In April of last year, the Volunteers & Recruiting committee closed active recruiting of volunteers for the OTW and all of its projects. We did not make this decision lightly; we know the organization is entirely reliant on volunteers' generosity with their time. As we are now at a point where we hope to reopen recruiting in the near future, we wanted to take some time to explain the reasons for closing and the work that has been undertaken to improve our volunteer program in the interim in more detail.
Going into 2012, the organization had a system for recruiting that had worked very well in the past. Prospective volunteers completed a form that indicated their willingness to serve and areas of the organization that piqued their interest. The Volunteers & Recruiting committee would then work with committee chairs in an attempt to match those interests up with open places in the organization. As the organization grew in size and scope, so did the number of interested volunteers; the existing recruiting method became time consuming for Volunteers & Recruiting staff and chairs, and resulted in several instances of individuals volunteering for roles that were not accepting new volunteers at the time. These issues became increasingly apparent during the membership drive last April, when we saw a major influx of volunteer interest and had had to turn away skilled and interested potential volunteers due to a lack of available positions.
Volunteers & Recruiting closed external recruiting at that point, with a plan to revise the committee's internal procedures and then investigate and develop a new system of recruiting. Our goal in completing these tasks is to ensure the committee's procedures are up-to-date for each role while putting in place a recruiting system that provides more support to new volunteers while also ensuring chairs and leads can easily recruit for positions they need.
The first large task for the committee was confirming with each committee chair and workgroup lead that the information on file regarding tool access for each staff, volunteer, liaison, and leadership role was up-to-date, so that new volunteers would immediately be able to access the tools they need to do their work. Based on this information, we created new comprehensive templates for all positions to guide committee staff through both the induction and removal process. As the organization currently has 25 committees and workgroups, this was no small task on the part of the committee and, in some cases, involved some additional research by chairs and leads regarding outside tools and procedures to be included in this process.
To lessen the impact on technical projects and teams - specifically Systems and Accessibility, Design & Technology - a special Technical Recruiting form was opened in May to allow for limited recruiting of coders, testers, and sysadmins. This form and process were active until early September, when all recruiting was closed for a one-month period to transition to the new induction and removal templates and for Volunteers & Recruiting to ensure everything was up-to-date.
Aside from the one-month full recruiting freeze in September, chairs and leads have retained the ability to recruit internally for staff and volunteers interested in joining additional teams and to privately recruit individuals for specific projects and roles to lessen the strain of the active external recruiting freeze. While these options have not been extensively used, they have helped some teams continue to function more effectively while the external recruiting process has been revised.
During 2012, the committee continued to work on developing a Code of Conduct for organization personnel, a process originally started in 2011. The committee researched policies in place in other organizations, researched best practices in volunteer management, and worked with a volunteer consultant in developing a comprehensive Code. During this time, the Constructive Corrective Action Procedure, which outlines how to address violations of the Code or other issues with volunteer performance, was also drafted.
Both of these documents were sent out to all staff and volunteers for a two-week review period. During this time, personnel were able to ask questions about anything that seemed unclear in the documents or make suggestions regarding what was included in them. The committee made revisions based on this feedback and developed Frequently Asked Questions for both the CoC and the CCAP to address some of the questions asked during this time. The documents were sent out for another one-week review period before being sent to the Board of Directors for final approval. Board unanimously approved both documents on 2 November 2012.
The Code of Conduct will be made public on the OTW website as part of the new recruiting structure. This will give all prospective staff and volunteers a chance to review it before applying for an open role.
Position Descriptions and Training Plans
While researching best practices for volunteer programs, the committee developed the new volunteer and recruiting structure further by developing templates that can be used to create position descriptions and training plans for each role within the organization. Position descriptions not only help volunteers to understand their role, but they also outline responsibilities and desired qualifications, providing an up-front understanding of what is involved in the commitment. Training plans for each role also ensures that new volunteers are engaged and supported right away in learning about their new volunteer position as well as the internal processes of the OTW.
To provide support for all committees and workgroups in building the training plans, Volunteers & Recruiting developed interactive tutorials for organization-wide tools. These tutorials were tested by Volunteers & Recruiting staff as well as other staff and volunteers throughout the organization and will continue to be updated and expanded as needed. While these basic tutorials will provide a strong foundation in using the tools for new personnel, there are also plans to build more advanced tutorials for some of the tools in the future.
Interviewing and Selection Procedures
Under the old recruiting system, formal communication with prospective staff or volunteers between the time they expressed interest and their induction was often inconsistent as there was no clear organization-wide standard. In order to ensure that individuals stepping into roles have a better understanding of what is involved in their commitment and to aid chairs and leads in determining if individuals are best suited for a particular role, interviewing and selection guidelines have been developed by Volunteers & Recruiting. While the format and nature of the interview process may vary from committee to committee or role to role, all staff-level positions will include an interview step to allow for a dialogue and for both parties to determine if the role seems like the right fit.
(To clarify, the OTW differentiates between volunteers who serve on committees - "Staff" - and volunteers who serve on workgroups or in volunteer pools - "Volunteers". Staff roles typically involve a larger minimum time requirement and direct participation in committee work and decision-making.)
A New Application Process
With clear position descriptions, detailed training plans, and interview and selection procedures in place, the organization is ready to launch the new recruiting process. Unlike the original process of a single volunteer form with potential volunteers indicating their areas of interest, the new system will be targeted to specific positions. Essentially, the plan is as follows:
- Chair or lead notes a need to fulfill a specific role within their committee, workgroup, or volunteer pool
- Chair or lead notifies Volunteers & Recruiting and ensures that position description and training plan are up-to-date
- Volunteers & Recruiting posts the open position (including description of role and desired skills and abilities) on the volunteer landing page (with a two-week deadline in most cases)
- Individuals submit applications during the application period
- Volunteers & Recruiting closes the position and forwards submitted applications to the chair or lead
- Chair or lead contacts individuals who meet qualifications to discuss the position
- Chair or lead submits names of individual(s) selected for approval
- Volunteers & Recruiting contacts individuals not selected and refers to other open positions, if applicable
- Following approval, Volunteers & Recruiting contacts selected individual(s) and processes induction
- New staff/volunteer follows training plan and works with chair or lead to get started in new role
We anticipate some positions will be open on a more ongoing basis (volunteer pools like Tag Wranglers and Coder volunteers), while committee staff and workgroup volunteer roles will be open only when the groups are actively in need of additional personnel. This will allow prospective volunteers to be more effectively matched with open positions that fit their interests and skills while also streamlining the processes internally for Volunteers & Recruiting and for committee chairs and workgroup leads.
The number of positions open at a time will likely vary depending on the organization's needs at any given time. Through work with the Webmasters and Communications Committees, plans have been developed to market these opportunities as they come open. A sidebar on the OTW website homepage will show a random sampling of open positions at any given time. All position openings will also be broadcast through the organization's Twitter account and occasional roundups on the OTW blog.
So, What Now?
The work on the infrastructure of the new recruiting system is nearly complete. A number of committees and workgroups have prepared their position description, training plan, and selection documentation. And the Volunteers & Recruiting Committee is excited to begin actively recruiting new volunteers into the organization as soon as we can. We are completing our final preparations and plan to open up the first positions under this new model following the April Membership Drive, which runs April 3-9. A follow-up post will be made to the OTW blog when the first applications go up on the volunteering page.