The ultimate guide to a forum staff manual

By Shawn G · Oct 4, 2012 ·
  1. Shawn G
    The ultimate guide to a forum staff manual

    A lot goes on at a forum and often there are many challenges, experiences and incidents that you and your staff team will face while your forum is growing more and more active. There is often times when staff members do something that other staff members do not agree with. Unless there is a document explaining how staff should do their duties, there will likely be troubles and drama within the staff team at some point or another. That is why a staff manual is important and that is why I have decided to write this article. This article can be used as a guide to help you create the ultimate staff manual for your forum. I hope you enjoy this article and I hope it helps you make the perfect staff manual.

    Why should you have a staff manual?

    A staff member manual is good for many reasons and especially as your forum gets more active. You may run your community differently than what other staff members are used to. This is a main reason you need a staff manual so you can explain to your staff how you want the forum to be ran. A staff manual is also good for explaining who can discipline members and how they should discipline them. If you have any policies for staff members such as activity or special staff rules, then a staff member policy would be good for listing that in. If your staff members ever run into a problem and do something about it that you do not favor, by not having some sort of staff manual, how can you be upset over it? If you have a manual present and they disregard it, then you have something to back up your argument about why they should have done something differently.

    How should you present a staff manual?

    I suggest presenting the staff manual on a staff-only board. It should be made on a new topic and placed on the board as a sticky thread. A new topic is the best way to do it in case you need to make quick changes to it, which would show to be easier with a topic verses having it on a PDF file or something like that. I also suggest notifying your staff when you update it and telling then what parts and sections have been updated. When you hire a new staff member, you should PM then and let them see the link to the staff manual so they can start reading it and seeing how you want them to perform their staff duties on the forum. You could make a manual for each level of staff (admin, moderator, etc.) but that will usually mean more writing. I personally suggest making a “global manual" for all staff and just including duties of each position within the manual so that all staff knows what each level of staff positions are supposed to be doing. It's a good idea to sometimes test your staff members by asking them what they should do in a certain situation to help them refresh their memory with the manual on how to perform staff duties.

    What you should include in a staff manual?

    1. The welcome statement - I like to start a manual with a welcome statement about how staff is important for the development of the forum which they are. I include sentences about welcoming them to the team and why their services are important for the community. I explain that they represent our forum while they are active on it and what I expect from them as a staff team. I explain the importance of working together as a team and why it is needed within any sort of industry. I explain that the manual is for staff viewing only and its contents are property of my forum and the forum network and that it should not be shared outside of the staff realm.

    2. Management team - I also like to introduce staff members to those in charge of the forum such as myself as the owner and the community manager. This is a good area to also introduce other staff members and you can add more as you get more staff members. You can explain about them a little bit and include their experience in forum management or related experience within the forum industry. This is also a good section to explain who is in charge of what section of staff and who to go to when you need further assistance in performing your staff duties. I also like to include some contact information for each staff member in this section such as email addresses and IM usernames if the staff members want to show them.

    3. Policies - The next section of a good staff manual should show the policies for staff. All forums need a good set of staff policies because when you're dealing with those in a position of power, you need to let them understand how you want that power to be used. I often include a policy about activity explaining how active staff members need to be and I encourage them to send me a message when they plan to take a leave or something like that so I know they are not hurt or something like that. I care about my staff members as I consider them as a family most of the time so I want them to be able to tell me that they are going to be off the forum for a while. I also include policies about how power will be used and how ego trips and abuse of power will not be tolerated. There are all sorts of policies that one could think of in regards to staff members and a manual is a perfect place to put them for staff members to read.

    4. Duties - The next section should include the staff duties and responsibilities of staff members based on their position. This is where I would put information about what admins do, what moderators do and so on. If you have assignments for staff, you could also list that information here. I would also list information on how to use staff tools such as the moderation tools and control panel. You can also explain about the hidden staff boards on your forum and what they are used for. Finally, I would list who to contact if you need more help. It's good to include that more than once in your manual so that staff members understand that if they need help, they should know where to get it. This is also a good section to explain how the warning system works and stuff like that.

    Optional Explanation of the Rules

    One thing I like to include in my manuals is a detailed explanation on the forum rules, what they mean to staff members and how to enforce them and take action when needed. On my forums, there is a rule to stay on topic yet it's not something I strictly enforce as I go off-topic all the time. However, if someone abuses going off-topic and others are offended, that is a different story however a new staff member may not understand that so that is why I see explaining the rules to be a good move. I also explain how to handle situations. I don't want a staff member banning someone for getting into a minor argument with another member so I explain how to handle minor arguments on the forum. In the end, I do tell staff members to use common sense and their discretion when warning or banning a member but an explanation about the rules is still a better way to help them understand how they should respond to something.

    Well there you have it. I hope this article can help you decide on the perfect staff manual setup. You may share this article on other forums and websites as long as your provide a link back to my forum and the original article page. Thank you for reading this article and I hope you have enjoyed it. Please show your support by replying with your thoughts or more tips on making the perfect staff manual.

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