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Job design is the key to success

When baby boomers volunteer, they want mission-linked, productive, satisfying work that allows them to use their skills and experience. They want short-term work, flexible schedules at convenient locations, including opportunities to volunteer online. To effectively engage baby boomers as volunteers, your organization must think about volunteer roles and responsibilities differently and adapt to meet their needs while meeting the needs of your organization.

Job design, a theory used widely in the for-profit sector, is also an effective approach for non-profit organizations. It involves all the creative human resource strategies including job-sharing, flex time, telecommuting, job rotation and part-time work – all options that will appeal to baby boomers.

A resource by Volunteer Canada, called A Matter of Design–Job Design Theory and Application to the Voluntary Sector, explains that job design refers to the way tasks are combined to form complete jobs.

When you apply this kind of approach, you design jobs and positions that are meaningful to your organization and challenging to your baby boomer volunteers while making good use of their skills. The Community Action Programs of Halifax has developed an online tool to help organizations focus on job design including strategic questions to help you through the process.

Integrate volunteer roles into your total human resource strategy

Job design is part of an integrated human resource strategy – a planned approach to identifying the work functions (both paid and unpaid) that your organization needs to achieve its mission. Volunteer Calgary piloted a project to recruit and involve high-skilled or professionally skilled individuals in voluntary organizations with the goal to provide meaning to the volunteers and capacity for the organizations. The project identified five important lessons learned:

  1. Essential Strategic Leadership – The Executive Director must champion a culture and structure that supports the full integration of high skills volunteers.
  2. Role and Place of the Manager of Volunteers – Organizations need a staff Manager of Volunteers who is a member of the management team.
  3. Professionally Managed Volunteer Programs require an alignment of systems, policies and processes for paid and unpaid staff.
  4. Valuing Volunteers – Volunteers and staff need to understand the “value” that volunteers contribute to the organization to overcome the outdated perceptions of “I am/you are just a volunteer.”
  5. Readiness for an integrated human resource strategy approach – To succeed, this approach needs to be integrated with the organization’s strategic plan.

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