In the world of communication, cognitive bias is one of the biggest factors we have to be aware of.
Unfortunately, it’s also one we give very little thought to. Also called the ‘Curse of Knowledge’, it refers to the fact that as communicators, we speak with a level of understanding that we assume our audience has. When we speak with industry colleagues, we use specific jargon, phraseology, and acronyms. At backyard barbeques, we’re a little more likely to simplify our language, explain concepts, and spell out those acronyms. At least we should be.
In business marketing, that challenge is especially prevalent. Tandempark, like many businesses, has grappled with it for a long time as we strove to help the volunteer sector and its stakeholders understand the value our platform offered. Even today, we have to be mindful that we don’t fall into that same trap again as our messaging continues to evolve.
Cognitive Bias and Volunteer Recruiting
But what does that have to do with you? While you may not consider yourself a marketer, the reality is that’s exactly the mindset you need to assume when you’re actively looking for new volunteers. Because when you’re recruiting, effectively communicating is vital.
As we see more and more volunteer roles being posted on our site, we’ve noticed a varying degree of detail in those descriptions. Some spell everything out in finite detail, while others don’t include a description at all. The key is finding a balance and here’s why this is important.
Diversity Across the Volunteer Community
Volunteers are an amazing group of people, and I might suggest that they are the most diverse group of people on the planet. It spans race, gender, age, religion, language, socio-economic status, and education. Our interests and passions are broad and our skill set and abilities are equally varied. It’s because of that diversity that you need to be clear about each volunteer role.
A well-written role description will give your audience the right information they need and help produce:
Better Quality Responses. Giving them a better idea of what’s involved can help volunteers decide for themselves that the role isn’t a good fit. Being vague can lead any volunteer to thinking they would be a good fit and enjoy the role. It can also mislead people into thinking they wouldn’t be a good fit for the role because they overestimate the qualifications you might be looking for.
Less Turnover. A better understanding of the role will lead to less dissatisfaction once volunteers begin. Recruiting, vetting, and training volunteers takes time and energy. Pouring those resources into onboarding volunteers, only to have them resign after getting to know more about the role is costly, reinforcing the fact that more volunteers isn’t always better.
With two pretty good reasons to take this whole communication thing seriously, let’s turn our attention to how can we write better volunteer role descriptions. I’m happy to say that this is a pretty easy change to put into practice. While Tandempark makes it really easy to put this into action, regardless of where and how you recruit for volunteers, these three considerations can be put to use.
Founder & CEO
Liam Squires is the founder and CEO of Tandempark, an online civic engagement platform that helps organizations recruit, manage, schedule, and communicate with their volunteers, while making it easier than ever for people to discover and engage in meaningful and rewarding activities. With a background in volunteerism, event management, education, and marketing, he has delivered talks and workshops on volunteer recruitment and engagement, entrepreneurship, and disruptive technology.
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