UN Volunteer Emergency Doctor Zainalabdeen Al-Gafri talking to a UNDP staff beneficiary at the UN clinic in Hodeida, Yemen.
© UNV, 2019
Address workplace concerns
Friction at work is natural, given the healthy mix of opinions, perspectives and values everyone brings. Intervene before worries and insecurities rub off. With our help, it’s up to you to supervise your volunteer successfully for a happy and productive experience. Watch out for these struggles and triumphs. Be ready to support your UN Volunteer to find a solution or intervene yourself if necessary.
Contact your HR focal person to familiarize yourself with host entity specific information and resources on informal and formal conflict resolution mechanisms.
Remember how long it took you to fully understand how the UN works (even longer for rules and procedures). UN Volunteers are eager to learn, especially when getting started.
For your volunteer’s first week, find time to explain:
• Mission and mandate. How the host entity fits into the UN system.
• Previous projects and programmes. What you’re proud of and what’s next.
• UN partners and stakeholders. Who they are and how to interact with them.
• Communication protocols for diplomatic conversations (on email, the phone) with colleagues, partners, officials and authorities.
• Dos and Don’ts. Set high standards for appropriate behaviour and language
• UN code of conduct. How to uphold our ethical standards while volunteering.
• Zero tolerance misconduct policy. What’s unacceptable, how to report incidents and protection against retaliation.
• Volunteer’s legal status and privileges (time off, allowances, benefits). Review the Unified Conditions of Service for UN Volunteers (EN, FR, ES).
Be patient, together, you will get there.
Guide the UN Volunteer from the first day
• Set up a welcome meeting for the whole team (National/International Staff and other UN Volunteers) or introduce your volunteer personally to everyone at work.
• Provide role clarity by explaining role and responsibilities, reporting lines and expectations.
• Provide access to host entity resources, including learning.
• Assign your volunteer a small project in the first weeks to provide a sense of the work. Guide them to show you value their time and effort.
• Offer and seek feedback on projects the UN Volunteer is collaborating on with others. Highlight achievements and discuss how to meet and overcome challenges.
• Celebrate small achievements to boost confidence.
Your team is likely made up of different categories of personnel with different types of contracts, and thus differences in roles, benefits and allowances.
Clearly demarcate and communicate roles and responsibilities of UN Volunteers and staff members, including performance expectations. Clarity of roles – their own and that of colleagues – directly relates to personal productivity, effectiveness and satisfaction with supervisor.
Settling uncertainties will renew motivation and productivity.
You have hired the best candidate, but still need to guide them to their full potential. Explaining your expectations, who they report to and in which areas they ought to show initiative. Clarify how they should seek help when they need it.
• Pair a coaching buddy with your volunteer, someone at their level, to turn to for advice and morale support.
• Discuss appropriate times for them to reach out to you and your preferred way to communicate, whether by email, phone or meetings (scheduled or spontaneous).
• Suggest alternate contacts for support when you are unavailable.
Foster good relationships with the team to enhance engagement, role mastery and confidence.
Understand that UN Volunteers are often very eager to contribute and may come across as impatient. The UN is a huge organisation that may appear slow. Limitations could frustrate volunteers who want to contribute their best.
Do not underestimate the capacity of the Volunteer as a professional. Explain deliverables and progress and why and how you expect them to work. Gradually increase responsibilities based on performance. Encourage patience.
Remember: learning, networks, and utilisation of skills enhances intrinsic satisfaction which promotes commitment and performance.
UN Volunteers are not UN staff members. They cannot have fiduciary/certifying responsibilities as it depends on the delegated authority that ultimately stems from the Secretary-General and is further passed down to UN staff.
You may grant UN Volunteers access to financial management systems such as ATLAS and UMOJA. Show them how to create requisitions and process orders, which is permitted. However, UN Volunteers do not have approval rights and it is impossible to delegate authority to them, even under the supervision of UN staff.
In line with Duty of Care and the Description of Assignment (DOA) of the Volunteer:
• List all the facilities and resources your volunteer will need to carry out their work on your assignment. For example:
• ID card and UN email address
• Desk and chair
• Computer, printer, scanner
• Office supplies
• Tools of their trade
• Intranet and learning platform
• Management, leave and internal monitoring systems (ATLAS, UMOJA, apps)
• Who to contact for what
• Meet all these needs before your first day with your volunteer. Such as having their sign in details set up, ready to go, with the proper access rights.
• Note that to get a duty vehicle or work phone, say, you might first need approval. Plan for this, include it in your project’s budget plan, and give yourself enough time to be ready for your volunteer on time, if applicable.
Provide UN Volunteers with opportunities to participate in meaningful work activities along with access to necessary resources, systems and tools, and the training to make use of these. You will find them engaging with vigor and motivation.
UN Volunteers are professionals with relevant experience. They can manage/supervise others and can also be managed/supervised by others.
UN Volunteers do not have a grade like staff do; their responsibilities depend on the functional role they occupy in the organisation. UNV does not discourage or encourage supervisory roles.
• Reassure your volunteer that they were chosen for having specific skills and relevant experience.
