Induction & Training for Volunteers

Induction and training for volunteers form parts of the same process, the purpose of which is to ensure that volunteers are able to carry out their volunteering role as effectively as possible.

Induction aims to introduce new volunteers to the organisation and their role in it. This consists of three main parts:

This forms part of the recruitment process, and will consist of any information about the organisation and the role that you send the volunteer before they start with you. For example:
Leaflet/ Information about the work of the organisation
Volunteer role description
Contact details and directions and/or map of how to get there

Organisational induction
Explaining what the organisations goals are, and how it goes about achieving them, and helping the volunteers understand where they fit within the organisation as a whole.
You might include:
Background/history of the organisation
Mission statement
Services provided and client groups
Organisation chart
Talks from paid staff and established volunteers about their roles in relation to volunteers and the organisation as a whole

Local induction
Ensuring that volunteers have a clear understanding of their role and how they will carry it out, as well as site-specific information and guidance on support and supervision mechanisms.
Health and safety issues e.g. H&S policy, first aid procedures, accident reporting, policy on smoking, emergency exits and evacuation procedures.
Financial issues e.g. how to claim expenses (and what can be claimed) Volunteer agreement (what the volunteer can expect from the organisation, and vice versa)
Arrangements for support and supervision, including if appropriate allocating a key member of staff, mentor or buddy
Problem-solving procedures (discipline/grievance/complaints)
Training programme/training needs identification process
Relevant policies e.g. confidentiality, data protection, phone/internet use
Responsibility for induction sometimes lies within the HR function of a larger organisation, but in a smaller one it might all fall within the remit of the volunteer manager. It’s a good idea to try to involve other members of staff or volunteers, if you can, to help deliver specific parts of the process where they have special expertise or interest.

Group or Individual induction
The way you go through the induction process will depend on a number of factors, including the number of volunteers you have starting at the same time and the amount of space you have for group activities. Group induction can take less time overall, and allows for discussions to take place where appropriate. It can also enable volunteers to start to build relationships and provide a support system for each other. On the other hand, if you only have volunteers starting from time to time, it might put them off if they have to wait a while for enough others to join and form a group, so it could be as well to start people one at a time. Some things might be covered more effectively in a group context, such as confidentiality for example, and you may choose to wait and deal with that as part of a specific training session when you have more people to contribute to the discussion.

How much information do I include?
It’s important to pace yourself. Don’t overwhelm new volunteers with masses of detail on their first day. At the same time, you need to make sure that what they need to know is covered. Just remember that it doesn’t all have to happen on the first day. It’s a good idea, though, to keep a checklist so that you and the volunteers can keep track of what has been covered and what hasn’t. Some organisations use online self-access packages for volunteers to work through at their own pace; an alternative version of this might be using the induction checklist to direct volunteers to various sources of information such as written policies, particular members of staff or online resources such as the organisations website. How you get the information across is up to you the important thing is that you make sure that it happens.

The training your volunteers receive will depend entirely on the kind of work they will be doing, and on the numbers of volunteers you need to train at any one time. Initial training may be required to enable the volunteer to carry out their role effectively, and depending on the role may take hours, days or weeks to complete. Ongoing or refresher training may also be required to keep volunteers skills fresh, or to enable them to develop within the organisation and to take on further tasks.
When developing a training policy you will need to decide what will best meet your organisational requirements, bearing in mind the resources you have at your disposal.

Sitting with Nelly
The most common way of training volunteers and probably the most economical is on the job training. This is most appropriate if you only take on one volunteer at a time, and the work they will be doing is relatively straightforward. A member of staff, or another volunteer, will show the volunteer how to do a task and then supervise them as they do it. This method is effective as long as the person doing the training takes care to make sure the new volunteer really understands what they are meant to be doing, and the volunteer feels able to ask questions without feeling stupid. It’s also a good idea to have some written notes for the volunteer to refer back to, if they aren’t sure of something.

External trainers
A second method is to send volunteers on a training course with a trainer from outside the organisation. This can work either with groups or individual volunteers, as you can either send one or two people on a public open course, or book the trainer to do the course purely for your organisation. This can be an expensive way to buy training, but it’s worth it if your volunteers need to learn some more complex skills. You can also make it more economical, if you are buying the training in, by letting other local organisations participate, and sharing the cost that way.
To identify appropriate courses or training providers, you will need to do some research in your area. Your local Volunteer Centre may run courses, or have knowledge about other providers in the area. Local further education colleges or adult education centres may offer suitable training opportunities, and are often happy to negotiate specific provision if you have enough participants to make it worth their while. Sometimes they can tap into special funding streams that will help keep your costs low, if your volunteers come from particular groups such as unemployed people, young people or people for whom English is a second language. Private training providers are usually more expensive, but for specialist courses they can be worth it. Ask around, make use of local networks and forums to find out what other organisations are doing you might find that someone else is keen to run something similar, and running something jointly could be more cost-effective.

In-house training
Another method of delivering training is to develop an in-house programme. This works best if you can take on volunteers in groups and you need to train them in fairly complex tasks or ideas.
Organisations whose volunteers give legal advice, for example, usually have to devise a fairly rigorous in-house training programme that volunteers need to complete before being able to work with members of the public.

Similarly, where volunteers are working with vulnerable people there will be a need for some fairly in-depth training around areas such as setting boundaries, protection of children or vulnerable adults and confidentiality. These issues are best dealt with in-house so that the examples and case studies used in the training will be relevant and realistic, and so that volunteers concerns will be addressed by people who know the way the organisation works, in-depth. There are lots of good training the trainer courses out there, too, to enable the people delivering the training to keep up to date on current thinking about learning styles and training techniques.

