Project team working together

Tips to keep your contract project resources happy!

In the blog post, “What is the number 1 PMO tool?“, I covered why people are the most important PMO and project asset.  The reason being that without people (resources), the project activities will just not get completed!

Now we could have a debate on the development in the areas of Artificial Intelligence (AI).  On how everyone is at risk of being replaced by machines.  For now I will let Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg continue to have their spat on Twitter and Facebook to determine the path.  See Fortune article.

The reality is that us project professionals will find that our skills are in increasing demand.  However, this is topic is for future posts.

The challenge….

One of the attributes that defines a project is that they have a set start and a set end date.  This means that a project is temporary as opposed to operational roles that are ongoing.  Due to this, the amount of specialist project resources that an organisation needs will vary depending on how many projects need to be delivered (this is usually dictated by business critical needs and available budget).

For this reason, in most mature markets, many organisations depend on hiring contractors and consultants to meet these peaks in project demand.  The rationale is that the specialist resource is only required for the duration of the project, which may be less than 12 months duration.  Therefore, there is a need to add resources quickly and, to roll them off quickly when the project is complete (or stopped early).

For this reason, to use a wild west analogy, contractors can be seen as “hired gun’s” to fix a problem.  This mentality can mean that permanent members of staff, especially those in senior positions, think that they can treat contractors differently as they are paid well to do what they are told.

Big mistake….

Let’s quickly remind ourselves of the statement that “people are the number 1 asset” for project success.  I will go further on this point, it is “the team of people who are the number 1 asset”.  Projects require people with the right skills to work together to achieve the common objective.

In order to do this, it is important that there is an environment that promotes good team work.  Where each team member brings their own particular skill that complements their co-workers.  That the team build a good working relationship and stand shoulder to shoulder supporting each other.

A team operating like this will have the best chance of success!

So why….

Given the importance of the people and the team, why would anyone want to treat contractors different to permanent team members?  In my opinion this is making your project even harder to complete!

Positive actions…

Good news there are simple actions that you can take that will promote the right working environment:

  • Treat all team members the same.  Yes you will have obligations for permanent team members.  However, you can still do this in a way where all project team members are treated fairly and with respect.  It should not be possible to tell the difference between perm and contract employees.
  • People care.  Pay attention to all your team members to spot if any are having challenges and / or need support.  Make time for 1:1’s with them to check in and make sure all is OK.  This will be appreciated as most contractors will not be treated this way in most organisations.
  • Time-sheets / Pay.  Make sure that you sign-off any time sheets ahead of deadlines for payment.  If the work has been done, it is only fair that the resource is paid on time.  Do not be that manager who they constantly have to chase to sign-off time-sheets.
  • Do not use the withholding of signing time-sheets as a way to show your power.  Likewise do not use withholding sign-off as a punishment.  If there are performance issues address them with a grown up conversation.
  • Plan for holidays.  If you know you will be on holiday.  Make sure the team know how they will get their time-sheets signed.  If possible get them to submit early or, if this is not possible, arrange for a delegate.  Showing the team you are thinking about this will promote a lot of good will.
  • Contract renewals.  Plan early and make sure that the team member is not left worrying if they will have their contract renewed.  As soon as you know you will / will not be renewing them, let them know.  Then make sure you sign-off all authorisations as quickly as possible to avoid issues.

Remember, in most mature markets there is demand for good project resources.  If you do not treat people well, they will simply find another contract in a different company.  This will then mean you have the challenge of finding and training a new resource.  So why go through this pain when treating your team members well will result in loyalty.

Summary

I have a very simple view on life.  You spend a lot of hours with the people you work with.  So why would you not want to create an environment that is enjoyable with people you want to spend time with?  While you can not control what happens in the wider organisation, you can lead your project team or PMO and promote the environment that aligns to your values.

My challenge to you….

What (small) steps can you take today to make your work environment a little better?