By Fiona Anderson
This handles Volunteers, Staff list, Organisational Chart, Ribbons, Nessie, staff weekends.
This started life as a separate Division, but due to Kurt's extremely serious medical problems, it migrated to under Ops Division.
We had continuous problems trying to find someone to do the Nessie (the staff newsletter pre-con), and every issue seemed to be done by someone else. I think next time we need to look at the purpose of the Nessie, and come up with a consistent format. This might well be a job for the team that will be doing the Newsletter atcon - I believe ConFiction's Newsletter team brought out several issues of the Intermediate Reptile in the months before?
There was never a regular full updated list of staff, despite Kurt's strenuous efforts in that direction, and this needs to be addressed for next time round. Rhodri put together a Staff list for the PRs, Kees collated one for the Souvenir Book, and I put one together for SetUp purposes, which I have been updating after the con, from the lists provided to me by AHs/DHs/individuals, and from the timesheets.
There was also never a regularly updated Organisational chart - mostly due to the number of times we changed our structure, which some people assert was a positive thing, but to my mind made us look totally disorganised to the outside fannish world. For next time, the organisational structure needs more thought about in advance so we aren't always chopping and changing who is doing what or which Division they come under. (I was tempted to produce the generic org chart tshirt with detachable arrow saying "you are here this week"). Volunteers should answer to Ops directly, and liaise with the Staff Services DH. In that Ops needs to know that and how staffing is being addressed in other departments since Ops will have to sort out any problems with shortfall on the day, so they better be involved with dealing with any problems in advance, but Staff Services should look after the actual individuals, and follow up that they are being taken care of properly.
Volunteers needs to be done by someone who is really enthusiastic, upfront, and positive about recruiting. Helps if they're well known to start with, but that's not vital.
Volunteer forms need sent out with every PR, and possibly with any other standard replies to queries to the pre-con Office. A letter should go to the Volunteer acknowledging their form has arrived, and has been passed to the relevant department (not naming any department though in case that department objects to that person) and telling the person to recontact the Volunteers AH if' nothing is heard within a set time
The Volunteer's form should be passed to relevant AHs/DHs for negotiation as to who gets the person, and Volunteers should keep track of where they end up.
Volunteers should then write back to the person confirming their take up and again asking them to recontact if they hear nothing in a certain time
The Staff weekends were all in the UK, varying geographically between North/South. We had a barrage of complaints about why weren't more of them in the North, especially in Scotland due to it being a Scottish Worldcon. While this was a justified gripe, it was hardly fair to expect those of our staff who lived in the South to continually pay out to go up North all the time, especially as people attended those things out of their own pockets. Perhaps next time we could have more frequent staff weekends, and make it clear that not everyone is expected to attend those far away from them
(After thinking this over, I eventually came to the conclusion that Staff Weekends per se were not what we needed at all. Far better to have the DHs take turns to go and visit local fannish groups or cons round the country and make individual presentations about what progress their particular Division is making. This is bloody hard on the DHs, but it would mean far less people having to travel all over the shop, to attend an ill-defined event. Many fans, both on our staff and not, complained to me that the Staff Weekends *in themselves* were off-putting to volunteering, as they didn't like the idea of being expected to pay to attend these weekends for no readily apparent reason).
The staff weekends usually had some official program, which was usually fairly useless, but the one thing they were very good for was getting people face to face to meet each other and to talk seriously about a variety of issues. Next time we need a clear set of objectives of what each meeting in turn is supposed to cover - an overall strategy in place of the adhoc program each time.
With a proper updated Staff List and Org Chart, it would have been easy to see how ribbons fit these. AFIK the ribbon ordering was out of the hands of Staff Services, which seems crazy, and next time should definitely be included under it. The final set of ribbons we got seemed reasonable enough, probably because Sharon has a lot of experience of Worldcons, but that is hardly something we can rely on each time. This is another example of how our organisational structure wasn't thought through well enough in advance - it worked this time, but we really do need a coherent plan next time please.
