Volunteer Performance Evaluations

They can be tedious to do, and nerve-wracking to sit through, but conducting performance evaluations with your team members is so important for a number of reasons:

  • Performance evaluations give you the opportunity to sit down with volunteers and discuss their strengths and weaknesses, and figure out a plan to help struggling volunteers improve their performance
  • Evaluations give the volunteer a formal opportunity to share any suggestions, questions, or concerns they may have about their role or about the organization
  • Evaluations will help you and the volunteer better understand each other’s expectations, as well as the goals of the organization
  • If the volunteer wants to advance to an executive role in your chapter (VP or President), you can use performance evaluations to assess how ready the volunteer is to undertake a more demanding role
  • Performance evaluations ultimately help improve communication between VPs and team members
  • Performance evaluations are an important part of maintaining volunteer engagement and retention
Here is a recommended process of how performance evaluations should be conducted. As VP HR, you will be involved in the volunteer performance evaluations. Ideally, evaluations should happen once per term. At the midpoint of the term you may want to have a quick, informal check-in with the team to see how they are doing.

Preparing for Volunteer Evaluations

  • Schedule performance evaluations
    • Schedule each meeting for around 15-30 minutes to allow time for discussion and questions
  • Have the VPs fill out the evaluation form for each volunteer on the team
    • Remember to be objective when filling out evaluation forms – see below for information on the different kinds of biases to watch out for when evaluating volunteers
    • It will be easier to fill out the evaluation forms if VPs keep notes on each team member throughout the term, rather than trying to fill out multiple evaluation forms from memory
  • Forms can be found here:
    Tutor Performance Evaluation
    Volunteers Performance Evaluation
    VPs Performance Evaluation 

Conducting Performance Evaluations

  • Consider implementing 360 degree performance evaluations. 360 degree performance evaluations gather feedback on the volunteer from everyone they work with at SOS, such as the President(s), VPs, team members, and if applicable, customers (e.g. students taking the review sessions).
  • Basic Process:
    • VPs will schedule a meeting to review their team members. They will show them their performance evaluations, discuss the evaluations, have the team member sign off on the evaluation, and then submit them electronically to the chapter’s HR email account
    • Team members and Presidents will evaluate the VPs and submit evaluations electronically to HR. Presidents should also sit down with VPs to discuss the evaluations, especially if there are noted performance issues.
    • VPs and volunteers will evaluate the President(s). President evaluations are currently discussed with the Director of Student Leadership, but it is recommended that a VP also sit down with the President for a discussion. Since VPs do work closely with the President on a regular basis, a VP will be more knowledgeable about the President’s strengths and weaknesses.
    • Use clearly defined individual dimensions of job performance rather than undefined global measures – in other words, make sure the evaluation is specific to the job the volunteer actually does at SOS
    • Keep a copy of the evaluation to use as a benchmark for future assessments
    • Please keep in mind that these documents are confidential and have personal information on them, so be sure they are kept in a secure folder, or somewhere they are not easily accessible.
Performance Evaluation Bias
Try to avoid these biases when filling out performance evaluation forms because errors in performance evaluations can lead to problems such as decrease in motivation, decrease in morale, decrease in job satisfaction and performance, bad habits continuing, and retention issues.
  • Halo effect – using job performance in one dimension to rate the volunteer’s overall job performance, regardless of the true level of performance
  • Central tendency – rating a volunteer as average regardless of the true level of performance
  • Leniency error – rating a volunteer positively regardless of the true level of performance
  • Severity error – rating a volunteer negatively regardless of the true level of performance
  • Recency effect – when evaluators only look at performance for a small period of time rather than the entire evaluation period
  • Similar-to-me bias – giving a volunteer a positive review because they share similar interests, backgrounds, traits, etc., with the rater
How to Conduct the Evaluation Meeting
  • Be direct and specific – talk in terms of objective work, observable characteristics and behaviours, and use concrete examples, not subjective judgments
  • Compare the volunteer’s performance with expected standards – do not compare the volunteer to other team members
  • Encourage the volunteer to speak up about concerns or issues – be sure to ask open-ended questions that will encourage the volunteer to provide more information
  • Develop an action plan. By the end of the meeting ensure you have:
    • Provided specific examples of job performance,
    • Made sure the volunteer knows where they are expected to improve
    • You obtain agreement that the volunteer understands the reasons for the evaluation, and together you have developed an action plan for achieving any goals (including a timeline) – consider using the SMART model (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic/relevant, time-bound) when setting goals for performance improvement.
How to Handle Criticism and Defensive Volunteers
  • Criticism should be provided constructively, in private, and if possible, immediately following poor performance. Team members may display feelings of denial, anger, or aggression.
  • Recognize that defensive behaviour is normal
  • Never attack a person’s defenses – concentrate on the actions rather than on the person
  • Postpone taking action – given sufficient time the person will calm down and a more rational reaction will take over; continue the evaluation at a later time
  • Recognize human limitations – don’t expect to solve every problem
Ensuring the Evaluation Meeting Leads to Improved Performance
Satisfaction with the evaluation process will depend on:
  • The volunteer not feeling threatened
  • The volunteer having the opportunity to present their ideas/feelings
  • The volunteer having a helpful/constructive supervisor to conduct the interview
Steps to Improved Performance
  • Let the volunteer know their performance is unacceptable and explain the minimum expectations
  • Ensure that your expectations for improved performance are reasonable
  • Ensure that you take prompt corrective measures
  • Avoid sending mixed messages
  • Provide the volunteer with a reasonable amount of time to improve performance
  • Be prepared to provide volunteers with the necessary support to facilitate improvement
    *Remember to ask the volunteer if they plan to return for the next term. This is important to do so you can make appropriate hiring projections.
Performance evaluations are so valuable for learning about the successes and shortcomings of your chapter’s volunteers. By completing evaluations, you will be able to help volunteers figure out what their strengths are and what areas they can improve, as well as improve communication between VPs and team members by providing a formal opportunity to discuss suggestions, concerns, questions, performance, and opportunities for advancement within the chapter. This ultimately contributes to the engagement and retention of team members, so ensure you have a process in place to conduct performance evaluations.
Any questions can be directed to Nicole at chapters@studentsofferingsupport.ca.


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