Photo: Ali Irfan (left), international UN Volunteer Associate Shelter Officer with UNHCR in Liberia, with UNHCR colleagues at the inauguration monument of the durable shelters.
© UNV, 2019
Bring UN Volunteers and staff together
Nurture trust and harmony in your team. Understand there may be sensitive relationships between UN Volunteers and staff members; this is not unusual in the early days. Encourage your staff and UN Volunteers to trust and collaborate, speak openly, respectfully and productively. Challenge suspicions and assumptions on both sides.
You play an important part in helping volunteers build a healthy sense of purpose, identity and contribution. See below for some useful tips:
Clarify that UN Volunteers do not replace staff. Explain how these motivated individuals support but do not cover staff functions. Articulate that UN Volunteer roles are mutually enhancing and beneficial to the organization.
Help staff understand the UN Volunteer profile and why people volunteer. Personalize the experience by asking who has volunteered in their communities and why. Celebrate the culture of volunteerism within your organization.
Encourage staff to contribute opinions and ideas when you are considering hiring a UN Volunteer and writing description of assignment (DOA).
Carefully define supporting roles and responsibilities for UN Volunteers. Clearly distinguish roles and responsibilities from those of staff members. Setting the same work expectations risks confusing and demotivating your team.
Choose a trained supervisor to oversee UN Volunteers. Someone respected by the team, who appreciates volunteering and can take the pressure off your team by being available to guide the UN Volunteer.
Train UN Volunteers according to their tasks and raise the awareness of your staff on how best to work effectively with them.
Give UN Volunteers a voice in decisions that affect them. You will gain their respect and trust. Ensure that UN Volunteers always feel part of the team.
Respect and recognize UN Volunteers and staff equally. Motivate everyone by celebrating their work and contributions to larger goals (huge wins, small successes).
Clear up concerns and misunderstandings on both sides. Explain a UN Volunteer’s complementary role in strengthening host entity capacity to deliver results.
Practise communication and collaboration with team-building activities. Studies show that staff need to get to know volunteers. Prioritize team building to foster connections, collaboration and mutual understanding.
Understand policies and procedures covering UN Volunteers, which are different from those covering staff. You may request your organization to prepare UN Volunteer specific guidelines.
Foster trust, commitment, capabilities and creativity for everyone to motivate high-performance in meeting organizational priorities