Whether your organization has 100’s of volunteers or only a few, onboarding can feel like a daunting task. However, getting volunteers up and running can make the difference in success for your animals. In this article we will talk about the 5 keys to a successful onboarding program.
Keys to a successful onboarding program
- Only need-to-know info – The 2 most common issues we see with onboarding programs is not enough information and too much information provided to volunteers at the time of onboarding. It’s important to remember that many volunteers are coming on with minimal to no understanding of the industry so we have to meet them where they are. Here are some steps to creating just the right amount of content:
1. Write down all of the daily required tasks for the role
2. Write down the required tasks for the first day
3. Write down people they may need to speak to and what their roles are
Once you have these outlined, go over the list again and remove any tasks that are conditional (only happen during certain times of the year, not common, etc). These can be covered at a later time. A good rule to keep in mind is volunteer positions should never have more than 5 primary tasks.
- Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. – While you most likely know your policies like the back of your hand, remember that new volunteers do not have the same context. Onboarding will always have a lot of information so it’s important to make sure you to present the information more than once and in more than one way. If you have an in-person or zoom onboarding, make sure to send everyone home with a packet covering most or all of the content you went over during the presentation. It may feel like duplicated effort but providing the info in multiple ways ahead of time will cut down on follow-up questions.
- Opportunity for questions – No matter how in-depth you go during your on-boarding, there will always be questions. And that’s okay! Questions mean you have an engaged group. Make sure there is an opportunity for questions at the time of on-boarding and after.
- Single point of contact – No matter how large your organization is, every volunteer should only report to a single person. This may be a volunteer coordinator or a shift supervisor. Regardless, make sure your volunteers know who to direct all questions to from the very beginning.
- Action items for next steps – Volunteers are the most enthusiastic when they are first getting started. To keep volunteers engaged and avoid losing volunteers after onboarding, make sure they have clear next steps. This could be to sign up for a shift or to get a certification. Make sure there is a timeline to complete the next step and always follow up.