Volunteers are extremely valuable to charities – they are willing to give up their time to help others for nothing or little in return. It is usually best to think of volunteers as employees, they are representing a company and are usually exposed to many of the risks that an employee is. For example, in a retail setting a volunteer could be expected to communicate with a customer who may have learning disadvantage, or mental health conditions. However, this mindset could put volunteers risk of facing potential or actual aggression. Despite this, organisations don’t always consider training their volunteers to deal with challenging situations.
An example is that earlier this year, a 20-year-old man punched two volunteer pastors to the ground in an unprovoked attack. To help prevent incidents like this occurring, charity organisations should support and prepare volunteers for challenging situations, by providing Managing Challenging Behaviour or Conflict Resolution Training.
Training volunteers has several benefits – it helps protect volunteers by enabling them to deal with difficult customers or service users in a safe and calm way. It reduces assault incidents by providing techniques to avoid and diffuse conflict safely.
Providing training demonstrates an organisation’s commitment by showing support and appreciation. Training is an increasingly important aspect of attracting, supporting, retaining and rewarding volunteers because it helps them to feel confident, valued and thrive in their role. This in turn benefits customer and service users who will receive services which are of organisational standard.
Organisations are also protected from claims against them from volunteers who have been exposed to conflict which they aren’t prepared for. It’s an employer’s responsibility to ensure all employees and volunteers are adequately trained to deal with conflict at work. This will prevent a negative outcome for the Charity by not only protecting and empowering volunteer, but also protecting the company in a legal context.
With the diversity of people who volunteer and the variety of roles and activities they undertake, training provides volunteers with the skills they need to be effective, competent, and confident. This is for the good of the volunteers and the organisation.
IKON Training are currently training volunteers and employees in the charity sector to improve knowledge and confidence when handling conflict situations and challenging behaviour. Please get in touch to find out more.