4 Challenges to Managing Both Volunteers and Employees

Posted on January 21, 2013.

Guest Post By Sarah Clare, writer at Project Management Software

Volunteers are a great way to meet the needs of your organization and expand your mission without having to increase your budget. However, when you have a blended staff that includes both volunteers and paid employees.... 

Volunteers are a great way to meet the needs of your organization and expand your mission without having to increase your budget. However, when you have a blended staff that includes both volunteers and paid employees you face unique challenges as a manager to motivate your employees and to create a work environment that is challenging and productive for all.

Here are just a few of the challenges you may face when having to manage both volunteers and paid employees, and a few things you should consider when dealing with them:

1.     Motivation

Volunteers are there because they want to be. Paid employees are usually there because they have to be. Volunteers may be motivated by a desire to give back to the community, while paid employees may be motivated by a desire to collect a paycheck or to gain experience that will help them to advance in their careers. (Of course, there are exceptions on both sides...)

You have to find ways to motivate your employees around your common mission. You can do this by inspiring them, by finding ways to excite them about what they're doing, and by encouraging a sense of community. The goal is to find something that will unite them all.

2.     Pay

The core different between volunteers and staff members is that one group is unpaid and the other receives a salary. This can influence much about the way each approaches their job and their relationship with the company. Volunteers, who are not paid, may not feel a sense of urgency about the job since they are not paid, while employees may tie their level of pay to their job satisfaction.

It is important to find other ways to motivate and to reward volunteers and paid employees alike. Recognition can be a good incentive, including an employee or volunteer of the month and special perks, like a premium parking spot. Company parties or get togethers are another fun way to recognize a job well done without linking it to pay.

3.     Career Development

Paid employees aren't just working for the immediate payout -- they are also working toward a long-term goal. That could be a higher position in your company, or it could be to move on to work at a bigger company or to even own their own company some day. While volunteers may have similar dreams, they aren't necessarily motivated by those plans in their philanthropic work.

It is important to find ways to encourage both employees and volunteers in their career development efforts. For employees, this might include ongoing training and discussions about advancement. For volunteers, this might include allowing them to take on roles with more responsibility or to discuss shifting them to a paid position where appropriate.

4.     Turnover

In general, your turnover for volunteers should be higher than that for employees. Managing high turnover can take up a considerable amount of your time and resources. You can focus on minimizing turnover in the same way you would with employees, by finding ways to increase job satisfaction, by making the work more challenging, and by improving your communication and your relationship.

Managing a blended staff of volunteers and paid employees and volunteers can be challenging as it takes balancing two different sets of interests that require different approaches. However, if you keep these issues in mind, you can do the job more easily and create a satisfied group of both volunteers and paid employees.

How do you approach managing volunteers and paid employees? Share your tips for success in the comments!

Sarah Clare is a writer and oversees the site projectmanagementsoftware.com, where she has recently been researching gantt chart tools. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys cooking and scrapbooking.

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