Staff and Volunteer Management

It’s an old cliché, but staff and volunteers are an organisation’s biggest asset. Staff and volunteers are the organisation’s interface with its customers, service users, potential customers, funders, partners etc…

Good staff and volunteer management are essential to ensure your organisation grows, strengthens and improves its services year in year out.

A careful balance needs to be struck to enable your staff and volunteers to grow and be innovative, but at the same time understand the parameters, organisational ethos [the do’s and don’ts].

Some reading this document may say, why have we grouped staff and volunteers together, they’re different roles? This is true, but good staff management is very similar to good volunteer management. The key difference is staff are paid, whilst volunteers are unpaid, but both are equally in need of good management.

A note of caution, volunteers should not be used to replace paid positions in an organisation. It often works the other way around, for example, a volunteer post develops a new service which then creates additional paid positions.

Let’s start at the beginning

Before recruitment – before we start to recruit we need to understand what the job role [or volunteer role] is. Once we know what role we’re trying to recruit, the next step is to write a job description, what the job entails, the key responsibilities, times of work, supervision structure etc…

A volunteer should also have an identified role descriptor. You may want to describe it slightly different to a job description, but essentially it sets out what the volunteer is expected to do. The final part of the preparation before recruitment is the person-specification that is what are the key skills, experience, knowledge and qualifications that the individual needs in order to be able to do the job?

Recruitment should be geared toward finding the very best person you can to do the job / volunteer role. Recruitment would normally start with an advert for the job. At this point you should consider where you are likely to get the calibre of person you are looking for i.e. where should you advertise? In essence the wider you advertise [including through email and social media] the more qualified people you may attract, but do think about who you are trying to attract and advertise accordingly.

When recruiting consider the following:

  • Job Description and Person Specification
  • Advertising in the right media to attract the best possible candidates
  • When applicants apply, provide them with as much information about the organisation as you can often this would include:

See also a Government guide to employment and skills here

Help the candidate

It’s also helpful if you can give some guidance on filling out the application form, the better the guidance, the better quality applications you’ll get. Good quality applications will likely save you time and money. When advertising and shortlisting be aware of the law that affects these stages e.g. equalities legislation.

Mistakes often made at recruitment. The field of applicants is not good enough but the organisation appoints rather than re-advertise. It is often more cost effective to re-advertise than it is to employ someone who isn’t up to the job role. But make sure you consider why you didn’t get sufficiently good applicants initially e.g.

  • Was the advert well written / designed?
  • Was the advertising in the right place?
  • Did your organisation look professional when advertising and timely when information was sent out?
  • Did you allow enough time for applicants to respond?
  • Is the job appealing?
  • Is the salary at the right level?


Once you’ve recruited and agreed a start date it is important that the individual has a quality induction. A good induction doesn’t happen over a short period of time; it will take a number of months and should be planned. Induction should link with supervision, training and development, business objectives and the probationary period. Create an induction plan to enable your new employee to gain a good understanding of the organisation and the job role. For example, you may want to include:

General information

  • Company information
  • Hours of work
  • Health and Safety
  • Management and supervision processes and framework
  • Key organisation induction pack


  • Shadowing other staff
  • Policies and procedures
  • Customer services
  • Job specific e.g. minute taking
  • Supervision and appraisal processes
  • Key project information for specific job role

Probationary period

You should consider a probationary period as an important part of recruitment, but this must be accompanied by good quality supervision and review. It’s no point saying staff just don’t cut it, if they have had no formal induction period, lacked a record of supervision where shortfalls were addressed and the probationary period has long gone.

The probationary period should be about ensuring the individual is well supported in getting to know their job role and ensuring that the skills and abilities you recruited for are evident so that the job is well done and effective. It works both ways in supporting the individual and the organisation.

Within the probationary period set some clear targets that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound [SMART] and check these during regular supervision. You may have targets something like this:

  • In the first month the staff member is to familiarise themselves with relevant operational policies and procedures and undergoes customer service training
  • In the second month you may want the individual to have developed a service improvement plan in draft form
  • In month three you may want to see that X new customers have been contacted and the service improvement plan has been finalised
  • In month four you may want to see greater autonomy and the service improvement plan being implemented and reviewed
  • In month five you may want to see that a longer term plan for the service has been identified
  • In month six you may want to see that a range of funding sources have been identified etc…


It is unrealistic to expect a new staff member to just get on with it [unless it’s a particularly high level job], even so, good supervision is important. Supervision comes in many forms it may be:

  • observational
  • team meetings
  • informal discussion

But it should also include a regular formal supervision meeting that is recorded [aim to have a formal supervision every 4-6 weeks], where the line manager sits down and discusses:

  • Time keeping and any issues that need to be identified
  • Work activity over the previous period
  • Targets both those for the previous period and the next
  • Training needs
  • Any personal issues that may be affecting the work etc…
  • Check on key training

The supervision should be fair and balanced, but should address any shortfalls in expected achievement, as well as acknowledging where work has been good. The staff member should also be able to raise issues with the line manager or need clarification, give ideas [a two way process]. We have included a sample supervision proforma here.


Appraisal is an important part of supervising but also developing staff. Job roles will change; you will want your staff to change as the organisation changes and will want to recognise achievement whilst also noting any areas that need development for the future.

Investing in staff and supporting their development will help you to keep your staff long term. If you’re experiencing a high staff turnover, you have to ask the question Why?

  • Was this evident when recruiting the staff member?
  • Is the job role too menial and boring?
  • Has the employee been properly sanctioned, praised and rewarded where appropriate?

Appraisal should be a systematic [yearly] review of both the staff member’s performance and development needs and the line manager’s performance as a line manager. Managers need to recognise that they don’t always get it right and perhaps haven’t provided the individual with the appropriate support to meet their targets.

The appraisal should be an open and honest two-way appraisal, aiming to learn and improve. Good supervision and appraisal will enable the individuals to develop and will strengthen the organisation too. You can see an example appraisal for by clicking here.

Common mistakes in supervision and appraisal are that the manager’s competing demands sometimes mean that time is short; try to avoid cancelling or postponing supervision and appraisal meetings. Take time to prepare for them and keep them regular, this will show the staff member that you care about their work and respect them.

One final note with regard to staff and volunteer management, you will need to consider a range of things dependent upon your organisation’s size and the types of roles that you are recruiting to such as:

  • Capability procedures
  • Health and Safety Policy
  • Grievance procedures
  • Sickness policy and procedures
  • Child protection policy and procedures
  • Staff / Volunteer development policy
  • Timesheets

See here an ACAS guide to performance management.

Some sample templates can also be downloaded from here