Guest Services Collective: A How-To Guide
Long-time readers of the blog know that since 2013, we’ve offered something called the High-Capacity Volunteer Cohort: an eight-month roundtable discussion with some of our best and brightest Guest Services volunteers from all of our campuses. (Read more and download a free overview)
2020 disrupted a large part of our Cohort, and in 2021 we made the decision to sub in a different opportunity altogether.
The Guest Services Collective was born out of a desire to continue to invest in volunteers, but to take people’s schedule, accessibility, and focus – especially on the tail end of a pandemic – into greater consideration. Here are some of the distinctives:
1. 100% virtual.
Rather than asking volunteers to come to us, we went to them via the power of Zoom. Our meetings were set up on Wednesday mornings from 6:45 – 7:30 a.m., in order to give them time to log off the call and log back on for work, or drive into the office.
Whereas our Cohort lasted eight months, Collective lasted for a scant six weeks, stretched out over three months. That worked out to a meeting roughly every other week.
3. Easy reading.
Instead of six books in Cohort, Collective dug down on one of my favorites: The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath. Participants read two chapters for each meeting and came ready to discuss.
4. 15 / 15 / 15.
We set up each meeting in that simple format: the first 15 minutes was a high-level overview of the reading, drawing out some key points. The second 15 minutes was a small group breakout discussion, diving in a little further. The final 15 minutes was a recap of the breakout and a practical takeaway. It kept the call moving at a rapid clip, and ensured that everyone had a chance to speak.
5. Small group discussion.
We wanted to prevent people from being passive observers, so we took 1/3 of each week’s call for discussion breakouts. Each group consisted of the same people for the full six weeks, so that volunteers from different campuses got a chance to know each other. The groups were facilitated by a mix of our central and campus Guest Services staff, and we met together to plan each meeting.
6. Practical takeaways.
Almost every week we assigned a very simple – and optional – homework assignment, which was related to the reading and discussion. We provided everything from a scorecard to for volunteers to mark their various interactions with guests, to a worksheet for them to map their own experience on the weekend, to an opportunity for them to recognize the impact of other volunteers on their team. The goal was to give them an immediate way to put what we talked about into practice.
7. Open to all.
Our Cohort was a hand-picked group of volunteers submitted by campus leadership. But the Collective was open to any Guest Services team member who wanted to participate. Ironically, we ended up with roughly the same number of people as we have in a typical Cohort year.
We provide a stack of books and breakfast for Cohort. For Collective, we invested in one book for each volunteer, and gave them a small gift at the end of our time together. It came in at a fraction of the normal cost.
A few metrics
For the numbers nerds among us, you might be interested in the following stats:
- We initially had 31 people sign up (that includes me and the other five facilitators). Two had to drop out almost immediately or after one meeting because of unforeseen scheduling conflicts.
- Attendance averaged 25 people per meeting. 70% of participants either had perfect attendance or only missed one meeting.
- 16 participants responded to our post-Collective survey, and here’s what they told us:
- 13 completed 95-100% of the reading, 2 completed 75% of the reading, and one person didn’t read anything. (Oops.)
- “The Collective was worth my time.” 37.5% agree, 62.5% strongly agree
- “The Collective made me a better leader.” 75% agree, 25% strongly agree
- “The assigned reading was helpful and applicable to me as a leader.” 37.5% agree, 62.5% strongly agree
- “The amount of assigned reading was a manageable amount.” 43.75% agree, 56.25% strongly agree
- “The time of day worked for me.” 12.5% disagree, 31.25% neutral, 31.25% agree, 25% strongly agree
- “The format (Zoom) worked for me.” 12.5% neutral, 50% agree, 37.5% strongly agree
- “I enjoyed the 15 / 15 / 15 time breakdown.” 50% agree, 50% strongly agree
- “If another Collective were offered with a different book, I would do it.” 6.25% disagree, 18.75% neutral, 25% agree, 50% strongly agree
So, the obvious questions…
Will we do Collective again? Has it forever replaced Cohort? Well, the honest answer is, we don’t know. We think that we may continue to offer a GS Collective on a semi-regular basis. But it would be in addition to Cohort, not in replacement of. There are so many things that Cohort offers that we don’t have the time or space to do on a Zoom gathering.
However, for all the reasons listed above, GS Collective is a solid option for investing in our volunteers. You might find it’s a sold option for your team, as well!