Onboarding New Project Resources


This post is from guest contributor Brad Egeland, a leading project management consultant and author. His website, bradegeland.com, is regularly lauded as a top blog for project management, PMO and Agile related topics.

When it has to happen it can be a frustrating process to go through, but it happens to all of us at some point: the need to add or replace one or more key project resources on a highly visible or mission critical project in midstream.  And we all know that how we handle this process on our project and with the customer can mean the difference between success and failure on the engagement.

Onboarding

Hiring talent for a project in midstream can mean success or failure on the engagement.

Resources can need to be replaced for a number of reasons.  Maybe an employee left the company to accept a job with a competitor. Perhaps a key project resource was needed quickly on a new project.  It may be a case where an employee was let go from either the company or possibly just the current project due to performance issues. Whatever the reason, leadership is now faced with the critical task of finding a suitable replacement quickly, gaining customer acceptance, and getting the new resource up to speed and productive as quickly as possible so the progress on the project isn’t hindered and so the project customer continues to see seamless delivery.

To best ensure that this happens, some key steps should be followed.  Let’s examine these in detail:

Identify the replacement. Most professional services / delivery organizations operate in a matrix environment as far as resources go.  Usually there isn’t a shortage of talent – the key is to find the right talent and ensure they can be available to fill the project role for the rest of the engagement.  The last thing you want to do is make yet another change farther down the road.

At this point, hopefully you’ve already informed the customer that a change is in the works.  If not, do it now.  This is also a good time to do a quick introduction of the new project team member to the customer.  Provide the customer with a summary of the new team member’s experience (possibly even a resume) and identify the key experience that makes them a qualified member of this team for this project.  The goal is to instill as much confidence in the customer as possible.

Perform the knowledge transfer. Next, perform as much knowledge transfer as you possibly can to the new team member.  If the outgoing team member is available, they will likely be the best source of information for the onboarding resource.  If not, then call on the entire project team to bring the resource up to speed during an internal team meeting.  And supply the new resource with the latest project info including the latest project status report, the latest project schedule, the current issues list, and the statement of work and kickoff materials from the start of the project.  They need to know where things stand, what they will be responsible for, and what the overall goals and objectives and high-level requirements are for the project.

Shadow / educate the new resource. If the outgoing resource is still available, the next steps should include a ‘shadowing’ period of 1-2 weeks where the new resource remains in the background on status calls with the customer while they are being brought fully up to speed.  This way, they are as knowledgeable and productive as possible when they take over the role, making the transition as seamless as possible for the project client.

Move to full productivity. Finally, the move to full responsibility in front of the customer must take place.  At this point they are fully productive in the new role and are representing the team during key customer conversations and participating as expected during the regular weekly project status calls with the customer.

Summary

If leadership and the project manager follow a carefully planned path similar to what we’ve discussed here, then the transition from the old to the new should end up being handled efficiently and effectively.  The goal is to keep customer confidence and satisfaction high during a transition such as this, and by following a planned process that includes the steps described above rather than rushing a replacement in too fast with poor preparation, the project manager is much more likely to achieve that goal.

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