Wikimedia Foundation: remote-first and global community of staff

Translate this post

Did you know that the Wikimedia Foundation is a remote-first organization, with the majority of our staff based outside of San Francisco and roughly half located outside of the United States?

Global workforce

As part of this year’s annual planning processes, the Wikimedia Foundation will be sharing more granular information about the Foundation’s staffing, team structures, and specific budgets as an outcome of these planning efforts. We are starting with our remote-first, globally-distributed community of staff. It is a group of over 600 people who collectively speak over 75 languages (and counting!) and span almost every timezone, across all eight Wikimedia regions

One of the complexities that defines the Wikimedia Foundation amongst other similarly-sized nonprofit organizations is the very wide range of roles we hire for – spanning from highly technical to non-technical roles, across so many different jurisdictions. This runs the gamut from software developers, engineers, designers, product managers, and data scientists to people who specialise in communications, grantmaking, information technology, human resources, financial management, legal affairs, and fundraising. 

We believe knowledge belongs to everyone, and in order to empower people from all backgrounds to participate in the collaborative creation of knowledge, we strive to empower diverse teams to work together across the world.  In the United States, the Wikimedia Foundation is the direct employer of all staff who are distributed across more than 30 US states. Non-US staff are hired through employers of record or through freelancing platforms. This complexity requires us to track compliance with the regulations, laws and shifting local markets of more jurisdictions than similarly sized organizations. 

How do we approach compensation principles?

As a remote-first organization that currently hires across 50+ countries, we have been on a journey to develop compensation systems that are  equitable and progressive across many job roles in many different geographies. Our goal in hiring is to look for the best person for the role and to pay competitively for that role based on local market conditions. While we sometimes hire from the same talent pool as for-profit organizations, we do not have an incentive structure, and our compensation consists mainly of salary and benefits.

Similar to most nonprofit organizations, salaries and benefits represent the largest and most important financial investment we make at the Wikimedia Foundation. Salaries are set with many factors taken into consideration, the primary ones being  job role, geographic location, skills, and experience. We have historically used external benchmarking data to inform how salary ranges are set, particularly as it relates to the recruitment of staff from other technology organizations. That said, our ranges take into account that we are a non-profit organization that cannot and should not compete with the total compensation offered by many for-profit organizations. 

Given the geographic distribution of our staff – both within and outside of the US – we periodically review all salary ranges to ensure that our salary scales are competitive and equitable. This is especially important because the Foundation typically does not provide bonuses or other types of incentive-related pay. 

Looking ahead 

A diverse global workforce is an asset in achieving our mission. We are continually looking for opportunities to understand and address the changing needs of our workforce across the world. These include an assessment of benefits, the needs of employee resource groups, and recent regulations in the US to list salary ranges in job postings. 

We look forward to sharing more in this series from our community of staff who represent a wide range of cultures and languages, professional backgrounds, and lived experiences. Like a Wikipedia article, we are a collective output of people and knowledge from across the world. 

Can you help us translate this article?

In order for this article to reach as many people as possible we would like your help. Can you translate this article to get the message out?

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

A challenge for remote working is to act differently from multi-nationals (that just adopt “Google Meet” or “Google Calendar” and “Zoom”).
A collective effort will be needed to be bold, and sustain Nextcloud, Jitsi, BigBlueButton, and this kind of Libre solutions who are strategically better and protect the independence of our Movement and the privacy of our teams and volunteers.

Will you be offering more part-time positions? Many feel that insisting on a 40 hour work week is unnecessary, and shorter hours can make happier and more productive employees.