Research:Wikimedia First Employee Survey/2013 Survey Results

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The purpose of this survey was to better understand the reasons why organizations in the Wikimedia movement hire, what they hire for, and how they go through the hiring and onboarding process.

Given the limited number of organizations with staff overall and the limited number of this survey in particular, some data points are presented below in response to how they helped answer our initial key questions (as outlined in the research plan).

Key takeaways

Purpose of Hiring Job Description Who to Hire Current Gaps
  • Hiring of contractors or staff is generally to help with overwhelming amounts of administrative work, and/or work that is too time-sensitive to be handled by volunteers
  • Be honest about the anticipated responsibilities. In the case of the first employee, this seems to be clearly indicating the amount of paperwork, etc. that is expected.
  • No clear patterns exist in the type of background to screen for - there isn't a "perfect fit!"
  • Limited onboarding processes in place
  • Part-time or temporary contractors/interns were most used for communications and events
  • The two positions most frequently hired first are: office manager/administration and executive director
  • Similarly, it is not always necessary to hire a Wikimedian, nor is it always necessary to NOT hire a Wikimedian.
  • Gaps in knowledge about local hiring regulations and practices

Trends in hiring

Wikimedia Organizations appear to be hiring more and more quickly after their recognition by AffCom Recent years have seen jumps in hiring by Wikimedia Organizations

Amount of time before hiring employee.png

Year first employee was hired.png

Key questions and their answers[edit]

How many groups across our movement have brought on paid staff at some point in their lifecycles? What are the different forms of this employee (e.g., part-time, long term; full-time, short-term; contractor; intern...)[edit]

Shows the respondents by type of those respondents to the 1st employee study. All those with Interns also had staff
  • We only received 16 responses indicating 10 had hired staff. That said, we know from grantmaking and organizational reports that at least 19 movement organizations (chapters and thematic organizations) currently have staff (out of 41 total).
  • All forms of staffing are used! Part and full time, short and long term, contractors, and interns. Based on the results, staff seems to be more common than interns or contractors, with contracted positions often being part-time for administrative functions. In terms of first employees, 2 of 11 entities started with a contractor (18%), and 9 started with staff (82%).
  • The non-staff positions - interns and contractors - are also needed for their administrative help, but also are used for more specific projects, like event-planning or communication (e.g., blog posts)
    • INTERNS (see section below for more information): interns can be paid or unpaid, and typically have been brought in for communications/design and administrative assistance. People are satisfied with this type of role/assistance
    • CONTRACTORS (see section below for more information): contractors seem to be brought in for similar work as interns, including event planning support. Contractors seem to be considered more for a specific need
By job type, approximate allocation of time spent in different positions

What are the range of roles for which entities hire the first employee? What are the activities involved? Is there a typical job profile that works better than others?[edit]

  • It seems most groups go down one of two tracks for the first employee: Office Administrator/Manager (n=3 of 7) or Executive Director (n=3 of 7).
  • Regardless of title, the main activities for the new employee -- which correspond with the main reason for hiring -- are administrative (~60% of the total work). Secondly is Programmatic work, which is ~30% of the average job responsibilities.
  • None of the respondents who hired a staff member considered an external contractor instead
  • There does not necessarily appear to be a pattern for a "good" job description. 3 of 7 said the position changed significantly over time, though this of course is not necessarily a bad thing. One component that was obvious was that it was essentially to appropriately define the extent of the administration component that would be fundamental to the job (see below).

How does an entity/group determine if it is the right time to bring on an employee? What needs was that employee trying to meet at that point in time? What local contexts are most conducive to a first employee?[edit]

  • The primary driver of hiring an employee for Wikimedia organizations seems to be the increased amount of administrative time being stuck on the volunteers running programs/events/projects. This could be paperwork for receiving grants/funds, booking travel, administering expenses, etc. See also: Learning patterns/Supporting volunteers in administration.
We have made the decision and are currently running public search for candidates. The main force behind our decision was the realization that the amount of work has grown so large our voluntary board cannot manage it. We have been abysmally late in our reporting and even grant applications. It is evident we need help. The main problem is we have never employed anyone so we need to set down all the rules for the first time.

