In order to motivate staff, a Forum Administrator must craft their staff members’ experience to appeal to what staff members want and expect. Deep down, any staff member who is not being paid for their work is instead given a position of authority over the community, which itself can be a form of payment. Every person wants to have authority, and to be an important member of a community. This is especially true for Forum Administrators and Moderators. There are a number of things which a Forum Administrator can do to appeal to this built-in sense of ambition which every person has within them.
Suggestion #1: Appeal to Ambition. Do not start staff members at the top of the ladder.
Forum staff members are usually ambitious. If they are Moderators, they eventually want to become Administrators. If they are members, they probably want to become Moderators. This may sound cynical, and is not true for everyone, but it is true for enough people that it is important factor to take into account.
If you hire someone from outside your forum to join the staff team, then it is important to start them out with limited access, so that they have something to work towards. If you hire someone out of the gate as a Global Moderator, they are very likely to drop in activity very quickly. However, if that same person is hired as a Section Moderator in charge of a couple forums, then they have something to work towards, and a reason to contribute to the forums.
Suggestion #2: Appeal to Curiosity. Grant access slowly and create unique staff forums.
People are fundamentally curious. If a piece of information is not given to them, they want to know what it is. One valuable technique to convince staff members to be active in the crucial weeks after their hire, is to dangle information in front of them without giving them access to it. This can be achieved by setting a password to the staff forums, or the main section of the staff forums, and only giving them the password after they have proven that they are going to stick around as a forum staff member. A password also makes that information more valuable, because the less people who have access to information, the more important it feels.
Suggestion #3: Appeal to Secrecy. Categorize well and create unique names.
Every forum has secrets. Some of those secrets can be interesting and sensational. There is a built-in love of secrecy which all people share. Knowing a secret which other people do not know has a certain thrill to it. It makes a staff member feel important, and attached to the forum, to know its secrets. There are a number of ways you can sensationalize your staff forums, to promote this sense among staff members.
Staff forums with unique & mysterious names: Give each moderator forum a creative name which goes along a theme. For example, you could name your staff forums after figures in Ancient Norse Mythology.
Write Moderator Guidelines: Write lengthy and detailed guidelines for moderators.
Suggestion #4: Appeal to Importance. Design good userbars and ranks.
A moderator contributes to your forum for a number of reasons. One of them is to, simply put, be a moderator. If someone is going to be a moderator for the sake of it, you need to emphasize that status. That means giving their username a noticeable color, giving them a good-looking rank image under their avatar, and offering them well-designed userbars so that they can show off their position at your forum. You also need to focus on propping up their sense of importance through choosing good titles for their positions. No one wants to be a “Trainee Moderator” or a “Junior Moderator,” but “Section Moderator” sounds a lot better. Also, it is a mistake to refer to a moderator, in my opinion, as a “Team Member.” Being a “Team Member” sounds less important than being a “Moderator,” so for a small forum, it is a very good idea to use titles like these as further rewards for being staff members.
Suggestion #5: Appeal to Intelligence. Let your staff members make decisions.
Everyone wants to be in charge, if not of an entire forum, then their own little portion of it. Give your staff members very specific responsibilities of which they have total control of. For example, if you make a staff member a sectional moderator, then make them the only moderator of that section, and emphasize that thy are responsible for making that section active, and give them the ability to create pinned topics and customize that section as they desire. Also, make sure to poll staff members on decisions you make so that they feel a part of the decision making process.
Staff members are people. They have the same expectations and wants as anyone else, and those wants include a sense of importance and secrecy, and the need for their curiosities and ambitions to be fulfilled. Your forum is not just a website, but a product. For your members, you want to refine their experience to make it smoother and better. For staff members, you want to refine their experience to make them feel, and be, important.