Wikimedia Conference 2011/Documentation/Professionalization: The first employee

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Professionalization: The first employee[edit]

Introduction: Delphine
Description: Following last years' successful fundraiser, many chapters are in a position where they can hire their first employee. This session is aimed at giving recommendations on how should chapters go about the hiring process and what kind of employees they should hire and to share their current plans.

As background material see these blog posts, and the corresponding recommendations from last year.

Reasons to hire someone[edit]

  • A lot of chapters have a lot of money and so they think about an employee but it is difficult to do that.
  • We have to look at both actions: Hiring an employee or outsourcing some projects for some time.
    • → There is an important difference but you cannot see the one thing without the other.
  • Question: What problems are you trying to solve by hiring someone?
    • "Add skills to the board"
    • Hire someone to do all the things you would outsource
    • Massive administration work because of the fundraiser-increase: Outsourcing the accountant-stuff or hire an employee who can take care about that?

The effort[edit]

  • How much time does it take to hire and to manage an employee?
    • The effort to hire someone is not inconsiderable, it can be better to outsource until you have really high efforts to deal with all administration tasks
      • The employee has to be a self-directing person
    • Austria: How to manage somebody who is working in usual times and not in the evening/night or at the weekend as the volunteers do?

Different approaches: Manager / Secretary?[edit]

  • Poland: The post-work and doing paper-work was too much and couldn't be done by volunteers anymore. So, the employee should be a secretary because he runs an office and won't run projects.
    • Germany: If you want to have persons that support your board and your movement and not only a "service center" ("secretary approach"): You have to hire a manager ("management approach")
      • A manager approach does not take away the power from the board: Staff makes approaches, but the board has to decide; If the board prepared every proposal on its own, it would have no time to do strategic planing, so it makes the board even more powerful because they can concentrate on this.
    • What professional staff does for chapters is making it more effective: The board is only volunteer work and doesn't have much of time, and most of this time is spent doing administration work. The question you have to decide for one approach is: What do you try to get done?
    • Question: WMF and WMDE have hired a lot of people – what do you think about these processes?

Wikimedian or not?[edit]

  • Question: Employee from the community (Wikimedian/Wikipedian) or an external person?
    • Being a Wikimedian/Wikipedian can "help" to become an employee but should not the mainskill we look for, we should look for a good manager / secretary; knowledge about Wikipedia is not the most important point here.
    • Advantage in taking a Wikimedian for the first employee: You know him / her, you know how he / she works, etc.
    • WMF: about 40 % of the WMF-staff are from the Wikimedia-community. If you hire wikiedia-community-people, you have to make clear what is different between being a volunteer and being paid staff.
  • Outsource is easier to get done than employees.
  • If your board hires someone, you have to think about the duration the board is elected for: Most of the boards members are "stable", but if the board member responsible for the employee is not reelected for some reason, you must have a plan what to do then.
  • Conclusion: The decision for what kind of employee you hire depends on what you want to do and what kind of organization you want to have (and on how much money you have). How much does it scale?
  • It is great that we are such an international movement and that we can support each other and share our experiences!


See also: Hiring Q and A by Sue Gardner