Many clients have recently identified onboarding of IT Project talent as a pain point.
It shouldn't be this way! Someone new joining your team should be terribly exciting ... fresh ideas, alternative perspectives drawn from different experiences and new skills to share.
What's not to love?
Well, if they don't hit the ground running, the momentum that a Project can lose can be fatal to successful outcomes.
Stoneseed IT's David Cotgreave has written a great blog on the subject, it's worth a read, I love his referencing of Steve Jobs and how "staying beginners" can help you to see onboarding from the point of view of your new hire! Now there was a man who knew how to make team members feel part of something special! Steve Jobs wasn't bad at it either!
It is my belief that the onboarding process starts way before you show your new starter where the coffee mugs are kept before you map out their induction week, it starts even before you decide to take them on.
It starts with you and your culture.
David Cotgreave puts it well, under the header "Make Culture Part Of The Onboarding Process."
"Methodologies and processes, risk management, budgeting, cost control .. all of these matter to effective onboarding but they are all administrative functions," he writes adding, "A lot of IT Project success comes from the heart! When IT Project talent is really bought into your organisational values they operate in a more visceral, intuitive way and successful outcomes appear more effortless."
One of the biggest challenges is that many firms haven't identified what their company culture is ... so how do they even begin to communicate it to others?
David adds, "Get to know your culture so that you can effectively communicate it to new talent. The earlier you start the better, working with a recruitment partner to access talent that is culturally aligned with your values makes for a smoother onboarding experience."
That period between making a hire and getting Project talent fully up to speed can make all the difference to your project outcome so it makes sense that you future proof yourself from the very earliest opportunity.
From an IT recruitment point of view, often this can as simple as ensuring that ‘like attracts like’.
You and/or your specialist IT recruitment partner need to attract talent that is in harmony with your culture. You need to communicate this culture in your recruitment signals. Sync your message with whatever will get your ideal candidate's attention - things like meaningful role profiles, written by subject matter experts and bespoke adverts focused on candidate attraction to match your business or company culture. The return is measurably better when you attend to these details.
Effectively, you're starting the onboarding process before you even know who you are going to hire. Just imagine that for a second - how 'day one ready' everyone will be! Makes sense doesn’t it?
So with your specialist IT recruitment partner you have the ideal new starter ... now what?
Here's a useful onboarding checklist.
1 - Do They Have Everything They Need?
A PC that is ready to switch on and go, access to all project contacts and information that they'll need logins and passwords ... think of all the tangible physical things that they will need and ensure that they have them! Be thorough, leave nothing to chance
2 - Do They Know All They Need To Know?
Have you prepared a clear mission brief that spells out the what, how, when, who and where of the project and most crucially is your new starter aware of the "why"? What, how, when, who and where are all administrative, knowing the reason behind the project and decisions taken thus far (the "why") will allow your new team member to bring their experience and fresh perspective to the project. Remember they have no project history baggage – harness their creativity!
And don’t wait till they start!
Have you prepared initiation documents, have you shared project schedules and any technical information? Giving your new starter as much information up front can speed up the onboarding process. Especially useful if they are on gardening leave from a previous job, for example serving a notice period, make the most of the time someone else may be paying for!
3 - Have You Imagined Onboarding Their "Their Shoes"?
One client did this and together with some really useful project-related ideas also realised that not knowing who everyone is can also be something of a communication stumbling block. She included photos and names in the induction pack and then came up with the genius idea of also having the names at each desk together with a photo.
Ask yourself, “What would have made things easier for me when I started?” Then make it so!
4 - How Good is The Handover Plan?
Any relay runner will tell you, the moment when the baton is passed from one athlete to the next can be the difference between winning or losing the race. Same with IT Projects.
If the departing PM is still with you, make sure that he or she spends an adequate amount of time handing over the reins of the project. Alternatively, make sure that you assign a buddy or have clear lines of communication and responsibility for ensuring a smooth handover.
In conclusion, the truth is that CIOs, Project Leaders and PMOs are masters of change, organisation, templates, checklists and outcome driven delivery. When you apply all your project skills and disciplines to the onboarding process, surely, it's impossible for it to be anything other than a raging success ... but it has to start early.
Challenge your specialist IT recruitment partner to not only know your culture but to be able to communicate your culture in job ads and induction documents and your new starter will have hit the ground running before the ink on their contract is even dry.
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