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7 Ways to Help Your New Team Members Become Productive

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Bringing new people up to speed quickly is a challenge that project managers often face. As more and more of our projects rely on contractors and short-term assignments, integrating these new team members will become more important.

Let me tell you a story. Several years ago, I started my first full-time position at a large bank. It was an exciting transition that I looked forward to. Unfortunately, I felt overwhelmed for a long time. I had a lot to learn in terms of professional habits, such as following up. While I did have some guidance, there were more struggles than I would have liked.

The longer new people take to find their footing, the longer they will take to make a productive contribution. Helping new team members is a win-win for the manager and the individual. Use these seven tips to improve their first day. These recommendations are written with a new hire (i.e. fresh from university or college) in mind. With some imagination, you can use these tips to help experienced professionals as well.

1. Plan the First Day

Starting at a new organization is intimidating for some and frustrating for others. Fortunately, you can clear a path through the corporate jungle easily.

  • Arrange equipment: have their desk and technology set up; set up the security badge and other equipment they will need.
  • Schedule 2-3 meetings for the first day: new team members should meet with the project manager and the person they work most closely with on a daily basis.

2. Give Them Background Material to Read

Every organization has different procedures and policies. For example, your organization may require all new hires to complete a regulatory training program. Even if this program is provided, I suggest providing additional material related to your work. For example, you can provide minutes from the past few team meetings and procedures for your project’s current work.

Tip: When you provide background material to the new hire, encourage them to ask questions about anything they don’t understand. In fact, I once had a manager say, “I’m going to be worried if you don’t ask any questions!”

3. Explain Your Expectations and Context

Every manager has different expectations, even at the same company. In the first day (or sometime during the first week), it is important to explain your expectations to a new hire.

For the best results, cover both role expectations (e.g. “As the PHP developer, I expect you to deliver the following types of work…”) and project team expectations (e.g. “Here is our approach to change requests… Here is how I run meetings…”). You may feel like you are stating the obvious, but it is better to be clear than leave expectations unclear.

4. Stay Humble for Success

Staying humble at work is a delicate topic. New hires, especially recent graduates, often take pride in their knowledge and education. That’s excellent! However, that strength needs to be tempered with an understanding of humility. Encourage your new hire to ask questions and seek input.

Tip: Model a humble attitude in your project planning and other activities in order to show the value of the approach to the entire team.

5. Give Them Guidance on Meetings

Learning how to organize and participate in meetings effectively is an important professional skill. While you may have already described some of your expectations elsewhere, it makes sense to devote additional time to this area. You can cover meeting logistics and explain how you like meetings to be arranged (e.g. “I prefer to keep meetings to a maximum of 30 minutes”).

Tip: Provide meeting tips to your new hires (and make sure you are consistently implementing these ideas).

6. Arrange a Buddy (or Coach) for Junior Staff

Whether you are a project manager or a functional manager, your role comes with a significant amount of power and authority. This power is necessary in order for you to complete your work. However, this power also makes it difficult for new staff to come to you for help.

One solution to this problem is to pair a new team member with a more experienced team member. This arrangement works best when the senior buddy is interested in helping. Think carefully before asking someone to serve as a buddy—a disinterested buddy is worse than no buddy at all.

7. Schedule Several “Check In” Meetings for the First Month

Providing additional support and guidance to your new hire is critical. On the first day or first week, they will be busy learning the details of their role. New hires may also be concerned about appearing ignorant as they seek to make a fresh impression. That’s why scheduling 2-3 meetings during the first month helps – it provides a safe place for the new hire to ask questions and seek clarification.

Question for the Comments:

What was your worst experience joining a new organization? What exactly was bad about it?

 

For more brilliant insights, check out Bruce’s website: Project Management Hacks

About Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham, PMP, is the editor of ProjectManagementHacks.com, a resource for growing IT project managers. Bruce's experience includes leading projects in the financial services industry and in higher education. Bruce received his Honours Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto, Master of Arts (History) from the University of Western Ontario and Master of Information Studies degree from the University of Toronto. Outside of his professional pursuits, Bruce's interests include history, world travel, wine and science fiction. Bruce lives in Toronto, Canada. You can view Project Management Hacks at the button below.

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