Friday, March 11, 2011

Employee Engagement for Volunteers

Today’s blog subject is employee engagement. In search of a succinct definition I turned to Google.  The third return is from Wikipedia and the first thing they tell us is… “This article needs attention from an expert on the subject.”   So it would appear that even Wikipedia is searching for a great definition just like the rest of us in HR. While there is a lot being said and written about the subject, most of that is in the employer/employee realm.  

Let’s move into the volunteer realm, say for example a local SHRM chapter. For the old HR hand, the old joke is this; we pay them don’t we – there’s their motivation!  Well in this instance the answer is no.  So as a chapter leader (PTA, Boy Scouts, Church club – you pick the organization) leader how do you engage your staff, when money is not one of the tools in your tool box.  Now it gets more difficult.

Hopefully your volunteer joined the organization because they wanted be a part of the group – not because their boss/spouse/co-worker goaded them into joining. They may have a special connection to the group, or their motivation may be somewhat obscured.
But in the long run, the volunteer is not all that different than the employee who needs all of the things that a good employer would be sharing with their top employees.

So to get the most out of your volunteers here are some, oh so simple but effective concepts …

  • Treat them like paid staff
  • Make them feel appreciated
  • Share the organization’s mission and goals with them
  • Get to know them
  • Be passionate
  • Be organized – don’t waste their time (remember we’re not paying them)
  • Make sure their efforts are not taken for granted
  • Celebrate their successes

This won’t guarantee a successful volunteer but it will help. Just because they are not being paid doesn’t mean that they don’t want to be treated respectfully.

- Dave Ryan Director of Social Media ISC- SHRM