The Basics of Onboarding New Team Members

You’re losing a project team member or just need more help on the project.  Either way, you need to bring someone in to fill a team member spot and you need to do it quickly and in an organized manner in order to cause the least amount of project disruption and in order to keep customer confidence and satisfaction at the highest level possible.

So, how do we plan for, prepare for, and bring on new resources on a project and not miss a beat in terms of productivity and forward momentum on the project?  And don’t forget one other key factor …. what about the customer?  Yes, there’s a possibility that the personnel change happened due to a customer request or complaint.  Those situations just happen.  And when a new resource comes on board just as the project plan called for it to happen, then the customer is expecting that. 

But what about the instances where a resource leaves the company or is lost to a bigger or more visible project?  In those situations, it can leave the customer either feeling abandoned if they considered this resource vital, or like a 2nd class customer if the resource left for another major project.  Consoling the customer in these types of situations can be a challenging task for the project manager.

Let’s look at the process of onboarding a new resource to your project and how to deal with it in terms of the project, your team, and the customer.

Get the customer in the loop.  First, let the customer know as early as possible what’s happening with the outgoing resource and who’s replacing them.  Provide a resume for the onboarding resource if that’s appropriate.  If they have good credentials, you certainly want to make that known to the customer to help reduce any feeling of being a ‘B-list’ customer.  Tout the positives to help the customer understand that they’ll be getting the best available resource possible.

Team meeting with the new resource.  Gather the team and meet with the new resource.  Perform as much knowledge transfer on the project during this meeting as possible and give the new resource electronic copies of everything relevant to date on the project.  Get them copies of all of your project management templates that they may need.  Your goal is to get them up to speed and productive as fast as possible.  This is especially important if there is no opportunity for double coverage with the outgoing resource.  If that resource left abruptly and is no longer available, then you’ll want the new resource to be productive … well, yesterday.

Customer introduction.  Hold a separate introductory meeting for the resource with the customer if possible.  If not, then just introduce them on the next regular weekly status call.  But allow this person to introduce themselves and show some action or ownership of tasks immediately on this call.  It will go a very long way in making the customer confident in the change.

Summary / call for input

Project changes aren’t always bad – and bringing on new resources can be a good thing.  But it does need to be handled properly to ensure everyone remains at the highest level of productivity possible and that key tasks and information don’t fall through the cracks during the onboarding process.   And, at the end of the day, it needs to be all about how you make the customer comfortable and confident with the change.  That can really mean the difference in the long run.

How about our readers – what processes do you go through to bring new team members on?  What glitches have you experienced? 

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