This post was written in response to a recent Blog Azeroth Shared Topic.
With Patch 3.3 and the Icecrown Citadel raids and 5-man looming on the horizon, and Cataclysm still pre-BETA, guilds are likely to be in for some growing pains. Players leaving because they want to do hard modes or change mains or raid on all their characters. And then there's those folks who hadn't shown much interest in improving their playing or gearing their characters since Naxx was on the schedule who have suddenly reappeared and started to rattle their sabers about being included in ICC raids.
Although the competing agendas of your guildies may be enough to make an officer want to stick their head in the sand and wait for the Cataclysm to hit, that's not your best strategy if you want your guild to stay strong and active between now and then. The key to making that happen is:
- make a concerted effort on the part of your leadership team to keep players engaged
- keep guildies apprised of the road map for the content ahead
- make an effort to reach out to guildies who might be on the fence as to their future with your guild
Keeping Players Engaged
It can feel daunting, especially if you have a large, active guild, to do a pulse check with all of your guildies to ensure they're still feeling like part of the team. But the bigger the guild, perhaps the more important that officers divide and conquer and do just that.
One way to hit up a number of guildies all at once is to put a poll up on your guild forums. Allow the guild at large to help make some decisions about how the guild will spend its time as a group once 3.3 hits. Be sure to schedule time for low-impact fun runs and events to make sure even those who can't make as much time for raids can feel like they have a chance to participate with the guild.
Our guild fun runs through old raid content allows players not ready for prime time raids to get to know players they might not otherwise have much opportunity to play with, and gives friends of the guild an opportunity to see if they might want to jump aboard at some point.
Officers can also make a point of trying to informally check-in with one guildie per day (split them up according to class, who knows whom or whatever feels right for your guild.) Ask them what they're most looking forward to doing once 3.3 hits -- it's a topic most of us are more than happy to talk to you about.
Outlining Your 3.3 Road Map
Once you have a good idea as to what content -- and with what frequency -- your guildies want to see, define the requirements for participation then put up an activity schedule so they can plan for it, and stick with it. Spontaneously deciding to pull in your best 10 players for an extra night's shot on a new raid boss is a surefire way to lose friends and alienate guildies -- don't do it! Transparency is key if you want to keep your guildies excited about learning the new content and in your guild.
Consider planning an activity schedule that is a mix of weeknights post-work and weekend days, again, to allow for more participation. Many times you can lose good players who are highly engaged with the guild over an inability to make key raid nights. No raid schedule will make everyone happy, but it's good to do a check-in with your most engage players to see how your plans measure up to their expectations, and adjust accordingly when possible.
If you have more players interested in content than you can handle in your raids, decide how you plan to handle it. Options include cycling players in and out on a set schedule (i.e. rotating nights/weeks), recruiting to start an additional raid team, and coaching players not quite ready for prime time so they can fill out additional teams. Be sure you clearly state your sign-up policies in advance and again, stick with them, to ensure no hard feelings.
Reach Out to Players on the Fence
Much online ink has been spilled over guilds who have shockingly just lost their main tank/ lead healer/best DPS. It's typically seen as "coming out of nowhere" leaving everyone surprised and scrambling for a fix. Frankly, I don't buy it. I'm not in the first guild I joined. And when I think back to when/why I left prior guilds, not even one of them was an impulsive decision. Especially the raiding guilds.
As an officer, you should be paying attention to your assigned guild duties. You should notice if a formerly talkative player has gotten quiet. Or if you've received a number of concerned mails from a guildie who is unhappy over a change in policy or another member's behavior. A raid leader should notice if a player stops signing up (or showing up for) raids. Or if someone is fixated on loot, and complaining about other team members getting a drop they felt entitled to. These are all pretty common signs you have a player who's on the fence about their future in your guild.
It may be they're not feeling the guild is a good fit. Or they have RL issues that have come up and aren't comfortable bringing them up with an officer. Regardless, if you want to retain a member who is showing signs they may not be as engaged as they previously were, you are going to have to make the first move. Reach out and acknowledge you've seen/heard their issue, and ask them if they want to talk about it. This small bit of effort on your part is not a fix-all. But a failure to reach out to a player who has either directly or indirectly let you know tat something is bothering them will frequently lead to a /gquit, or perhaps worse yet, festering resentment and snippy /whisper commentary.
With a little extra care and feeding, patch 3.3 should be an opportunity for your guild to thrive. You've got multi-winged 5-man, 10-man and 25-man content to tear through, lore aplenty to soak up, and a shiny new expansion a ways off in the horizon. Safe travels.