My previous post dealt with some of the reasons for negative influence of constant change of human resources on our projects. Despite the fact that many Managers still consider this phenomenon a “necessarily evil” and an integrative part making things done, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would argue that no attempts should be made at mitigating this “evil”.
Therefore, in this post I would like to discuss how we can keep the impact of fluctuation in our staff composition out of the red zone, among other things – by reducing the volume of this fluctuation and by retaining the knowledge within the system.
Let’s start with the first part – how to make your organization look “less like a barn, more like a stable” 🙂
The most basic way of controlling the flow of resources in your projects is Hiring the Right People. As obvious as it may seem, we have already discussed how hard it could be to reach a right decision when interviewing a potential employee. However, there are several basic thumb rules to follow:
- Have a clear understanding of the skill-mix that is needed for being a part of your Team. Someone may have a very high level of expertise in some field, but without some knowledge of other fields he or she would not be able to communicate with your Team members properly.
- Don’t be easily impressed by someone who uses a lot of professional jargon and talks about previous projects – present him or her with a simulated problem that may need to be solved in the intended line of duty. Only thus you’ll have some real impression about the contender’s professional level.
- Don’t be too strict about the need be familiar with the technical tools you use in your organization. Someone may have a lot of experience with a certain tool, but if something goes awry he’ll be just looking for solutions out of that experience and they may not be there. On the other hand, someone who can quickly learn a new tool because he worked with something similar, and also has the ability to adjust his knowledge to every new problem, may be preferable in every context.
Not following the first rule may leave with a Guru who can’t communicate his knowledge to anyone to be used properly; neglecting the second one will lead to occupying a position with someone who cannot deliver what’s expected and going against the third one will cause your Team to disintegrate with the first signs of incoming crisis. In the end, failing to hire the right people will leave you with a need to start looking for them again after letting the wrong people go, which will slow your projects as I’ve shown previously.
Your other and the most important way of reducing the flow of resources in your department is Not Loosing the Right People. What makes it so important is the fact that this is the most controllable part of the process. Here it’s less about making uncomfortable decisions and more about organizing your work properly. To do it right, you should:
- Provide your new employee with time to adjust. In serious projects it takes at least one month (!) to learn everything that’s needed about the tools, the goals, the stakeholders and the power play between them. Give your new employee this month while also giving him everything else that’s needed to learn quickly!
- Don’t count on documents full of technical details to deliver the learning – provide a mentor for every new employee! Mentorship is the quickest way to learn because it is based on our most basic instinct in regard to learning: “Just follow my example”. Working with someone who knows how to do right means doing less wrong.
- When presenting the volume of work that needs to be done – try to divide it into chunks. This will both decrease the actual workload and stress and will provide additional motivation when a chunk of work is finished with. On the other hand, if the new Team Member has some problems with the current chunk – it would be much easier to bring someone to help him because they would need to learn too much about things they’re not currently engaged in.
- And most importantly – provide realistic and sincere Performance Appraisal! What good will it make if you’re constantly giving positive feedback when actually you’re not pleased with employee’s performance? It will only exacerbate the problem, leaving you with relieving the employee of his duties as the only option after a long period with no improvement. Naturally, never forget to praise the employee if he’s done well, even if there is some space for improvement which you should also communicate.
Of course, if you somehow messed up the two previous parts there is a chance that some changes would need to be introduced, so your emphasis should be on Loosing the Wrong People as Soon as Possible. This way you will minimize the impact of bringing someone new on the timetables of the projects. When doing that, you should try to remember the following:
- You remember about giving your new employee a month to adjust? Have clear criteria of what should be achieved at the end of this month or any other period you have defined. If those criteria were not met – consider the inevitable.
- Consult with the mentor you have assigned – may be he or she has a logical explanation for the state of affairs and would recommend giving the new guy another chance because there is some potential to be developed.
- Ask yourself if there is another position in your Team where the skills of your new member (which you now know much more about) could be better employed. There is always a chance that even though some formal criteria may be found wanting, there still could be some informal benefits, such as positive impact on Team’s atmosphere, good connections with other departments and so on.
In the end, it all comes down to taking only what’s yours and keeping it 🙂
In my next post on the subject, I’ll tell you how to keep your employee’s knowledge within the organization even when you can’t keep the employee himself. Stay tuned 🙂
My first and key focus to reach a hiring decision is cultural fit.
Skills and competencies can be developed, but cultural change is tougher than it sounds.
My second rule is “bright eyes are better than dull looks”.
Agree, competencies can be developed. Some of them are very industry oriented and can be learned only on the job.
Interesting point about the culture Fungus, what do does it mean for you? And how do you ensure cultural fit?
ps: loved the second rule 🙂