Building a Global Staff Community at the Wikimedia Foundation

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Wikipedia articles can be read, edited, translated, organized, and even played as a game. But have you ever tried listening to Wikipedia? Wikimedia Foundation General Counsel Stephen LaPorte, who co-created the multimedia visualizer of recent wiki edits over a decade ago, is just one example of Wikimedia Foundation staff who edit and engage with Wikimedia in their personal time. On wiki and beyond, our staff are also artists, activists, musicians, academics, writers, pilots, photographers, and even yoga instructors. They speak over 70 languages collectively, including Amharic, Estonian, Frisian, Ga, Igbo, Kannada, Lingala, Odia, Persian, Romanian, Tagalog, Twi, Welsh, Kannada, and even two who speak Esperanto. Many of our staff have extensive experience as Wikimedia volunteers and contributors, while others are new to Wikimedia but have already begun editing and engaging in their free time. How does the Wikimedia Foundation attract and retain such a diverse global workforce? In this post, we’ll be sharing more information about our approach to recruiting, and the complex considerations that shape where and how we recruit.

The Best Person for the Role

As discussed in our recent annual plan draft, staffing is the largest recurring expense at the Wikimedia Foundation, and takes up the majority of our annual operating budget. This investment in staff is not accidental; we know that staff are an essential asset to support our volunteers in growing free knowledge around the world. With this in mind, our approach to global staffing is driven by our commitment to recruit the best person for each open role. 

Broadly speaking, all of our teams at the Wikimedia Foundation are both remote and globally distributed. The Foundation does not recruit for specific roles in specific parts of the world, nor does it organize teams or functional roles by geography. This is by design, as we believe that geographic diversity, among other types of diversity, enriches the quality of our work. As of December 2022, 49% of our 711 total Foundation staff were located outside of the United States.

Some of our positions, such as financial and legal roles, require expertise and qualification in the laws and regulations of a particular country or region. Additionally, for staff whose primary role is to engage with communities in a given region or time zone, a candidate’s location might be considered alongside other factors. In each of these cases, special geographic requirements for the role are typically listed on the posted job description and addressed in early discussions with the recruiter. 

Once the Foundation is ready to make a job offer to a candidate, we use our compensation principles to finalize the salary. This decision takes into account external salary benchmarking, cost of living data, the type of role, and available budget. As discussed in our recent Diff post on our global guidelines, staff typically work hours that are appropriate to their timezone while practicing equitable inconvenience to find shared meeting times with colleagues across the world. Most people have gotten quite comfortable converting their local time into UTC and prioritizing availability in the shared hours where most of their colleagues are awake.

Recruiting A Global Workforce

When seeking to fill an open role, the Foundation’s global recruitment team searches for and interviews candidates across the 57 countries in which we currently engage staff. While it is common among large global non-profit organizations to have staff in many countries, the Foundation’s approach is fairly unique in that we recruit and support staff through a global Talent & Culture department. This approach requires strong global expertise across our Talent & Culture teams. As part of their work, these teams partner with external experts to build deep understandings of local employment expectations and practices in all countries that we recruit staff. This ensures the Foundation can design global staffing policies with these diverse needs in mind while providing staff with a seamless human resources experience. 

Building and updating this list of countries where we recruit is no small task. Our Talent & Culture Department partners closely with the Finance and Legal Departments and the Office of the CEO to periodically review our recruiting practices and the policies governing the work practices of our staff all over the world. Given the complexity of recruiting staff across so many countries, we consider multiple factors when making decisions to add or remove countries from our recruiting list. These factors include the nuances of recruiting in a country and whether staff can safely perform their role from there. Additionally, we try to ensure that work practices in the country are as closely aligned as possible to our Global Guidelines so that we can provide an equitable work experience across all staff. Finally, given the geographic distribution of staff both within and outside the US, our People Operations team also periodically reviews all salary ranges to ensure that our salary scales are competitive and equitable. 

A Global Staff Community

The Foundation’s recruiting and staff work practices strategy is designed to mirror the global movement of free knowledge that we support. Being intentional about how and where we recruit enables us to attract the best talent around the world in service of our mission. Together, our community of staff represent an important part of the broader Wikimedia movement of volunteers, editors, readers, and donors.

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