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Project management: Onboarding new resources

Project management: Onboarding new resources

How to deal with losing personnel - and buy-in - during a project

It's always painful to lose resources during a project. Just when the momentum is building and the entire project team seems to be operating as one unit, a more critical initiative comes up and management decides they need your technical lead and one of your key developers. Ouch! Talk about throwing a wrench in your finely-tuned project management machinery.

How do you deal with this problem? You really can't plan for it, other than to have some good processes in place for bringing new staff up to speed on your existing project. Here are five steps for onboarding new project resources quickly and smoothly.

1. Brief the customer.

Bringing new resources onto a project midstream is something you can't just slip past the customer. It's a major event. So be up front with the customer. Let them know what's happening and why. It's important that you connect with your customer before any onboarding activities happen. Why? Because if the customer has a major issue with the change, you'll need to bring their concerns or opposition to your management's attention. It's better to keep an existing project running smoothly and give a new and unknown project different resources than it is to move good resources off of an existing project and risk losing all progress.

2. Get your new resources up to speed.

Once the customer has been briefed, get your new resources as much information as possible. Give them every status report, all meeting notes, all relevant project documentation and deliverables, and let them immerse themselves in this information for a week.

If possible, onboard the new resources for one to two weeks while the out-going resources are still on the project so there is time for knowledge transfer and mentoring. The customer will be much more comfortable with the transition if they know there is some hand-holding between the new and out-going resources.

3. Introduce resources to the customer.

Once your new resources have some knowledge of the project , they should be ready to meet the customer. It's best to have them on a call-a status call or an adhoc cal-with the out-going resource they are replacing, if possible. If that's not possible, you'll need to proceed anyway. Have the new staff members introduce themselves, present their backgrounds and qualifications, and provide some insight on where the project is going and how they'll be functioning on the project. The project manager can introduce the new staff members, but it's important for the new resources to do most of the talking. The customer needs to connect with them at this point.

4. Let the resources do their jobs.

Let the new resources perform their regular duties on the project for a certain period of time. If it's a relatively long project, let them perform for one month. Then move to step five and regroup with the customer (but without the resources this time) to get the customer's take on how things are going.

5. Evaluate progress with the customer.

Customer satisfaction is an integral component of good project management. Therefore, after one month with the new resources on the project, set up a one-on-one call or meeting with the customer to find out how they think the new resources are performing. Don't be afraid to give your own evaluation as well; the customer will definitely want to hear the project manager's perspective.

Jason Westland has 16 years of experience in the project management industry. He is the author of the book, The Project Management Life Cycle and the owner of ProjectManager.com.

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