Survey respondent.

The decision to hire an employee for us is a response to limitations encountered by volunteers in terms of professionalization of the organization. Administrative work was lagging behind in terms of completing registrations, book keeping, and fundraising which must be done during regular time. We are poised to hire pending approval of a WMF grant to supplement external funding that we have secured.

Survey respondent.

The intent is to hire a staff member to take some of the administrative burden off of the chapter board and its volunteers. With routine matters being taken care of by a staff member (membership enquiries, filing reports, etc), this will free up capacity in our volunteers to pursue programmatic work.

Survey respondent.

The main point is that unpaid volunteers who have full-time work for other employers, simply aren't able to follow up organization, partners, media, and training on an entirely evening / weekend basis. Developments of partnership With semi-governmental organizations, national Libraries, etc demand that there is some staff available at daytime to follow up, run processes, and meet partners etc regularly. We have thoroughly discussed which tasks employees would perform and which not. Main focus will be on organization, partnerships, follow up W-i-R's, Meetings, etc.

Survey respondent.

What is the typical amount of time it takes to fully orient a first employee? What is the average tenure of a first employee?[edit]

  • On average, it took respondents between 3-4 months to onboard an employee. Several entities did it faster (1-2 months), but many did not. Across respondents, hiring a Wikimedian did not cut down onboarding time.
  • The tenure for the first employee ranged from "0-6 months" to still working at the organization! All those who are no longer working at the organization left within the first 12 months. The main reasons people left significant role change from job description/expectations and not being able to meet deadlines. Half of the respondents who have had employees leave saw potential signs of this during the interview process.

What are good practices in on-boarding a first employee?[edit]

Sadly, nothing emerged via this survey! More research required - internally and externally.

What are the common challenges of bringing on a first employee? How does the role of volunteers and/or the board change with the first employee?[edit]

  • Challenges are mostly around the demands on the position: that is, appropriately scoping for the work needed and hiring accordingly. For example, the three organizations that answered that they had had significant role change over time all commented on the need for administrative support:
We expected the employee to spend some time working on administrative matters, and then doing more project-related work. Unfortunately, it turned out that administrative work always takes longer than expected, and there was no time for project work.

Survey respondent.

We planned him to be more project orientated, but bureaucracy (like FDC work) and daily administrative work filled his all time. We changed the role from half time to full time, but this role still under a lot of administrative work. We hope things will change now when we hired ED.

Survey respondent[1].

  • One organization had the case where the newly hired executive director was reluctant to spend time on the administrative work, despite it being a part of the core of the position responsibilities. They had spent a lot of time as a board and as a wider community (which was invited to edit the job description), and they "ensured that the job description was *VERY* clear on the kind of administrative stuff the position would involved dealing with." Rather than immediately hire additional administrative support, as was requested by the ED, the Board decided to find an ED who would be able to fulfill the balance of demands (administrative, programmatic, and strategic) of the position. They found this ultimately to be a useful decision, for they have sense found an ED who is passionate about fulfilling all aspects of the job.

Specific cohort overviews[edit]

Laundry list of response examples by type of respondents.

1. No staff[edit]

N = 6

Takeaways[edit]

  • The 6 respondents who have not hired staff have also not hired contractors or interns.
  • Only 1 of 6 is not considering bringing on staff; 4 are considering it, and 1 is not sure.
    • Reasons for not considering staff support are (a) "work can be handled by volunteers", and (b) "too difficult to get funding."
  • No legal limitations were brought up in regards to staff hiring
  • Main considerations:
    • Administrative burden
    • Inability to fundraise
    • Difficult to follow-through on program partnerships
  • Areas of support needed:
    • Research on what hiring works (for smaller chapters)
    • Funding!
    • Local hiring expertise

Quotes[edit]

