If you’ve noticed apathy, frustration or disengagement among your employee volunteers, congratulations!
It means you’re paying attention. (Also…rest assured that you’re not alone!)
If you can get curious about your volunteers’ negative emotions (instead of being annoyed, tempting though it may be), you have an opportunity to identify what’s not working about the experience – the first step in turning it around.
In a recent RealTalk webinar, we teed up this very real issue of employee volunteer boredom to Angela Parker, CEO of Realized Worth.
Here are Angela’s key takeaways and actionable tips:
1. Your employee volunteers are bored because the work doesn’t matter (and it if matters they don’t know why or how or to whom).
Even when the work does matter, employees can rarely articulate it.
Over the past 10 years, Realized Worth has conducted well over 1,000 interviews with employees at various companies to ask, “Why does it matter that your company has this volunteer program?”. Although employees can generally answer this question, their answers tend to be generic (and similar from company to company!) and not compelling enough to entice their colleagues who are not naturally inclined to volunteer to start volunteering with your company.
What to do about it:
Equip your employee volunteers to consider these elements of the experience:
The Who. Done correctly, employees should feel that the issues they’re working to address are their personal issues and belong to them as a community member and not the issue of an “other”.
The Why. Why does the actual volunteer activity matter to those individuals we’re trying to help? This takes some thought and practice but drawing a straight line between the work and the impact is essential to engage your employees.
Why Us? And finally, what’s the point of doing this as a group of employees? Why us? Why our company as opposed to another company? Who are we trying to be?
2. Your employee volunteers are bored because the value of the experience is limited to the timeframe of the event itself.
If the greatest impact of your volunteer events takes place within the timeframe of the event itself – social interaction with colleagues, a meaningful conversation with the non-profit organization, a sense of purpose, a good day out of the office – your employee volunteers will get bored.
Here’s the question you need to answer: what aspect of your volunteer events gave your employees something that they will feel compelled to share after the event is over?
And that’s the key: “Engagement” is measured by sharing.
What To Do About It
Help your employees shift their perspective beyond the task itself (easier said than done, right?). Two critical components of the Realized Worth Transformative Volunteer model are:
Challenge Assumptions (The Brief) Prior to the volunteer activity itself, help employees challenge their assumptions about who they’re serving or the issue they’re addressing.
Reflect And Make Sense (The Debrief) Upon conclusion of the event, help employees reflect upon their experience and make sense of how it aligned (or didn’t) with their expectations.
3. Your employee volunteers are bored because you’re not meeting them at their highest level of contribution.
If you’re familiar with Realized Worth, you know about our model called The Stages of the Volunteer Journey. Chris Jarvis developed this model prior to founding Realized Worth when he was working closely with volunteers from various non-profit organizations. No matter the cause, the organization, the demographic of volunteers – there was an undeniable pattern. Long-term, committed volunteers were burning out right and left while new, enthusiastic volunteers seemed all in and then either wouldn’t show up consistently or got freaked out after their first time and disappeared. And then there was this whole other group somewhere in the middle that seemed to need more time and attention than everyone else.
What To Do About It:
Use an empowered leadership model to meet people where they are. Early-stage volunteers need something entirely different than seasoned volunteer experts.
Equip volunteer leaders with shareable knowledge and actionable understanding This approach enables employees to rise to a whole new level of sophistication, freeing corporate citizenship teams to trust and rely on volunteer leaders to do genuine impact work with a leadership development mindset.
Provide the right tools, training, and support Your job is to identify, develop and equip volunteers and volunteer leaders with the tools they need to do their job at the highest level. And then get out of the way!
This summary only scratched the surface of the fantastic RealTalk discussion and all the nuance attendees contributed to the discussion.
Want to talk more specifically about why YOUR employee volunteers are bored (or what creating a transformative volunteer experience would entail for your company)? Let’s talk!
RealTalk, Realized Worth’s newest webinar series, is a forum for honest conversations about the challenges and opportunities we face in corporate volunteering and CSR. Every quarter, we’ll tackle tough topics, together. We can’t promise solutions, but we can promise to keep it real.