Taking Action on Commissioner Recruiting

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Action Changes Things

  • Action starts with identifying prospects: individuals who might be good candidates to serve as commissioners. Again, experience in Unit Service, or in Scouting, isn’t a necessarily a prerequisite. Individuals in professions where a servant’s heart is a key to success (teachers, health care professionals, etc.) might be excellent commissioners. A human resources professional might be an excellent prospect to lead council or district recruiting. A technology professional might be an excellent prospect to help in developing needed data or training other commissioners to use Scouting applications. A variety of research tools are available to help identify prospects.
    • Commissioner Tools can help with research: unit commissioners can enter current unit leaders who might be good prospects when completing a detailed unit health assessment and a report listing those prospects can be produced. New Member Coordinators can also help with research: they likely will know which unit leaders are looking for new prospects in Scouting. A review of current and prior unit rosters may identify volunteers no longer registered with the unit who might be available.
    • Never stop shopping: while visiting units, attending Scouting meetings and events, or even meeting people in other settings, look for individuals who appear to have the one prerequisite for Unit Service – a servant’s heart – and might be interested in helping youth through Scouting.
    • Friendstorming works, and it can be done by any group of volunteers interested in recruiting others to help. It need not be a district or council-wide initiative (although it’s always good to share prospects identified who may not be great candidates for Unit Service who might be effective in other areas. Scouting is always looking for great volunteers and a Friendstorming exercise led by a district commissioner might turn up a great candidate for the district operating committee.
  • All prospects may not be great candidates. Additional research is needed. Always ask for others who can provide additional information about a prospect that will help determine whether they are a candidate for Unit Service.
  • Once a great candidate has been identified, making the ask requires a plan of its own:
    • Who can help that knows the candidate well – and who the candidate will have a hard time telling no? Ask that person to help in making the ask (and limit the ask team to only two or three to avoid intimidating the candidate).
    • Be prepared to tell the candidate what success looks like and the time commitment required to achieve it. Put it in writing – less than one page – it will have an impact.
    • Be prepared to provide the candidate with an estimated minimum time commitment for their first year of service. Offer specific examples of events and times with an estimated total.
    • Be prepared to tell the candidate why they are a good candidate for the role in which they are being asked to serve.
    • Volunteers are motivated by three things: influence, fellowship, or achievement. You won’t know which one is most important to a candidate, so always address all three. The candidate will respond to the one important to them; if you leave out one of the three, you may miss a great candidate.
  • “No” doesn’t necessarily mean “no;” it may only mean that more information is needed or that the time isn’t right. Circle back periodically on great candidates who didn’t say “yes” the first time; invite them to Scouting or Unit Service events; you may eventually hear “yes;” and when there is really no opportunity of success, it will be apparent.
  • “Yes” requires immediate action. Start with the basics: complete the candidate’s registration as a commissioner; invite them to the next available commissioner meeting; assign a coach to support their transition to their new role.
  • Celebrate and confirm success. While there are many definitions of “commission,” they share common threads: a “Commission” is an authorization to act; an act of entrusting or giving authority; an appointment or assignment to a task or function.

In Scouting, only professional staff members and commissioners are eligible to be commissioned. Just as the wreath of service is a unique design element of their badges of office, commissioning is a unique opportunity for individuals in those positions to publicly commit to providing service in Scouting and to celebrate their commitment.

Commissioners are recruited and commit to serve one year at a time; a commissioning ceremony is a great opportunity to publicly formalize and celebrate their commitment.

For commissioners who are renewing their commitment to serve, a review of achievements over the past year and plans for the year to come (Assess – Plan – Act) provide great preparation for a commissioning ceremony. Asking all commissioners to complete a self-assessment in preparation for that discussion can add value to it.

Commissioning ceremonies – and preparation for them – help recognize and celebrate success and retain commissioners.

  • Recruiting ends with “yes;” onboarding must begin immediately. Onboarding is a process that begins with registration in a commissioner position and continues through completion of position-specific basic training. More than training is needed: new commissioners need an opportunity to practice the skills learned through training and our onboarding process (available as a part of each training program in the BSA Learn Center) enables that – and is required to be deemed trained in a position.
  • Every commissioner needs a coach. A commissioner’s coach may be the volunteer to whom they report, or it may be another commissioner assigned to fill that role. A coach guides a new commissioner (or an experienced commissioner in a new position) through onboarding and is accountable of its completion. On an ongoing basis, a coach provides feedback, instruction, and developmental guidance to help a new commissioner excel in their current job responsibilities. A coach helps a new commissioner (or an experienced commissioner in a new position) develop individual skills and abilities.
  • Recognize Recognition has been a fundamental part of Scouting from its beginning. Done well, it is a powerful tool that can help leaders set goals, define accomplishments, encourage skill development, celebrate commitment and achievement, and inspire others to strive for similar success. Recognition is also a way to say thank you. It is most effective when done publicly and best when it includes three things: (1) what, specifically, are you recognizing, (2) how did it make you feel, and, (3) what you are going to do as a result.

    Effective recognition is essential to effective unit service:

    • It provides clear definition of success: the attitude, skills, training and behaviors needed to perform effectively
    • It helps identify and recruit volunteers to serve as commissioners
    • It helps retain commissioners

For commissioners, effective recognition supports recruiting and developing a team that helps unit leaders start, build, and grow strong, sustainable units that will ensure every member of the BSA has a great Scouting experience.