Not considering staff
  • "At this stage we are a very young organization with no money or contacts, that said, our primary goal are involve more people with our projects rather than start the risky movement of hire staff for the sake of doing it."
Considering staff
  • "We have made the decision and are currently running public search for candidates. The main force behind our decision was the realization that the amount of work has grown so large our voluntary board cannot manage it. We have been abysmally late in our reporting and even grant applications. It is evident we need help. The main problem is we have never employed anyone so we need to set down all the rules for the first time."
  • "The decision to hire an employee for us is a response to limitations encountered by volunteers in terms of professionalization of the organization. Administrative work was lagging behind in terms of completing registrations, book keeping, and fundraising which must be done during regular time. We are poised to hire pending approval of a WMF grant to supplement external funding that we have secured."
  • "The intent is to hire a staff member to take some of the administrative burden off of the chapter board and its volunteers. With routine matters being taken care of by a staff member (membership enquiries, filing reports, etc), this will free up capacity in our volunteers to pursue programmatic work."
  • "The main point is that unpaid volunteers who have full-time work for other employers, simply aren't able to follow up organization, partners, media, and training on an entirely evening / weekend basis. Developments of partnership With semi-governmental organizations, national Libraries, etc demand that there is some staff available at daytime to follow up, run processes, and meet partners etc regularly. We have thoroughly discussed which tasks employees would perform and which not. Main focus will be on organization, partnerships, follow up W-i-R's, Meetings, etc."
"What support - if any - would you need in order to hire an employee? Please describe."
  • "Most of the support has to be local because our labor laws are very different from the American ones, WMF can't help us much by their knowledge or experience. It would have been good if there had been a collection of overviews of the other chapters' experiences, especially from the small chapters: which functions have they transferred to employees successfully, which attempts failed, what kind of workload might be too much or too little for one person, which functions can be joined, etc. Luckily, WMF has given us money to hire a local professional who helps us throughout the process, including the job interviews, preparing all the necessary policies and hopefully also building a small pool of people whom we do not hire right now but who might be interested in working for us in the future if other vacancies might rise or our chosen employees might leave for any reason."
  • "We are going to need more assistance with legal requirements that goes with hiring an employee in [our country]."
  • "Primarily support and advice (and funding!) from the Foundation. We often feel like we're in a chicken and egg situation where we need to justify hiring such a person with mountains of programmatic work; but that programmatic work won't happen unless we get someone to relieve the administrative burden. Incidentally, hiring staff is probably the simplest method to dealing with this administrative burden, but we'd be quite happy to consider other alternatives if put forward. The point is not the status symbol of having staff, the point is shifting the boring admin work off of burnt out volunteers."
  • "We would not need any support from Foundation. Board members have substantial experience as employers and personnel officers."

2. Interns[edit]

N = 5

Takeaways[edit]

  • All organizations which have had interns also have hired staff/contractors
  • 4/5 respondents do not currently have interns
  • Interns are most typically paid (50% - "Yes," 25% - "Sometimes")
  • Intern functions:
    • Communications / Design (n =3)
    • Administrative (n =2)
    • Event organisation (n = 1)
  • Methods for finding an intern:
    • Universities ( n=2)
    • Online recruitment (n=1)
    • contacts (n=1)
    • General advertisement (n=1)
  • 3/4 of respondents are satisfied with their intern experience

Quotes[edit]

Satisfaction
"What made you satisfied with the impact of the intern(s)? Please describe, and include examples of what the specific projects the intern(s) completed that were well-suited to your organization's needs."
  • "Our organization recruited an intern fairly early-on, before we had a clear strategic direction. Our president at the time was not exactly a skilled workforce manager, but he kept our intern sufficiently occupied. She assisted us by making institutional connections, writing blog posts for our website, and by aiding attendees at our events. She made possible what would have not been possible with an all-volunteer force."
  • "Interns were able to effectively complement our staff team by taking on parts of projects alongside one of our permanent staff, e.g. assisting in organising the EDU-WIKI conference"

3. Contractors[edit]

N = 2 (for contractors as FIRST employee)

Takeaways[edit]

  • Both of the organizations who hired contractors first have also hired interns in the past
  • Primary reason for bringing in a contractor is that the work was "too demanding/time sensitive for volunteers" (100%, n=2)
  • People were satisfied (50%) and very satisfied (50%) with their decisions to hire a contractor
  • Roles of the contractors:
    • Event planning
    • Communications / Design
  • Following the first contractor, the local entities have done the following:
    • Brought on interns (n=2)
    • Contracted with other external contractors (n=2)
    • Hired an employee, one year later (n=1 full-time, n=1 part-time)

Quotes[edit]

"How did your organization/board make the decision to hire a contractor versus staff?"
  • "It was late 2011 when we had just settled on a different venue for Wikimania 2012 than we originally pursued. Given that we had plenty of work to do, we felt hiring a conference planner was the next logical step."

