Assessing performance is always tricky; feedback for improvement always needs to be couched in positive terms in order to foster growth rather than resentment. This becomes even more important when talking with our unpaid staff, who have a much easier time walking away from their positions.
Don’t forget that a full assessment process includes what is going well. It is really important to let your unpaid staff know the positive, not only to keep their spirits up, but also to ensure that they keep on doing whatever they’re doing so well.
Assessment is a two-way street. Just as any of your staff have room to improve, so do you and so does your organization. Your volunteers are often in an excellent spot to notice ways in which you could improve your processes or your public face. Make sure to give them a chance to share their insights!
Giving out $5 Timmie’s cards is a pretty empty gesture. Try saying something like, “Your attention to detail on that report made my day go more smoothly. Thank you.” It lets the volunteer know what they did well (and should keep on doing!) and is the most meaningful form of recognition you can give.
There are times when staff – paid or unpaid – really need to do something differently. You can’t get away from telling them, but you can change the dynamic by shifting the locus of responsibility. Frame the problem in terms of what you could be doing: “I feel like I’m not motivating you as well as I could,” or “I feel like I’m not supporting you in the ways you need.”
Performance assessment can be the highlight of a person’s day if it is done in a way that involves them and emphasizes their value and importance.