However you decide to address your volunteers training needs, the key is to make sure that it is designed around their roles. Current volunteers can be extremely useful in helping identify the elements in which they feel some formal training would be useful, and they will be able to feed in examples of situations that could form interesting case studies for discussion. Experienced volunteers might even find it interesting to deliver, or at least co-deliver, elements of a training programme for new volunteers.

Supporting and training volunteers
In order to identify the organisation’s volunteer strengths and weaknesses it is important to speak to your members and your volunteers:
Do they feel well supported?
Do your volunteers feel valued?
Are they overworked?
Do they have too much responsibility?
Would they like to become more involved?
Are they offered any/ suitable training?

Use the feedback constructively and be receptive to the ideas volunteers may have for improvements. Support is fundamental to retaining your club’s volunteers and ensuring that they remain interested and motivated.

There are many simple ways to support your volunteers:
Be approachable, open and honest
Have a named person available who the volunteer knows they can go to with any problems or queries
Find out what the volunteer wants from the club
Ensure good communications
Recruit many volunteers to spread the workload
Provide opportunities for fun and socialising
Provide feedback and review training and support needs
Recognise other commitments, families, jobs etc
Make all volunteers feel part of the team
Recognise concerns and discuss ways to get around problem areas

What is ‘Induction’?
As with paid staff, induction is an important stage in the recruitment process for volunteers. On a basic level, induction acts as an introduction and welcome to the organisation for the prospective volunteer and can give them a “taste of what’s on offer”. Induction gives organisations an opportunity to provide volunteers with further details and information needed to do the job. This may also involve explaining to volunteers the policies and practices of the organisation, clarifying any queries or potential problems, setting ‘boundaries’ or ‘ground rules’ and encouraging them to work to a set of principles – the ethos of the organisation.
Induction varies greatly from organisation to organisation. In some instances the point at which a volunteer makes initial contact with an organisation may also act as their induction, this, however, is not particularly good practice as there is little time spent on covering the wide variety of issues relating to voluntary work. So, although induction may begin at the first point of contact, this ideally is only the start of a longer process, in which volunteer and organisation get to know each other better and one that can involve training sessions, interviews etc. As noted above, this process will vary considerably depending on the nature, work, resources and/or ethos of organisations, so the remainder of this information sheet focuses on not how long induction should be but what areas should be covered. Finally, it could also be added that effective induction will give volunteers more confidence, especially in the early stages of their work, and demonstrates that the organisation values the involvement and work of a volunteer.

What should an induction session cover?
Induction can take place with volunteers on a group basis or individually. The latter, arguably, enables worker and volunteer to get to know each other a little better, however, the group situation provides an opportunity for volunteers to meet others doing similar work. Whichever, the organisation should ideally cover the following areas in their induction: –

The Organisation:

  • Organisations ‘mission statement’
  • Aims and objectives
  • Organisations history and role
  • Ways of working
  • Ethos
  • Details on client/user group
  • Staff structure; who makes what decisions and where
  • Roles of paid staff / management committee
  • Roles of volunteers including those new to the work and those more experienced
  • Roles of others who may be involved e.g. social workers, carers, CPNs, etc.
  • ‘Boundaries’ of the volunteer’s own role(s), including to whom they are accountable
  • Working environment of volunteers e.g. the building, whether they will be working alone or in a team etc.
  • Support available for volunteers e.g. who from, in what form, frequency etc.
  • Details of ‘specific’ support e.g. supervision, mentoring etc.
  • Details of social gatherings and/or special events

Policies, Procedures and Practicalities:

  • Information on relevant and/or specific policies and procedures within the organisation
  • Copy of the Equal Opportunities policy
  • Accessibility of the building and disabled facilities
  • Special conditions e.g. no bereavement over the past two years for volunteer bereavement counsellors
  • Information on who to contact in an emergency, phone etc. and how to go about it
  • Health and safety procedures / first aid / fire drill/ panic alarms / other precautions and procedures
  • Information on how and when to claim expenses, what can be claimed and issues relating to benefits
  • Information and details on insurance cover
  • Details of where things are kept, how to get any keys, who has them etc.
  • Details of resources and facilities available to volunteers (e.g. tea/coffee making facilities!)
  • Information on any grievance/complaints procedure and how to access these
  • Helpful hints on how to get to where the voluntary work is e.g. bus routes etc.

Other Important Issues:

  • Give details on training to be undertaken, what is involved and reasons for the training
  • Guidelines on confidentiality (e.g. information on clients, other volunteers, organisations finance, disclosure of information etc.)
  • Promote the importance of Equal Opportunities and referring to the organisations own policy
  • Guidelines on dealing with potential problems (e.g. being asked by clients to do additional tasks)
  • Guidelines on what to do if clients offer money or presents to volunteers
  • Guidelines on any records volunteers are expected to keep
  • Discuss the purpose of ‘Volunteer Agreements’ and what these imply
  • Looking at any further issues raised by volunteers (give volunteers the opportunity to do this!)
  • Confirm they understand everything, are willing to abide by the policies and feel OK about their work
  • Give paperwork e.g. ‘A Welcome/Induction Pack’, ‘Volunteer Agreement’ etc.
  • Details on any assessment, monitoring, evaluation procedures (useful for organisation and volunteer)
  • Promoting voluntary work as a way of gaining valuable experience for those seeking employment
  • Have an information pack detailing the issues covered in the induction

If you need any further information please contact us on 020 8613 7113 or send us an enquiry form.