It is vital for volunteer managers to take the induction process seriously. Induction is the first impression your new volunteer will get of your organisation and can make or break their commitment to your volunteer program. As a volunteer coordinator or manager, you need to ensure the process is professional, fun, organised and valuable.
This page aims to introduce you to the induction process and offer tips for running successful induction and orientation programs.
What is an induction process?
Induction is the process of welcoming and familiarising new volunteers and staff with your organisation, their job and their workplace. Another name for the induction process is orientation.
After completing induction, volunteers should be confident in completing their tasks, know who their manager or supervisor is and who they can go to for help. They should be aware of where to find necessary resources and be introduced to your organisation's volunteer policies, including occupational health and safety and dispute and grievance policies.
The induction process can be completed with a group of new volunteers or individually. Ideally, all volunteers should complete the induction process before commencing work.
Why is the induction process important?
Starting a new job can be nerve racking and stressful. Self-doubt often creeps into a person's mind. For example, one might question how is it possible to remember everyone's names, how to get along with the boss and who can answer 'silly' questions. Volunteering at a new organisation is no different.
Volunteers may be apprehensive about meeting new people, taking on responsibility and fitting in. A good induction program will make the new volunteer feel welcome and give him or her confidence in the nature of their role and who they can go to for assistance.
Other advantages of an effective induction process include:
- Improved staff and volunteer morale
- Increased productiveness
- Reduction in new volunteer's anxiety
The induction process can also assist recruitment and training. A volunteer who feels comfortable in their role is more likely to ask for help and to encourage other people to join.
What to include in the induction?
Your induction program should suit the needs of your organisation and role of your volunteers. Some induction programs will go for half a day while others will last a week with continuous monitoring and supervision.
Above all, volunteer inductions should be fun and valuable. This is your volunteer's first insight into your organisation and you want it to be positive. Remember volunteers who enjoy their work are more likely to be committed to the organisation and encourage their friends to volunteer.
Icebreakers are a great way to welcome new volunteers to an organisation and learn about their interests and experiences. See our Induction and orientation programs page for ideas on icebreakers to kick start your volunteer induction session.
As well as having fun, volunteers should also learn about the organisational chart, the organisation's vision and its values and goals, both short and long term. Ensure you give the volunteer all of the appropriate documentation. Don't underestimate the time it takes to print and gather all of the material!
Examples of what to give volunteers as part of an induction pack include:
- Code of conduct
- Sexual harassment policy
- Role descriptions
- Previous annual reports
- Contact details
- Organisational chart
- Meeting schedule and calendar of upcoming events
After the induction, the new volunteer should have a strong understanding on what the organisation does and the role of volunteers and paid employment. The employees should also be made aware of your organisation's recognition and reward programs and training opportunities. See our pages on Rewarding and recognising volunteers for more information.
Designing your induction program
Decide how long you want the induction process to go for and whether groups or individual volunteer inductions suit your organisation. See our page on Induction and orientation programs for more tips on groups and individual induction programs.
For both group and individual inductions, it's a good idea to create a formal or informal checklist of what to talk about and what to include. This will make each induction easier than the last and ensure you don't forget vital information for example, where the evacuation point is!
This is also great for succession planning. If you thoroughly document the induction process, it will be easy for someone to takeover if you are sick or when you leave. Ensuring the volunteer program is sustainable is a huge feat for some organisations.
Suggestions for what to include in your induction checklist include:
- Demonstrate how to use the equipment, including telephone, fax, email systems (eg. Outlook, gmail), and advise on internal and external mail processes
- Show the location of toilets, meeting rooms, kitchen/tea rooms
- Explain parking regulations/locations and public transport options
- Show the location of first aid kits, emergency exits and emergency assembly point
- Explain visitor procedures, how to book meeting rooms, cars and resources
- Introduce new volunteers to colleagues and managers
- If appropriate, assign a work colleague as a mentor for the initial settling in period
Not all of the above ideas will be relevant to your organisation and the role of your volunteer. It is essential that you customise the induction process and only give your new volunteer relevant information. Many people feel overwhelmed when they are given new information; it's best to give short concise versions of documents.
Other things to include
It is also important to explain:
- Start and finish times
- Tea and/or lunch breaks
- Reimbursement policy
- Uniforms (if applicable)
- Flexible volunteer options
- Emergency evacuation procedures
- Your expectations of workplace behaviour and your policy on sexual harassment
For long term volunteer assignments, a volunteer manager may also want to discuss with the new volunteer/volunteers the following:
- Position description
- Performance expectations
- Performance appraisal process
- Training and development opportunities
If appropriate, the volunteer and volunteer manager/coordinator could set performance expectations and goals for the next six months.
In summary, an effective induction process should:
- Welcome the new volunteer by providing personal and professional support and demonstrating commitment to them
- Integrate the new volunteer into the workplace and explain how they fit into the organisation
- Allow the new volunteer to assimilate information about the workplace and their role
- Provide important information and resources that will assist the new volunteer
- Enable the new volunteer to be independent and proficient in their role as soon as possible
Running the program
See our page on Induction and orientation programs for tips on how to run a volunteer induction and whether you want to conduct group or individual sessions. Remember to ask for feedback after the induction so you can implement suggestions and continually improve the program.