Managing Volunteers

Management has changed over the years.  Today, every talented employee is self-employed.  They can move easily to another job.  Management skill requires that they be treated as volunteers.

A volunteer chooses to use their time, talent and resources to further the aims of an enterprise.  Their expectation is that in furthering the aims of the enterprise they achieve their own goals.  When that confluence of goals appears not possible they move on.  Like nomads.  When the game is exhausted in one place, they move to another.

There is a good deal of material dealing with the management of people with unique or highly developed skills.  All of it resolves itself to determining what the employee is trying to achieve in the job and then find ways to give it, consistent with overall corporate goals.

  • Why have group insurance?  So employees need not worry about medical catastrophes.
  • Why does Google have exceptional things on their campus?  Recreation, food, and more.  Because it pays them to do so if even just a few talented people stay.
  • Why lead instead of command?  Because talented people want to make an impact and do it their own way.  Freedom is a powerful motivator.
  • Why provide ongoing education?  Talented people have learned that they never reach the end of the knowledge road.

Management today involves the motivation and growth of very talented people who know when they are working in the wrong environment.  Better to not provide incentives to leave.

All easy right?  What about customers and clients?  They are even more into volunteering than employees.  Ask the simple questions?

  1. What is it that you get here that you find especially valuable?
  2. What would you like to get that we do not yet provide?
  3. What do we do that you find not useful for you?
  4. How would you like our communication system to change?

And, of course, the truly hard question, if you knew the answers to those questions, could you change the customer experience?  Would you?

If you treat everyone as if they were a volunteer instead of someone over whom you have some control, life gets easier.  Maybe they can recommend some other volunteers for you.

Think it through.  What do you have to do to make people want to be your client?


Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

One Comment on “Managing Volunteers

  1. Pingback: Numbers Mislead | moneyFYI

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