Investing in Training for Volunteer Retention September 6th, 2012
written by Banu Raghuraman
As the current Co-Director of Training and Development, having worked with Endeavour twice as a consultant and with her background in adult teaching and training, Leah was the perfect candidate to address questions on the connection between training provided by Endeavour and volunteer retention.
What do you think is the relationship between training and development and volunteer retention? Has training made an impact on the level of volunteer retention at Endeavour?
I can answer this question from two perspectives. Having been a consultant myself, training did make a difference in helping me make a decision regarding staying or leaving and even returning. And as the person working to set up training opportunities, I feel good training will lead to better retention. Ideally, training should equip the consultant to work on their respective projects. It should be relevant and valuable to them and allow them to make a positive contribution. We have to ensure that the volunteers have the tools to do the work and that we are not throwing them into a difficult situation and asking them to find the resources themselves. Every time we set up a session, we have some kind of interaction, so that volunteers can discuss various attributes in their projects. This gives them an opportunity to exchange thoughts and ideas to challenges.
Training also contributes to the value of the volunteer’s experience. Although it is not tangible to measure, it is a service, where they are able to touch base with the industry experts and have access to professionals, which enhances their experience at Endeavour.
Since training is key to adequately preparing volunteers and linked to volunteer retention, how do you design the Endeavour training sessions?
- Volunteer feedback:
Our main source of information is from our volunteers – their feedback! We solicit feedback from volunteers at various stages, such as midterm and end of the round. Based on the feedback we receive from the previous rounds, we attempt to incorporate improvements into the training for our next rounds.
We want to continually improve the Endeavour experience – this includes training to volunteers as well as the social aspect of the experience. We want to figure out what people want and are expecting.
- Engagement Manager (EM) training:
EMs are usually the first ones trained. During their training, we leverage their expertise to facilitate the feedback channelled back to us on volunteer training. We encourage them to ask questions on what the volunteers on their team would like to see improved and so on.
- Project profile:
We also look into the kinds of projects we receive for that round. For example, in the last round, all the projects dealt with strategic planning. We picked specific themes, outcomes, and priorities related to aspects of strategic planning. Our training for that round focused on that particular theme. We also focused on the difference between strategic planning and operational planning.
- Mode of training:
The overall experience is also altered by the mode or format of training. Some volunteers liked the lecture style presentations from our advisors but some preferred group discussions and a more hands-on approach. By using both formats, we leveraged the knowledge from our advisors while still encouraging interaction within the group.
The group interaction is an example where people learn from one another. This is informal training, whereby volunteers learn from the diverse background of other volunteers and leverage each other’s skills.