Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Gas to Go

This time out we're featuring a guest post from colleague Martin J Cowling, CEO of People First -Total Solutions.  Martin and Rob will be training together in the UK later this year.

Walking through a local park  yesterday, I passed a group of guys engaged in football training (Aussie Rules of course!). Calling out instructions, encouragements and ribbings, they were focussed on improving their skills, coordination and success. To do this, they were giving up their spare time to stand on a cold night on an outside oval.

I think its universally agreed and understood that to be top of any sporting field, we need to practice and train. When it comes to volunteering there seems to be two sets of extremes when it comes to training volunteers for a task.

In the first scenario, the volunteers are given no training, they are just propelled into a task. Or the volunteers themselves resist any training citing “they have been doing it for years” or “'you can’t teach an old dog new tricks". 

In our research at People First - Total Solutions, we have found 43% of volunteers have received no initial training to do the job and we've seen it all.  For example: the person who turns up to their first ever Annual General Meeting of a club, scout troop or sporting group and finds they are elected, co opted, or nominated as Club treasurer. At the end of the meeting,  the existing treasurer gives them a pile of boxes and papers and says “good luck”. That new treasurer spends six months working out how to do the job and then gets berated at a committee meeting for forgetting something they knew nothing about.

In contrast, the second scenario insists every volunteer has to undergo weeks or months of training. We tend to recruit people with a whole bunch of different skills and then train them all together in the same way at the same time. A waste of time for some and life changing for others. Those who get frustrated may choose to discontinue and not recommend your programme to others. 

In my trainings I talk about one group which required volunteers to take a 12 month course to work in a tourist information centre! Other groups made retired school teachers attend weeks of training on teaching skills before they can teach English or insisted social workers volunteering to be phone counsellors do courses on basic counselling techniques. One civil defence group I know of put a doctor through their first aid course before he could volunteer for the group!

Somewhere between these two extremes is a happy medium. I have yet to find a sufficient number of volunteer groups who have found it yet.

There are three sets of skills and trainings, we want to consider for volunteers.

1 - General Skills and knowledge
These are what you want every volunteer to have before they start volunteering. These include understanding the mission and direction of the organisation, fundamental information for working there and emergency procedures. If necessary, these can be distilled down to 15 minutes. There is no excuse for not having something in place!

2 - Applied Skills
These are the skills people need to do a particular role. If they already have them in their workplace or background we don't need to train people again. If they are missing something or you change something, then give them that specific applied training.

3 - Specialised skills
Some volunteer roles indeed require very specialised skills. Rather than train in them, we need to find people who already possess those skills up front.

Breaking down your role skills into GAS: General, Applied  and Specialised will give you the fuel you need to make your volunteer programme succeed through relevant training.

Martin J Cowling, 
Tel -  020 8133 7991 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Rob for publishing my post. Love to see comments on it from readers.