|Title||Organisational socialisation of volunteers in an emergency services agency|
|Publication Type||Conference Paper|
|Year of Publication||2017|
|Authors||Jones, M, Berry, Y|
|Publisher||Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC|
In many OECD countries, emergency response to accidents and natural disasters is heavily reliant on volunteers trained in areas of fire, rescue, medical care, and relief. Australia is no exception. Australian communities, the government, and businesses rely on the hard work and dedication of tens of thousands of volunteers to keep Australians and their property safe from the impact of fire and natural disaster. However, while incidents of natural disaster are on the incline, volunteers, those who are capable of and willing to serve their communities in times of crisis, are on the decline.
A wealth of literature has examined retention of volunteers and how to address it. However, while it is acknowledged that volunteer turnover occurs at various stages of the volunteering life cycle (recruitment, training, socialisation, performance, and retirement (Alfes, Shantz, & Saksida, 2015; Cuskelly & Boag, 2001)), little attention has been paid to turnover during the critical socialisation stage, when turnover presents the greatest cost to the organisation: after resources have been devoted to training the volunteer, and before they have returned on the investment by performing.
This article presents a predictive model of volunteer retention, which maps socialisation, expulsion, and self-exclusion based on social fit. The model is derived from an inductive examination of the processes of volunteer turnover during the socialisation of emergency service volunteers in Australia. Using a grounded theory approach, through 17 focus groups and 63 interviews with 137 volunteers across seven locations, the study identified the processes of volunteer turnover during the socialisation stage. The model predicts that during this stage, volunteers either stay or leave their respective units based on the level of their social fit with existing peers. This model contributes to theory by categorizing volunteer turnover according to the stages of the volunteering life cycle, and to practice by drawing attention to the need to consider social fit prior to investing in new volunteer training.