Seamlessly managing a project is a difficult task for any Project Management Professional under the best of circumstances. It wouldn’t be completely wrong to call it a juggling act of balancing business, technology, risk, people and expectation management. Add in the possible departure of a key project team member, and it threatens the stability of your footing, which in turn increases the probability of it all crashing and tumbling down like a set of dominoes.
Most managers are caught off guard by employee resignations, especially if they come at crucial points of an on-going project. The hard part is dealing with the transition of information, all the while maintaining the flow of the project.
There are a few simple tips to ensure that transition is a smooth one:
1- First and foremost, do not panic. Take the news well, discuss the employee’s dissatisfaction with the job or congratulate him on the new one but avoid getting angry or guilt-tripping the team member into staying. Failing to gauge the employee’s reaction and attitude towards the resignation correctly could be potentially disastrous for rest of the team. It may set the tone of the employee departure; thus, giving a negative response to the news may instigate a less than productive transition. Inform the clients and the rest of the team of the impending departure to make the change a swift one.
2- An employee can resign or leave at any given time, for any number of reasons, personal or professional. A smart project manager is one who is prepared and in control of dealing with the eventuality armed with a detailed risk management plan that can immediately be put into effect. Explanatory deck presentations that clearly outline issues encountered, changes made, milestones achieved, schedules followed along with status reports to convey elements must always be up-to-date by each individual employee.
3- The next step includes coming up with a detailed transition plan with the project member. The employee’s ideas of work that needs to be completed or not may differ from your own, hence to ensure you are on the same page, collaborate and cooperate with him/her in making a list of duties, responsibilities, current projects, and work assignments that require immediate attention before they leave. The plan should include all the loose ends that need to be neatly tied off before the end of their notice period. Frequently check in on the progress of the outlined plan just to be certain that all is being done accordingly and to avoid any unnecessary and unpleasant surprises on that last day.
4- Be sure that you, as project manager, are aware of all the ins and outs of the team member’s work affairs and that the employee does not take any crucial company information with them. There is a good possibility of the team member having critical knowledge and a unique set of skills that you or the rest of the team may not have. If you fail to recognize this and successfully oversee the transition of that knowledge onto someone else, the employee could walk out the door leaving you completely unaware and sometimes, in hot water.
5- A good plan is to start thinking about and evaluating the need for a replacement and then initiating the recruitment process for a new hire. Once you have a clear idea of how much work your team member did, depending on how much will be left when they are gone, determine if and when you require a replacement. Distribute it between remaining project members, or hire a temp; come to a decision that won’t compromise the productivity of the team and final project outcome.