Even if you do not hold a formal title of project manager, when working in IT it’s safe to assume that at some point you’ll have to manage a project or two.

When you manage a team, it is also safe to assume that your team members (or direct reports) will also have one or two projects to manage (per person). Multiply buy the number of team members it can sum up to a nice amount of concurrent projects running in parallel, some may even call it a program.

Based on my own personal experience I cannot emphasize enough the importance of mentoring new team members  as part of the on-boarding process, so let me bluntly say, DO NOT under any condition, assign a single task in any project to a new employee without appropriate mentoring!

You may also claim that it takes time, and we are all just too busy.
To that, I say, by not mentoring new employees, you’re simply increasing the workload on yourself.

  • You will have to micromanagement the employee’s performance.
  • You will probably have to put down a fire or two, or correct his mistakes for a while
  • You will simply frustrate both of you in the process.

 

At this point you may say, wait for just one minute, “I have hired an experienced project manager, mentoring is not needed!”.
I strongly suggest that you remove that thought from you head as soon as possible, or at least think it over at the end of this article.

You know what they say, “Old habits die hard”, and for a good reason.
Even a new employee with a vast experience in project management is not familiar with YOUR standards, and if he just on-boarded from another organization, he is not familiar with the organization standards.

You will be making you grave error assuming you don’t need to teach him anything, in fact you’ll be surprised by some “old habits” you’ll need to force out of him!

So, why mentoring new employees is so important?

  1. It helps setting expectation right
    • No two people think exactly the same way.
      By mentoring your new employees you help them understand the way you think, and you point of view, you learn how they think. By allowing them to ask questions and answering them, you can easily identify gaps and address them.
    • Even experienced employees with a well-established resume of project management are not familiar with your personal and organizational standards of project management. By mentoring them you allow them to understand what standards both you as their manager and the organization is expecting them to hold to.
  2. Work on communication skills, requirements, terminology
    Experienced or not, project manager must learn the “language” use in the organization in order to properly communicate, even more so when a new employee with little, or none project management experience.
    Buy mentoring your new employee, you allow him to better understand, terms used in your organization, preferred communications channels with members in the organization, but most importantly with you as his manager!
    For example: How often do you expect to receive updates, in what form? What information should be included and to what extend? All of this will allow you to assign tasks to him more quickly without losing control.
  3. Personal attention AKA “Manager time”
    • Even the most experienced employees require some personal time with their new manager.
      Not only it helps them to get to know you, and the way you think, it is mandatory for you as their manager to learn how they think.
    • Their feedback, will help you to eliminate (or at least) reduce communication noise, and to better understand how information.
    • If done right, it will also help them to feel more welcome and “at home”
  4. Allows the new employer to understand what resources are available
    Some projects may depend or build on each other. In other cases, organization with a lot of experience in project management may have developed capabilities to achieve their goals more effectively.
    By including project management as part of the on-boarding process, you allow them to become familiar with such organizational process assets.
  5. Helps to set SMART goals
    By better knowing your employee, what h already knows, and even more important we he doesn’t yet know, you’re are able to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) goals, tailor made to his progress and skills. Doing that will greatly increase the chances of meeting the expectations by both you and the employee, lead to higher success rate, and satisfaction from all parties involved.
  6. Mentoring = Leadership
    Can you think about a better way to make your new employee look up to you as a someone to learn from, to follow, to share a vision with other than mentoring? Personally, I think not.
    Attending to new employee with dedicated one on one mentoring sessions will go a long way to fix your image as an authority, source of knowledge, and someone to follow.
    It will make it much easier for you as a manager to make him motivated, and eager to meet his goals.

    It is important to realize that mentoring, as well as development, both are an ongoing process.
    It is not enough to have one, or two sessions and be done with it. Mentoring should progress and evolve over time based on employee progress, and skills.
    References: TheGuardian | SANS Technology institute  | Insala | Management Mentors | Reliable Plant

  7. It feels good
    If you are not yet convinced, I certainly hope that this alone will convince you.
    Not too long ago I had a mentoring session with a new employee myself. That felt good!
    At the end of the session I was flooded with adrenalin, and experienced and energy boost that I missed for a while.
    The direct communication, the ping-pong of the (right) question and analyzing the process in hand was nothing short of AMAZING!

To summarize,
It doesn’t matter if you have just on-boarded an experienced project manager, or a junior one.
In order to lay down the foundations for successful project management in the future you should mentor him to do it the right way.

The right way will change from one organization to the other, and the mentoring process may change from one employee to another, but failing to have one in place is simply planning to fail.

How are you mentoring new employees?
Share with a comment…

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