[Wikimedia-l] WMF HR and leadership questions

Gayle Karen Young gyoung at wikimedia.org
Fri Dec 28 01:14:20 UTC 2012

On Thu, Dec 27, 2012 at 3:39 PM, ENWP Pine <deyntestiss at hotmail.com> wrote:

>  Gayle,
> Thank you for the timely announcement that you will participate in a
> January office hour on IRC.
> I was already contemplating writing to you in the context of some recent
> discussion on Wikimedia-l and on Meta.
> So, I'd like to ask you to respond to these questions on Wikimedia-l.
> 1. Would you please respond to James' concern that I'm quoting below?
> *
> "For those outside of the U.S.,
> http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Wikimedia-Foundation-Reviews-E38331.htm(2.8, 55%) should resolve correctly. Because Glassdoor is susceptible to
> sour grapes, it is probably best read in comparison to similar nearby
> companies. For example:
> *
> *http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/WIKIA-Reviews-E428648.htm (4.5, 100%)
> http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Google-Reviews-E9079.htm (4.0, 90%)
> http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Facebook-Reviews-E40772.htm (4.6, 94%)
> http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Twitter-Reviews-E100569.htm (3.7, 56%)
> http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Apple-Reviews-E1138.htm (3.9, 82%)
> http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Oracle-Reviews-E1737.htm (3.2, 63%)
> http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Intuit-Reviews-E2293.htm (3.7, 79%)
> http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Adobe-Reviews-E1090.htm (3.7, 84%)
> http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/VMware-Reviews-E12830.htm (3.3, 63%)
> "I hope the Board and leadership find some way to exceed the employee
> satisfaction scores of at least one of those nine others in the coming
> year."*
I'm not sure what the concern is. Is it that we find a way to exceed the
employee satisfaction scores? If that's the concern, I'm happy to report
that the results from the employee engagement survey were positive (at the
76th percentile for positive scores against all other organizations in the
survey database, which includes 65,000 respondents from 120 companies).
When directly asked the question about the level of employee engagement
here at the Foundation, 91% of the 84 respondents (66% response rate, which
is considered reliable for survey data) responded that they felt favorably
(a 4 or 5 on the scale). I'll talk more about this during the office hours
as the results are much lengthier and complex, but suffice to say, we got
both great qualitative and quantitative data in both the survey, the focus
groups, and the myriad other forms of feedback that I have about what we
actively need to work on from a leadership perspective.

I don't pay that much attention to Glassdoor. I'm aware of it, and it's a
very limited sample and perspective.  My main concern is that it
potentially impacts recruiting. I don't believe, because I have competing
and more reliable data, that it accurately represents a picture of the

> 2. I am interested in hearing your responses to some of the comments in
> this post from someone who identifies themselves as a current employee.
> http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Employee-Review-Wikimedia-Foundation-RVW2021047.htm
> Specifically, I would like to ask:
> *2a. How active are Board members in participating in ongoing community
> and WMF discussions? Personally, I note that the number of board members
> who post on Wikimedia-l and/or Meta on a weekly or monthly basis seems
> lower than I would hope.

I have no way to measure this. If someone else would like to do research on
 a % of board posts on the mailing lists or as a portion of meta, that
would be fascinating. =

> *2b. How are senior managers held accountable for making progress toward
> Strategic Plan goals such as meeting the Board-approved "critical target"
> of 200,000 active editors each month by 2015?
We're improving our practices around setting goals, setting expectations,
helping people staff appropriately for the project goals, and figure out
plans to support those goals. The complexity in here lies partly in the
fact that it's not a 1:1 correlation between do X action and get Y# of
active editors. There are a lot of intermediary variables. The short answer
here is that each of the managers DOES feel vividly accountable for
organizational performance. We're willing to have the difficult
conversations, and increasing our ability to have the conversations that
have to happen between people when we're off target.  That's part of what
went into the narrowing focus conversation.

> *2c. Are people fired "every month", and if so, what is being done in the
> way of preventative action, for example changing the hiring process to
> select people who are less likely to be fired?

No. People are not fired every month. I found that statement a bit

Additionally, I know all the reasons people have been either let go or
chosen to move on, and there's a fairly complex mix. For instance, culture
fit is hard and some people who look great and interview well don't
necessarily fit into an organization as collaborative and transparent as we
are sometimes, or may not have capacity to deal with the inordinate amount
of complexity (the level of complexity in comparison to size is pretty
remarkable). But that factor may account for one of the folks that were let
go in the last year, which I can count on fewer than the fingers of one
hand. In one case, with the restructuring of a department, the specific
skill set of someone wasn't optimally utilized anymore, but decisions
around retention there had nothing to do with competence or character.  My
goal is to have the kind of organization where people can have rich
experiences for as little or as long as they're here and feel better set up
for their careers when they leave here. We're at the beginning of a
developmental arc to make this happen in better ways, though I think we've
made a few strides this past year and are starting to have better career
pathing conversations.

The hiring process is a pretty exhaustive one as it is. I think that it
needs process improvement, and figuring out the right staffing from a
recruiting side is a current challenge I have, but I don't think people
being "fired every month" is an issue.

> *2d. Does WMF have "a talent retention problem" and if so what is being
> done about this?

The short answer is "No."

The simplicity of this question is a bit misleading. I don't think we have
a talent retention problem because we have amazing people working for us
who have and will continue to. The reasons that people move on are
sometimes but not always problematic. I think it's GOOD for people to leave
the organization at various points - for their own career development,
because the things that were more endemic to a start-up environment are a
little less prevalent at our stage of organizational growth, etc.

That said, I think we can always get better at finding ways to understand
more deeply why people stay and what my department and organizational
leaders can do to make the experience of working here continually better
(I'm a big believer in learning and organization development and growing
and developing people), so I'm engaging in efforts like designing a
leadership development program that we started piloting last October,
involving more people in strategy conversations, improving our internal
processes, thinking about our benefits and staff support, understanding our
local compensation market, etc. I do these things because they're important
for my role and because I believe in them, not because I think we have "a
talent retention problem".

> Thank you in advance for responding to these questions.
> Pine

You're so welcome! :)
I'm going on a short vacation for New Year's, and will be unresponsive
after this (just to warn you). I wish you all a fantastic start to 2013!!!

Warmest regards,

Gayle Karen K. Young
Chief Talent and Culture Officer
Wikimedia Foundation
p. 415.839.6885 x6691
c. 415.310.8416

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