Staff and volunteers are working together closely on a new project, Volunteer Talent Support, which aims to improve how IET volunteers are recruited, trained, supported, communicated with and recognised.
Volunteers are at the heart of the IET and are the people that make much of what we offer possible. With this in mind a volunteer talent support programme has been developed, which sees IET staff and volunteers coming together to make sure that volunteers are fully informed and supported in their work, are recognised for their contributions and understand their value to the organisation.
“We need to work more flexibly and put real thought into our volunteering strategy,” notes Sandra Godman, Programme Manager – Global Agenda and Talent Management at the IET.
“[At the IET] there are some really great areas of good practice where we see staff working exceptionally well with volunteers and have built strong relationships – Registration and Standards is one such area. But then there are areas where the approach has been more ad hoc. We're looking to make sure that volunteers receive a consistent experience and bring all the good aspects together in a conscious effort to improve how we work with volunteers,” she explains.
The project began in spring 2012 and is set to continue into 2014 by which time a volunteering ‘hub’ will be set up for the work to be driven forward. It is being overseen by the Volunteer Talent Support Working Party, which is a joint group of staff and volunteers working together to steer the project’s direction.
“The one team approach is really underpinning a lot of our work,” says Sandra. “We have six volunteers representing different areas of volunteering, from trustees, younger members of the Council, local networks, registration… all the major areas covered. Then there’s an equal number of staff representing these areas and we all sit down together and work out the issues between us.”
The first six months were spent gathering all the threads, working out what needed to be done, what could and couldn’t be changed and then focusing the scope. This went before the Board of Trustees in October with the hard work really beginning in early 2013. The first job was for the working party to survey the volunteers and go through their feedback. From there the party was able to get to grips with where the issues lay, and inform prioritisation of an action plan.
First up was improving communication, and the party is currently working on developing the volunteer web area and a clearer email communication channel. Many other avenues are also being worked on and short and long-term plans have been developed.
Other areas that the party is focusing on include pipelines for talent, improved inductions – a new workshop and handbook is being developed for new volunteers – and also training.
A pilot training programme has been created for staff, but the team believes that much of the training would also be useful to volunteers and is looking into making the relevant content accessible to them too.
“That’s team working,” says Sandra. “Whatever we do we want to make it accessible to both staff and volunteers. Everyone should have the same, because we're on the same team. This is really about making sure everyone has access to the same information and has the same understanding and expectations – that way we all have clarity,” she notes.
“If everyone is pulling in the same direction then it’s going to be easier for us all and there are plenty of examples that prove how effective we can be,” she continues.
“It’s about making sure we work together to become more efficient. It’s recognising that when you work as a team you get a lot more out of it. It’s also about making it a happier place for everyone as well. We don’t want people to become frustrated, we want them to really enjoy doing something worthwhile and to walk away with a good feeling about it. This will only happen if we all work together effectively.”
Looking forward, the party aims to create an improved way of working that will continue when the project comes to its end, and will evolve as needed in future.
“Life is all about continuous improvement these days,” says Sandra. “We’re going to have to keep updating what we do - you can’t just set up a website or training programme and be done, this will need to be a responsibility to the future.
“We’re very lucky in that we have an incredibly loyal membership, but we should never take our volunteers for granted. There’s no way we could do what we do now without the support of volunteers. So we have a long-term commitment to them. We will be working hard to keep making volunteering accessible and enjoyable for all involved,” she concludes.