Learning patterns/Starting a project with new paid personnel
What problem does this solve?
When you want to start a new project with paid staff or contractors, you probably first need to apply for funding (via a Wikimedia grant proposal or some other, external option). If you already have the team for your project, that is great. But often until funding is approved, you cannot start to hire (or even search for) the necessary people. And when the funding agreement is in place, it is expected that you start the project very soon. Therefore it is important to have a realistic estimate of how much time you need from the funding decision until the work on the project can really start.
What is the solution?
Go through the following points, find the ones relevant for your project, and take them into consideration during project planning.
Things to consider
- After a positive funding decision, you need to have an agreement about the grant and its conditions.
- The agreement should be finalized. The agreement is usually drafted and prepared by the grant maker, but you should be sure that it fits your local legislation and will not cause any major problem later. For that, you might need legal and accounting advise. This can take some (1-4) weeks, even if you have a lawyer and an accountant already: these people are usually busy and you probably not pay them enough for priority handling. If changes are necessary based on these investigations, it can make the process much longer: the grant maker has to consider the proposed changes, maybe there is a compromise solution which can be reached by iteration, but both parties have to consult with (internal or external) experts.
- After you have the final document, your affiliate needs to make a formal decision. In many cases this step is not necessary, but for some affiliates, signing a contract or agreement requires the involvement of its board. The time necessary for making a decision depends on the jurisdiction and the bylaws of the affiliate, but it takes between few days (for example all board members vote electronically) to some weeks (public announcement with a set number of days required before an offline board meeting, or the online voting process is legally required to last a given time).
- Signing of the document. Often this steps is very easy: for example print and sign by one party, scan and send it in an email to the other one, print and sign by the other, and send it back to the first one in an email; or an even easier and quicker way: sign in an electronic system or using an electronic signature. But in some countries these kind of agreements are not legally valid, and legally valid electronic verification needs a specific legal or governmental process which the other party does not want to go through. Since the agreement is about money (and in most cases between parties from different countries), you should be careful to avoid running into problems with the authorities later. Therefore, in some cases the old and slow paper & snail mail solution is the safest. The time the post office needs to transfer your letter internationally in two directions might be as much as two or three weeks. Alternatively, if you are lucky to be close enough or there is a meeting where representatives of both parties are present, you can bring the printed document personally for signature. This can be faster or slower, depending on when do you travel.
- The agreement or local regulations can require a separate bank account for the grant. This is usually not an additional time, because it can be solved parallel with other necessary steps, but you should put the task on your calendar (or calendar of the person who has the right to talk with the bank as a representative of the affiliate).
- After you have the grant agreement, you will probably need a job description (or multiple ones) in order to find your future staff member(s) or contractor(s).
- You can prepare the job description(s) in advance, in parallel with the grant agreement. The necessary time depends on your experience.
- The board (if it is required at your affiliate) can make a conditional decision about posting the job application parallel with the agreement preparation as well.
- Advertise and spread the job posting on the channels you expect good candidates from. (This step usually follows having the signed agreement in your hands, but can be earlier as well, if you are in a real hurry.)
- Wait for the candidates. This can take 2-4 weeks, depending on your legal requirements, and the number of applicants.
- Ideally, you have some nice candidates. Now, you need to choose. It can happen based on the written applications, or you can hold a round of job interviews. Job interviews help to choose the best people, but increase the time of the selection process (and efforts: the board or hiring committee needs to assemble online or offline). Then the board (or some responsible committee / staff member based on your organizational structure) needs to make the decision. This can take up to two weeks.
- After you have the selected candidate(s), you need a contract. You can prepare the content of the contract while you are waiting for the candidates, but it is recommended to ask a legal adviser to check it. A good contract is crucial: a wrong contact can cost a lot of money or you will not get the result at the end of the project that you expected.
- Making a decision about signing a contract (or more). As mentioned above, at some affiliates the representative or responsible staff member has the right to sign a contract like this, but at other affiliates, it can require a formal decision by the board, which might take some time, between a few days and a few weeks.
- Signing the contract with the new staff member(s) or contractor(s).
- Onboarding the new staff member(s) or contractor(s). Depending on their experience, they need to learn about the project, the tasks, the organizational environment, the requirements. They need time before they can start doing real work on the project itself.
Expect hiring and onboarding the team for your new project to take between 1 to 3 months. If you do not allocate time for this between the grant decision and the start of the work, your will probably face delays in your planned schedule. Take this time into account!
When to use
When you start a project with new paid staff / contractors.