• If relevant, help them sign up or apply for leadership training. Ideally, critical thinking, people and problem-solving skills. And training on role-specific supervisory skills. Leverage UNV's and your agency's learning programmes and resources.
Involve Volunteers in capacity development activities with national staff and key partners. Include development in the annual work plan to systematically incorporate related activities such as training, mentoring, coaching, sensitisation and capacity-building activities.
Capacity development and learning have major impact. It is a two-way process, where Volunteer’s knowledge/ skills coupled with the experience of National Staff and partners (especially in the national context) add value to the team and bridge interpersonal gaps.
The Volunteer Service Centre at UNV HQ processes benefits and entitlements covered under the proforma cost of the UN Volunteer. Applicable financial entitlements are transferred directly to the bank account provided by the UN Volunteer to UNV.
The host entity is expected to extend and administer entitlements and facilities that enable the in-service activities of UN Volunteers. Costs related to any such facilities is not part of the normal cost of fielding the UN Volunteer. It should be met by the agency concerned from other resources.
The International UN Volunteer Conditions of Service (COS) does not include rest and recuperation (R&R), supply travel on rotation or procurement/stress relief missions. However, UNV encourages host entities to extend any of these special facilities to UN Volunteers where they are offered to other internationally recruited personnel. In such cases, where benefits such as R&R are extended to UN Volunteers, the Host entity is required to provide UN Volunteers the same entitlements as it provides to its internationally recruited personnel, regardless of the funding source of the assignment.
Costs related to provision of such special facilities is not part of the normal cost of fielding the UN Volunteer and should be met by the host entity concerned from other resources. UN Volunteers who receive an R&R entitlement are to follow the administrative instructions and processes of the host entity in relation to the entitlement comply with the R&R cycle period as part of their obligation to health and security in the field.
DOA and role clarity motivate your volunteers by setting their expectations for the whole assignment. It’s important you are both satisfied in order to foster collaboration, role-mastery and performance.
• Think through and define the UN Volunteer’s role and responsibilities before they join. Document these clearly in the DOA and explain on arrival.
• Integrate the individual into your office structure, set clear reporting/supervisory lines and establish a workplan with access to host entity resources, including a coaching buddy.
Any changes over the course of the assignment must be documented in an updated DOA per the process below:
• Minor changes to DOAs are a matter between the UN Volunteer and their supervisor and do not require UNV’s attention.
• Notify UNV for administrative actions where there are significant changes, i.e., the role of the UN Volunteer has fundamentally changed or the title of the assignment has changed.
Providing UN Volunteers with access to host entity learning and training is critical to achieving positive outcomes. UN Volunteers benefit personally and professionally through development of skills and competencies; host entities benefit from enhanced contributions of motivated UN Volunteers, positively impacting organisational reputation.
Supervisors gain relevant experience as effective leaders in facilitating team success and feel intrinsic satisfaction from guiding someone’s development. Transfer of knowledge and capacity development of local communities are also important outcomes.
Roles and responsibilities of each party in supporting UN Volunteer learning and training are set by duty of care principles for the UN affiliated workforce, applicable MOUs and agreements in place and the UNV Conditions of Service.
Ownership of continuous personal and professional development; proactive learning to update knowledge and skills; initiative and performance; and, documentation of volunteer contributions, and acquired skills and competencies.
Onboarding support; access to UN Volunteer learning portal e-Campus; UN mandatory courses; UN Youth Volunteer workshops; access to on-demand UNV learning programmes on language and professional soft skills; mechanisms to support documentation of learning; and career transition support.
Role clarity, organisational onboarding; access to host entity learning platform and training, especially on technical skills; opportunities to participate in meaningful work activities including development through experience, exposure, and education; guidance on transfer of skills; and, recognition of achievements, and acquired skills and competencies.
The UNV learning programmes include a blend of online and on-site learning approaches. A diverse range of tutorials, courses, training and certifications for specific learning needs and preferences of UN Volunteers during the different phases of assignment.
(Organized by the UNV programme)
- UN Youth Volunteer workshops to facilitate development of skills essential for the UNV assignment.
- Onboarding workshops, PSEAH learning programme, and Anti-Racism and Anti-Discrimination dialogues.
- Holistic Career Management Workshop at the end of assignment on identifying transferable skills, CV writing, interview strategies and personal brand.
(Organized by UNV Regional Office/Field Units with host entities)
Responding to UN Volunteers’ professional development and learning needs at country or regional level, in line with UN host entity priorities, through on-demand onsite group training.
(accessible via e-Campus free of cost to UN Volunteers)
- Learning support for candidates and UN Volunteers during recruitment and onboarding.
- LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, Rosetta Stone, UNITAR, Volunteer Coaching, UNLPE and more. Personalized, on-demand and in-time learning for individual learning and work needs that can be applied immediately at the workplace.
Day-to-day leave management is the responsibility of the host entity. Approval of leave is subject to host entity approval and exigencies of services per entitlement.
• For ATLAS agencies: UN Volunteers are provided with access to ATLAS and apply for leave through e-service.
• For non-ATLAS agencies: UN Volunteers follow the host entity’s leave management system. Else, contact your UNV (email@example.com) for access to ATLAS eServices.
See UN Volunteer leave categories and conditions for information.