By Kurt Siegel
I don't know what other conventions really do for Staff Services, nor was I really prepared for what Intersection was planning.
I was asked to take over staff services as much to thank me for my work on the convention as for what I did at past conventions:
I've made it a habit at conventions to pass out little tschakas and candies to folks working at worldcons. Much of this is to relieve stress, and much is to let the myriad volunteers know that they are neither forgotten, nor are they unappreciated. I must confess that I also get a thrill out of' the look on some folks face when you give them a silly little toy to play with.
Instead, what I found was a small division with a moderate budget, arranged in such a way that I was never really sure what had been spent, and what was available. Additionally, the "staff newsletter", TEACHING NESSIE TO TAP DANCE was irregular, contained not much up to date, and was generally ignored until it didn't go out.
Next, I saw that the handling of' volunteers was divided between Staff Services and Operations, and little or no information was being exchanged with other divisions.
I decided to approach Staff Services from the standpoint of Taking Care of the Staff. I wanted to ensure that our volunteers had enough to eat, got enough rest, and were kept from overworking (Especially those at Area Head and above, many of whom have a tendency to push themselves too hard.) To start out, I wanted to see how much money we had to feed people, how we could handle it, who we had volunteering (with an eye toward calling in favours to assist me in getting everything done!)
Then, I started to run into walls.
While I wasn't alone in wanting to take care of folks, (Hi, Miranda!), the logistics of doing so with UK Laws and SECC/Hotel restrictions began to get in the way, and rapidly destroyed any hope I had of' cheap food. I understand that this was covered at the convention, although I don't know how well.
(Fiona: this is where the GRT system came into play, which is covered in the next article)
Fiona and TR both sent me copies of the volunteer forms, and I got an old (*real* old!) copy of the volunteer database as well, and I started to organise it as best as I could, in an effort to contact all the volunteers and be certain that people weren't ignored - as I've been told has happened at many cons in the past.
Unfortunately, I had a hard time getting information from the various area heads and division heads regarding exactly who they had on their staffs, not to mention the cross references which showed volunteers without memberships, and guests without memberships, and multiple memberships for certain folks, and.... well you get the idea
Keep in mind, things weren't going too smoothly over here around then, either. .I'd suddenly awakened one morning with a distended belly and didn't feel too well, but knew I'd be fine... Until the next afternoon when the pain changed, and I finally went to the hospital. As things turned out, in December 1994 my appendix burst, and I was hospitalised for 2 weeks in the Intensive Care Unit... Kinda lost a couple of months trying to do anything then....
But things got back on track, for awhile, and I kept arguing about why we needed to feed the volunteers,
(Fiona: in the US many cons run a ConSuite where food and soft drinks are available, which virtually never happens in the UK, and since we knew a lot of our members would be on an extremely tight budget, we decided to help by giving our staff GRTs for 3 hours worked)
and trying to find out who was volunteering, and checking on the same sort of thing over and over again, until June, when I suddenly had no feeling in my left arm or hand... Herniated discs, more surgery, and no Intersection for me...
The last thing 1 recall doing is reserving a Cell phone for Child Care, and turning the rest of the budget over to Ops.
What would I do differently for Staff Services next time?
1) Find out what: was expected of me before saying "yes"
2) Determine in advance what internal battle lines I'd be crossing, and avoid them as much as possible
3) Go back to my original idea of just making the Staff comfortable, and let them know that. they are appreciated.
4) Get someone reliable to handle the volunteer database according to what *I* wanted it to do.
I'd also suggest that any future convention go back to the ConFrancisco Office Model, (The only one I really have the experience with, at this level.) and have a rented office with a person who tracks all correspondence and keeps the information in one place. If necessary, I suggest that the convention hire someone to keep track of things, just to be certain that we don't let a "black hole" open up.
(Fiona: Kurt is undoubtedly right about the last suggestions, but we had already considered this and rejected it because there was no way we had the money to afford either office hire or secretarial help)