One of the trickiest aspects of project management is that you can’t count on having the same team members every time. Depending on the nature of the project and the rate of turnover at your organization, you may have to integrate new members into your team with some frequency. At the Human Resource Planning stage, you should start strategizing ways to ensure everyone works together smoothly. Then, you will need to monitor and adjust your approach as you get to know your new employees better.
Review Feedback for Compatibility Clues
If your organization uses some form of 360 degree feedback, you have a wealth of information at your fingertips regarding the strengths and weaknesses of each prospective team member. Even if you can’t pick and choose which employees are assigned to your project, at least you can use this historical feedback to help you make decisions about which individuals should work together and what their roles should be.
For example, if you have one employee who is consistently praised for paying attention to detail, that person could be tasked with reporting on work status for his/her group. Another employee who has received multiple warnings for tardiness might not be ready to take on responsibility for meeting a critical deadline without additional supervision.
Make Newcomers Welcome
If only one or two people are being added to your team, they may feel like outsiders. Having well-defined processes in place is a good thing from an efficiency standpoint. However, it can make new employees who are unfamiliar with your methods uncomfortable. They may feel defensive about constructive criticism or unprepared to learn a whole different set of rules. Acknowledge this challenge and address it by:
- Assigning a peer as a mentor to each new team member to help them with acculturation
- Providing basic educational materials about how your project management process works
- Taking time to explain core concepts in meetings instead of assuming everyone is up to speed already
- Encouraging new members to ask clarifying questions either during or after each meeting if they don’t understand something
Address Conflicts Immediately
If a team member comes to you with a complaint about a coworker, take it seriously. Often, employees will wait until they are really fed up before they go to management to ask for help with resolving a conflict. When their concerns are dismissed instead of being addressed, they will transfer some of their anger and resentment at their coworker onto the manager who ignored their request for help. You don’t want to become the enemy. As a project management specialist, you should already have a decent set of communication skills. Put these to use in resolving conflict before it escalates.
Get to the bottom of what’s really bothering your direct report by using reflective listening and asking questions that focus on solutions. For example: “I hear you saying that you find it disruptive when Henry comes by your desk several times a day to ask you questions about his assignment because he tends to be kind of long winded. Would you like me to instruct him to communicate with you via email if he has a request or question?”