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Volunteers, Interns and Engagement

14 Sep 2015 - Blog

Volunteers, Interns and Engagement


I recently read a post by Campbell Company that talks about the lack of employee engagement in the voluntary sector. This surprised me because often voluntary workers offer their skills because they want to make a difference – which many of us believe is, in fact, employee engagement. As Campbell Company go on to tell us, engagement requires more than just wanting to make a difference.

Sometimes, there seems to be a feeling that it’s inappropriate to expect full engagement from volunteers because they are not being financially rewarded for their work. Just because we are hiring volunteers and asking them to donate their time for free, does not mean we cannot ask things of them in the same way that we would ask things of a paid employee. But, if we want the same output we must give the same input. This means we must treat volunteers the same as we would treat paid employees but minus the financial reward. 

” Volunteers have nothing keeping them in their role but the desire to make a difference and / or learn new skills.”

If you were unhappy in a role and had no monetary reward for your work, would you stay?

Consider internships; they can be voluntary positions too, but here people are often given more structure. I say ‘often’ because this isn’t always the case. Who hasn’t heard of a junior or career changer trying to gain experience in their field and leaving a role feeling unmotivated about their future because they’ve spent the last three months making tea for their seniors?

Engagement is vital for motivation and ultimately getting the most from your employees. Whether it’s a voluntary role in the charitable sector or an internship in a profit making organisation, the role is a job, and jobs need structure, performance management, opportunities for learning and development, and organisational processes, if they are to run effectively.


Final thoughts

It’s important to note that engagement is vital in either paid or non paid positions if you want your employees to be more productive, make better decisions and innovate.

Engaged employees approach their work with a vigour, enthusiasm and commitment for the cause that disengaged employees never reach. 

People Insight works with various profit and not for profit organisations, helping them to achieve their engagement goals. You can find out more about People Insight’s work from their case studies page.


Look out for our next post for tips on how to engage volunteer employees! 


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