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Officers' Quarters: Wait-listing is the hardest part

Every Monday, Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership. He is the author of The Guild Leader's Handbook, available now from No Starch Press.

As interest in WoW declines and guilds finds themselves once again facing six months or more of raiding the same content, player retention is going to become a huge issue for officers. For raiding guilds, the hardest players to retain are those on the fringes of your team, the extra three to five people who are most often asked to sit out and be "waitlisted" or put on "standby." These terms are really just euphemisms for the same thing: sitting on the bench.

This week, one officer asks how to keep these players from moving on to other guilds.
Hi Scott,

I'm an officer in a well established 25 man guild. Throughout the 2+ years we've been raiding, we've always had issues with recruiting beyond that 25th player. Whenever we pick someone up, it always seems that someone else drops out, and we're back to relying on every last player in our raid to show up, or else we're running with a man down or scrambling to get a new recruit or a casual guild member in.

There have been several times where we did have 29 or 30 people online for raid nights, usually after another guild has collapsed and we pick up a few extra recruits at the same time. However, it always seems to never last.
I know that at least part of the problem is that we tend to sit our "worst" players during progression fights, which is itself a vicious cycle (they don't get experience or gear, and when we do give them a shot they are unprepared). The other officers in the guild have been raiding since vanilla and swear that that's how the waitlist has always been implemented, but I usually argue that people are no longer stuck in a guild. People aren't going to wait in the wings for weeks for a shot at a raid spot, they'll disappear after a week and apply to the multitude of other guilds out there.

So, we have this revolving door effect on our 23rd-27th raiders. Whenever we get more than 25 online, I know it will only be a week before we are again crossing our fingers and hoping that everyone shows up. We, as a guild, are tired of this and are beginning to recruit with a waitlist in mind. We know there are guilds out there who run with 30 raiders, but we don't know how they manage that. How do you fairly run a waitlist so that certain members don't feel that they are being treated unfairly? Should we be rotating throughout the night on a boss per boss basis? Or would it be better to say that these people have the night off at the start? Should we be looking only to rotate dps or should we have an extra tank and an extra healer too? Also, are there any tools you know of to help with managing all of this?

I know that's a lot to ask, but I appreciate your help with this situation.

Thanks,

Voltage
Hi, Voltage. Having players on permanent waitlist/standby is swiftly becoming a thing of the past. Serious players won't stand for it, and I can't say I blame them. The only real exception to this is players who are mostly casual but don't mind filling in when a raid falls short -- but that's not really a good solution if you're a progression-oriented guild.

Anyone who wants to raid and shows up to raid isn't going to be content sitting on the sidelines week after week. The current environment, where many guilds are struggling to field a full team, is rich with opportunities for those seeking more raid time.

I would also question how you define which raiders are the "worst," who makes that decision, and how that information is conveyed to these players. I certainly wouldn't stick around very long if my raid leader told me I wasn't good enough to raid with them unless they were desperate for a warm body.

Certainly there are players in every guild who are better than others, but everyone on your roster whom the officers have approved for raiding should be competent enough to get the job done. At the very least, they should show enough promise that with help and practice they can perform at a competitive level. Otherwise, why bother inviting them at all?

If the matter is one of gear, then sitting them out, as you correctly state, is only making the problem worse. Fortunately, patch 4.1 will solve some of that problem with the epic gear in Zul'Gurub and Zul'Aman.

Here are some tips for solving the waitlist issue:

1. Reward players for sitting out. Players who don't receive a slot, for whatever reason, shouldn't feel like their time is completely wasted. Three or four hours is a big chunk of someone's day to spend twiddling their thumbs with nothing to show for it. They should earn DKP or some other future loot consideration if they are willing to remain online and available during the raid.

2. Allow standby players to pursue other activities. Allow them to run dungeons, PvP, or do daily quests while they wait, with the understanding that they could get called in at any time and must be ready to raid immediately if they're needed.

3. Rotate by boss or difficulty. If you ask your players to identify which bosses they still need loot from, you can swap players in and out (provided all the appropriate roles are covered). It helps to organize this ahead of time, but it can be done simply by asking prior to each boss who does and doesn't need loot. That will not only prevent gear from being sharded, it will also keep people from getting too bored on the bench or burned out from constant raiding.

Of course, if you're newly downing hard mode bosses, it's likely that everyone will need loot from every boss, so this method does have its limitations. For most guilds at this point in the expansion, however, there are certain bosses they will attempt do in hard mode and others they will leave on normal mode for now. Rotating undergeared players out for hard bosses and in for normal bosses is another possible way to keep everyone involved.

4. Rotate by night. Another way to prevent burnout is to identify which nights certain players can have "off." Just ask them to log in at the start of the raid to make sure they aren't needed. If they feel comfortable, you can also ask them to be "on call" by providing a phone number or instant messenger ID.

Keep track of who recently took a break and who hasn't gotten one in a long time to figure out who should be next. Missing a raid for personal reasons should put a player at the end of this line. Tanks and healers in particular will enjoy being able to take a breather from their responsibilities now and then. If you can spare them, they should get first dibs on this kind of break.

By giving players a night off now and then, your extra raiders become a resource rather than a burden.

5. Encourage off specs. It's a lot easier to accommodate all this swapping if your hybrid classes are willing and able to perform another role when asked. Finding raiders who are willing to swap roles is a topic for a whole other column, but one key is to make it as painless as possible to obtain off-spec loot in your loot system. If nothing else, Blizzard's new Call to Arms rewards may motivate DPSers to give these other roles a shot.

6. Don't create a de facto caste system among raiders. If you create a system where certain raiders are clearly considered inferior to others, then those on the bottom rung of your society will most likely either accept their place and stop trying to be as good as the others on the team or get tired of the untouchable routine and quit. Either outcome is bad for your raid team.

7. Player retention goes beyond raiding opportunities. When new players join, make sure that officers and other guild members help them to feel included in the community. Invite them to dungeon runs or rated battlegrounds. Engage them in conversation. Offer to help them gear up or learn an encounter. Too often, new players are considered to be barely competent until proven otherwise, or, worse, ticking time bombs of drama that no longstanding member wants to approach. If your guild often behaves this way, the officers need to break down these prejudices by example.

Incorporating new, unproven players into your raids can be stressful. Veteran players may question your decisions at times. The only way for raiding guilds to survive in the long term, and through this current content lull, is by a raid leader's willingness to take chances on new recruits. It's inevitable: Some of the players you're counting on right now will eventually quit the guild or the game. If you don't have people to replace them, you're flirting with disaster. All it takes is a few bad weeks to drive your raiders away in droves. Don't believe me? Well, I've seen it happen.

Protect your guild by treating all your raiders with courtesy and respect. Inexperienced, undergeared raiders help no one, so get everyone involved as often as you can. Your "bench" players may surprise you!

How does your guild handle this issue?

/salute

Recently, Officers' Quarters has examined how strong new leadership can create a guild turnaround, the pitfalls of promising more than you can deliver, and lessons learned from Scott's own guild demise. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to scott@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

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