Do This to Boost Volunteer-Staff Team Results

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volunteer teamLooking to improve how volunteers team with staff to get things done? There may be something to learn from others who are crossing traditional boundaries in service of better outcomes.

In healthcare, for example, traditional professional boundaries are being challenged. Interdisciplinary teams, made up of professionals from a variety of disciplines, are replacing individual service providers as a strategy to build capacity and improve patient care.  

Similarly, volunteer-paid staff collaborations might also be considered “interdisciplinary” in nature, where team members work toward the same goals but from different skill sets, experiences, expectations, and relationships to agency leadership.  

Is there something we can learn from healthcare delivery to improve staff-volunteer teams?

A recent study of interdisciplinary healthcare teams in the United Kingdom identified ten characteristics that support success. Below are ten competencies identified by the research, along with my labels.  Under each, I  suggest a tool or strategy to support success.

10 Competencies of an Effective Interdisciplinary Team

  1. Clear & Supportive Leadership — The team identifies a leader who establishes a clear direction and vision, while listening and providing support and supervision.
    • Strategy: Participatory Leadership Style
  2. Guiding Values — The team agrees to a set of values that clearly provide direction for the team that are visible and consistently portrayed.
    • Tool: Team Charter
  3. Collegial Atmosphere — The team demonstrates a culture of trust where contributions are valued and consensus fostered.
    • Strategy: Trust Building Activities
  4. Standard Ways of Doing — Processes and infrastructures are in place to uphold the team’s vision for service (e.g., communications infrastructure).
    • Tool: Team Charter
  5. Reflective Practice — The team provides quality services with documented outcomes while using feedback to improve.
    • Strategy: Team De-Briefs & Knowledge Sharing
  6. Consensus-based Work — The team promotes intra-team communication, collaborative decision-making and effective team processes.
    • Tool: Consensus Decisionmaking Model
  7. Team Member Diversity — Team is comprised of an appropriate mix of skills, competencies, and personalities to meet the needs of the project.
    • Strategy: Diverse Team Member Personalities
  8. The Right People — Team members are invited based on existing interdisciplinary competencies, professional knowledge, and experience.
    • Tool: Team Position Description with Minimum Qualifications
  9. Separate Yet Connected — Team acknowledges interdependence while respecting individual roles and autonomy.
    • Tools: Team Charter & Project Plan
  10. Developmental Rewards — The team receives appropriate training, rewards, recognition, and opportunities for personal development.

Are there ways you can use these to ensure that your teams work in harmony and have a better chance at success?

See: Nancarrow, Susan A, et al., “Ten principles of good interdisciplinary teamwork,” Human Resources for Health, 11:19  (May 2013)