4. Employees[edit]

N = 10 (n=7 for most questions)

Positions
  • 3 Office Administrators, 3 Executive Directors, and 1 Activity Coordinator
  • 3 of 7 reported hires were Wikimedians; they all served in the Office Administrator/Manager role.
Background
  • 3 of 7 first employees were Wikimedians
Duration
  • 3 of the 7 still work at their organizations; the other 4 left within the first 12 months.
  • for those who left in the first year, 2 had roles which did not match expectations, and one was a poor cultural fit. half saw signs of this in the interview process
Onboarding
  • 3 of 7 orgs had an onboarding plan (none of the organizations that did a strategic assessment)
  • Ideas from the plans:
    • "We hired a community member to introduce the employee to the Wikimedia community (both local and global) and she followed an outside course on how to edit Wikipedia ; in addition, the employee was hired just before Wikimania, which allowed her to learn a lot in very little time."
    • Meeting with Board members and Consultants, Community, WMF, Other stakeholders such as Suppliers / Familiarization with Organisation history, processes, tools / "
    • "Induction from the board member that was managing them."
  • WHO did the onboarding:
    • 4/7 - Board
    • 3/7 - local volunteers
    • 1/7 - WMF
    • 1/7 - Other: "He was already trained"

5. Needs Assessment[edit]

  • 4 of the 10 respondents with staff had done a "needs assessment" prior to hiring the first staff (note: one other of the ten respondents did not know)
  • Of those that did a needs assessment, all involved their local communities, 75% involved their boards, and 25% involved one of the following: online community, WMF, external consultants/facilitators
    • No one involved other Wikimedia organizations or outside organizations
    • The only "Very active" participants in the needs assessment were the Boards of the local chapters (n=2)
    • Local community was considered either "somewhat active" or "Not at all active" (out of four options) (n=3, n=1 respectively)
  • Purpose: it appears in general, the assessments were used to guide the development of the job description (100% agree/strongly agree), but it was not consistently used to guide the overall decision around hiring and isn't clearly linked to most organization's ongoing decision-making
    • 2/3 of those with needs assessments thought they accurately scoped the role of the first employee; 1/4 of those without needs assessments felt similarly
    • 2/3 of those with needs assessments hired a Wikimedian; 1/4 of those without needs assessments hired a Wikimedian
  • Those who did a strategic assessment were more likely to hire a full-time position (vs. a part-time position) "indefinitely," that is, without an anticipated end-date for the position
  • The entities who did the strategic assessment were a size of $0-25K at the time (n=3)
  • Regardless of assessment, entities were primarily hiring for administrative support, as well as programmatic support.
  • Regardless of assessment, entities were still just as likely to not have the employee last longer than one year.

Overall thoughts[edit]

  • "One of the drawbacks of the first employee was that while he was legally an employee, technically he was employed on an hourly basis like a contractor working from home, and the amount of time needed fluctuated, whereas after a while he could not accommodate the flexibility and could not meet the expectations (and seeked more stable employment elsewhere). In the hiring of the next employee, we hired them full time and to be based in a fixed office."
  • "Involvement of WMF in hiring process, Continuity of person in the role of President when hiring would have helped in improving the effectiveness of the new employee. "
  • "The first employee experience is something that isn't always a one-time experience; it can be one that's repeated when hiring part-time staff contractors in advance of the first full-time employee hire. The game changes when a staff team is set up, as then they have much more time to induct new staff members and handle any issues that arise than the board does. Additionally, there is an inherent difficulty in having a board member manage a staff member, particularly if other board members have different expectations of the staff member."

Footnotes[edit]

  1. "FDC" stands for the "Funds Dissemination Committee," the group of community members who oversee the distribution of annual plan grants. See FDC_portal.