Because projects change as they move through the lifecycle, the project team changes too. You could start off with a strategically-focused team, preparing the business case and financial models. You will move into a delivery-based team, focusing on working through the plan, managing issues and hitting deadlines. Finally, the project team will incorporate elements of the operational business units, perhaps including someone from an IT support team or help-desk service, and end users involved in testing and handover activities.
As the project manager, you may be the only individual who has seen the whole lifecycle from start to finish. At Ten Six we provide interim project professionals, so we know all about how to bring new staff into the project team quickly and efficiently. Here are our tips for a smooth induction for new starters.
Their First Week
The first few days for a new project team member can be daunting. Everyone else is speaking a language they don’t understand. There is new software – everyone else knows exactly what the enterprise project management system is for, but the new starter won’t yet have a user name and password for it. Helping your new team member settle in during their first week is critical to ensuring that they can contribute to the project long term.
Get the practicalities out the way: all the housekeeping stuff like security passes, a desk, a computer and a tour of the building. If you can, buddy up your new team member with someone else in the project team so they feel they have someone to turn to. Set the tone: talk about the team values, the dress code, your approach to work/life balance. All these activities will show that you are organized and committed to the contribution that the new starter is going to make.
Spend time with your new starter to explain their role in the project and what you expect of them. Finally, schedule meetings with all the key project staff and stakeholders. Let everyone introduce themselves and their role on the project.
Their First Month
By the end of their first month they will have attended project team meetings and will now have a better idea of the project and their role. If they haven’t had training on software, get that scheduled. If they need training on basic project management methods, organize a course or some mentoring sessions for that too. Check that they understand monthly reporting cycles and that they know how to get their expenses approved.
Now they are more confident in the project environment, this is a great time to give them more exposure to the rest of the Portfolio Office. Explain the key functions of the Portfolio Office and the strategic role it plays. You could also get them to spend time with other project managers so they can see how your project fits into a program or larger organizational strategy. If they haven’t joined the project team from another area of the business – in other words, if they joined your team directly from outside the company – get them to spend some time with end users understanding the world outside the Portfolio Office.
Their First Six Months
On large projects you could easily have someone in the team for a year or longer. Hold a six month review with your new starter. Ask them about the challenges they are facing and how you can help remove them. Discuss their issues with them, and review their contribution to the team.
The review, though, works both ways. Be brave, and ask your new starter what they would do differently. What can you, as the project manager, learn from them? Everyone brings their own experience to the project team, so take advantage of the good practice they have experienced in other companies or departments. Perhaps they know a great new software product that would help collaboration, or perhaps they have an idea for easier reporting. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know!
If staff members are going to leave the company, or ask to be transferred from your project to another initiative, it is likely to be in the first six months. Their experiences from the very first day of turning up to work for you shape their career choices. Even in today’s economy there are jobs for the star performers, and people will leave if they do not feel that you have anything to offer them.
It is also expensive (in time, money and the goodwill of other team members) to continually induct new members to the project team. It is hard work. It’s in everyone’s interest that new starters stay for the duration of the project, or at least until their role has ended. Providing a solid induction, with continual reviews and adequate training for software tools and project methodologies will help increase team productivity and morale and build your personal reputation as a great person to work with.