For Recruiters (Part 3): How to Get the Onboarding of New Project Managers Right

In the last part of our monthly series for recruiters, we will give you tips on how to get the onboarding of your new project manager right.

The Importance of Onboarding

Onboarding is the process of integrating a new employee into the firm so that they can become a productive part of it as quickly as possible. Many will probably immediately think of ‘orientation’, but onboarding and orientation are not the same. Orientation refers to the administrative part of joining a firm: social benefits, getting your ID card, learning about lunch times and so on. This can usually be done in a day or two. Onboarding is a longer process in which a new employee acquires the necessary skills and knowledge required for their new roles. It also includes aligning them with the company’s strategic goals as well as its culture and value system.

If you think that onboarding sounds extremely time and cost consuming, you are right. However, it will pay off in the long run. Studies have found that the first 90 to 120 days at a firm are the most important for new hires to decide whether they want to stay or not. (Source) Without some kind of onboarding process, you risk losing new employees because they did not develop a sense of belonging or loyalty to the company. An effective onboarding process can also dramatically increase an employee’s job performance and productivity. Employees who feel welcomed are more motivated and committed to their work and the company. High turnover can be extremely costly for a firm. After putting so much effort and time into finding the right person for the job, you should do your best to keep them. 

5 Methods for successful onboarding of new PMs

1. Mentoring

This is one of the staples of onboarding. You have a senior employee take a junior employee by the hand and help them grow into their new roles. Mentoring is important, because the new employee has a person they can directly contact if they have questions or problems. Not only can a senior employee share their professional knowledge and experience, but they can also help new employees network and avoid the pitfalls of office politics. 

2. Reviewing of past projects

Having an extensive database or ‘virtual onboarding center’ with documents from old projects can be a good basis to transfer knowledge to new project managers. Schedule a few ‘review’ sessions where you go over past critical projects with them. By seeing how past projects have been implemented and where the complexities and challenges were helps the new employee with their future projects. 

3. Taking one step at a time

Some believe that the best method to initiate new employees is for them to jump in at the deep end, sink or swim. But that method can cause extreme stress for the new employee, especially if it is their first proper job after college. In the end, they are left feeling so exhausted and demotivated that they do not want to continue working in your company. Sure, some people thrive under pressure and particularly the project manager is one for whom stress is probably the only constant factor, but that does not mean that this method works particularly well. Instead, consider giving new recruits smaller projects with no clients as practice. They can step-by-step gain experience and completing a project successfully will motivate them to do even better in the next project. Remember: Rome wasn't built in a day, neither is a good project manager. 

4. Teambuilding activities

Teamwork and collaboration is extremely important for project management. Each time a new team member joins, the dynamics of the whole team change. In order to help the new project manager and the team get to know each other, you should plan some teambuilding activities. You can do that in the office and include role plays or simulate projects. Or you can make it more informal with a team dinner or even a weekend retreat. This will strengthen the team spirit without the usual office stress. Socializing is extremely important for a new employee to feel accepted as part of the team. 

5. Performance feedback

Getting feedback on work performance can be extremely helpful for a new project manager. Without it, they won’t know what they did right or wrong, nor where they could improve. Remember that constructive feedback focuses on work performance and behavior, not a person’s personality. Be as specific as possible when giving feedback and provide suggestions for improvement if possible. Only then can the new project manager learn and progress. Don’t forget to communicate your appreciation for tasks done well. A genuine and timely “well done” can go a long way.

You should also give the new employee the chance to give their feedback on the onboarding process. Ask them what they liked about the process? What worked and what didn’t? With this knowledge you can continually improve the onboarding process. 

Catch up on Part 1 and Part 2 of our series.