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Principles for Retaining Volunteers Part 6: Workspace: C.S.S.S.E.

By Daniel C. Olsen, Senior Consultant, Special Districts Association of Oregon

Volunteering should be a positive and enjoyable experience for people. For this reason, often times, the emphasis for retaining volunteers is on positive motivation factors and programs. By doing so, it is hoped to increase their level of satisfaction.

However, what about the “dissatisfiers” that can cause volunteers to leave your organization?

Frederick Herzberg was an American psychologist who introduced Herzberg’s Motivation Theory model, or Two Factor Theory.  His theory provides two factors that affect motivation in the workplace.

These factors are hygiene factors and motivating factors. Hygiene factors will cause an employee to work less if not present. Motivating factors will encourage an employee to work harder if present.

Herzberg identifies characteristics that related to job satisfaction - while a separate set of job factors lead to dissatisfaction.

Thus, eliminating dissatisfaction will not necessarily create satisfaction and vice versa. The conclusion was that to remove dissatisfaction, managers must identify and remove the factors causing it. To improve satisfaction, you must add those desired factors. Though, this can only be effective after removing aspects of dissatisfaction.

The Dissatisfaction can contribute to the “IFA” syndrome (irritation, frustration, anger). Dissatisfaction can lead to frustration… frustration to anger. Not an enjoyable experience to have. Would you want to stay or leave? May be not once but on repeated occasions you probably would seriously consider it.

Now, consider Herzberg’s two-factor theory in an everyday situation in your department.

Consider the physical environment in which the volunteers are placed. This is not limited to an office, room, or cubicle. It includes areas inside or outside. It includes vehicles, such as emergency response units or mobile units.

Think of the workspace as anywhere your volunteers will perform their assigned duties.

Think about the times when you needed a wrench to tighten a nut? Or a screwdriver to tighten a screw? How about no paper for the printer? A simple item. A task that would take minutes or seconds to complete. But no…the tool or supplies cannot be found.

Have you ever experienced one of those times?

It is not about having the biggest, newest or best.  It is about having a workplace that is effective and volunteer friendly. Keep in mind that a number of volunteers will be using the same work area or vehicle at various times.

It is important to have consistency. It is important for the area to be organized and with the necessary tools and supplies. How about a tool that was broken and put back without it being reported?

Think how frustrating it can be to not have the supplies necessary to complete a task or project.

How do you feel when you cannot find a tool or equipment you need to perform the job?

Ask yourself five questions about the work areas and vehicles your volunteer use:

  1. Is it Clean? Organized, free of clutter and dirt?
  2. Is it Safe, free of hazards?
  3. Is it Secure? Prevent unauthorized entry?
  4. Is it Supplied with the necessary items to perform the task assigned to them?
  5. Is it Equipped with the necessary tools to perform the tasks assigned to them?

The first factor is Cleanliness.
The appearance and condition represent your organization to the customer, the general public and your volunteers. Is it clean, free of dirt? Clutter removed and well maintained? Are items easy to find? Does it make performing assigned tasks easy or difficult? Can items be quickly located; not having to move items out of the way? Especially important when time is of the essence.

The second factor is Safety.
Is the work area clear of trip hazards such as electrical cords? Is the walking surface clear and clean of slip and spill hazards? How about items that may fall from shelves. Are the items on shelves secured?

The third factor is Security.
How easy is it to gain access into the workspace? Do the doors close and latch? Are restricted areas actually secured? How about records and confidential files? Are they secured?

The fourth factor is Supplied.
Are commonly used supplies readily available for use? It can be very frustrating when you cannot find simple supplies or items to complete a task.

The fifth factor is Equipped.
Having the proper tool to do the job. Are tools and equipment quickly accessible and available? Are they in good repair? Are the right tools and equipment your volunteers use in the proper place? Are they available, in good repair and easily accessible?

As you are aware, retaining volunteers is challenging. It is an ongoing process. It requires you to look at all elements in your organization. Sometime, the basic elements are overlooked or underestimated on their impact to retain volunteers. Pay attention to removing, or correcting, the items that can cause dissatisfaction.

If the workspace is dirty, cluttered, unsafe, not secure, lacking supplies or necessary tools how will it impact your volunteers. Will it bring about irritation leading to frustration and possibly anger. The end result is volunteers who will be likely to leave your organization.

While there are other items which may take priority, do not forget about everyday items which can be overlooked. They can play a key role in volunteer retention.

During your walk around of facilities and vehicles, think about C.S.S.S.E. and how these factors could affect your retention of volunteers.