think that we have moved closer to HR in how we manage and rightly so. And we have done so mainly because of risk management and setting standards on how volunteers should be engaged.

There have been benefits to adopting HR practices. Probationary periods for volunteers. Program evaluations. Policy and procedure formulation. Task description design. Better orientation and training. Exit surveys.

All of the above I believe have helped us in giving our programmes more structure and managing risk for our agencies and organisations.

I am sure that there are those out there who will disagree wholeheartedly with that.

The other side may say that we have made volunteering too bureaucratic and that volunteering has lost its organic flavour. It may be argued that volunteering is a natural phenomenon that never has and never will need to be structured and shaped, that it is a spontaneous movement. That volunteers never asked to have position descriptions that they just want to get in there and get the job done because they want to help.

I believe that after borrowing some necessary methods of HR management we have moulded (or are moulding) volunteer management into a wonderful thing. We have combined some of their methodology with our understanding of volunteer motivations and our excellent knowledge of recognition and retention tools.

I think we might go full circle some day when HR managers come to us asking if paid staff should be managed similarly to volunteers because they believe we have got the right mix of HR and VM embedded into our leadership style.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps "Should paid staff be managed similarly to volunteers?" is a little easier to swallow than the other way around.

    I read an article in the Courier Mail (26 March 2010) "Grey cloud over the work environment" and it got me thinking. A simple "How are you going?" had a positive impact on an employee suffering depression. What impact is created by a daily thank you and a genuine appreciation for the time and effort donated by a volunteer? A huge impact many times over!!!

    Volunteer Managers like other line managers use recruitment, health and safety, risk management and other HR policies and procedures to ensure a safe and harmonious work environment for the people they manage. The difference is volunteer managers are constantly aware that volunteers are donating their time and effort for no monetary reward. The reward is in the volunteering and the satisfaction of a job well done. However this satisfaction is reinforced and volunteers feel valued when volunteer managers provide emotional support and show a genuine care and appreciation for the time and effort donated by the volunteer.

    There are so many incredible stories of people whose lives have changed because of volunteering - the social interaction with other volunteers and volunteer managers and the improved feelings of self worth through helping others have made positive impacts on these people's lives. In turn these same volunteers have provided a listening ear and compassion for people on the receiving end of their altruism.

    Volunteer managers may themselves be in danger of burnout because of the intense level of emotional support and encouragement that they constantly express to all of their volunteers in addition to all of the other line management responsibilities of budgets, business plans, meetings and reports.

    Volunteer managers and other line managers are not so different. Perhaps volunteer managers could share their specific skills with other line managers and maybe some of the grey clouds in the workplace could be lifted.


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