Matt Hatt from Shakespeare's Globe talks about volunteer and staff shadowing
I am the assistant front of house volunteer manager at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. In my role I look after two volunteer coordinators and a team of around 600 wonderful front of house volunteers who give up their time to support the Globe. Not many people realise that the Globe is a charity. We simply couldn’t survive without volunteers and we always get the most diverse and enthusiastic volunteers through Team London.
The Globe grew out of a small team of courageous volunteers who helped fundraise to get the theatre built in the late 1990s. I decided to commission a survey to see how the volunteers felt and see if there were any ways we could improve their experience with us.
Of those that returned the survey, 51% said ‘no’ or ‘don’t know’ when asked ‘do you feel members of Globe staff understand your role? So often in volunteering you provide opportunities for volunteers to learn more about what the paid staff do - but we never seem to do the reverse! I spoke to our CEO who supported the idea of both staff and volunteers finding out about each other’s’ roles.
Many of our volunteers join the team to get experience then move into paid roles in the arts. Equally, it benefits staff to learn more about our volunteer roles and take a break from their normal routine. After some encouraging, and lots of flexibility, I organised for 12 senior staff to shadow stewards across the 12 days of Volunteers’ Week 2016. This included the director of development, digital manager and executive producer. They all had something different to gain and give from their individual viewpoints of the organisation.
The beauty of ‘shadowing’ is that it is a two-way conversation. I encouraged staff to ask volunteers about themselves and their motivations. Our artistic coordinator, Jessica Lusk said “What surprised me was just how busy it was, and it’s such hard work… I think the volunteers are remarkable and the time they give is invaluable”.
The exercise really raised awareness to staff about the value of the volunteer programme. It also helped the volunteers find out more about working in the arts and to feel valued for their contribution to the Globe.
For any volunteering manager who’s thinking about a similar exercise then be flexible with staff schedules as shadowing for an hour or two is better than nothing. It’s also better to place staff into the busiest roles so they can see the level of skills your volunteers possess and how much they give. Also, make sure you pair them with the right volunteers who’ll enjoy showing them the ropes. When the shadowing is over make sure you ask the staff about their experience and share these with the entire team.
The benefits of a shadowing exercise were obvious immediately to staff and volunteers. The staff returned to their desks looking tired…but with big smiles on their faces. The volunteers felt equally as happy and I truly believe they feel their contribution to the Globe is valued by the entire staff team – which it is!
For more information on Shakespeare's Globe, the volunteer programme and its charitable mission, visit the Globe website.