How to Avoid and Deal with Turnover on your Project Team

Turnover.  The mere mention of just this single word can conjure up images of chaos, confusion, stressed out coworkers, and project tasks that simply slip within the cracks.  Employee turnover can make it almost impossible for project teams to produce high-quality work products that meet the needs of both customers and the organization.  What’s more, turnover in your project team can cause a myriad of financial and schedule risks, including strained budgets and missed deadlines.

As a Project Manager, you know you should avoid and deal with turnover in your project team – the problem is, sometimes it isn’t always so clear-cut how to do that.  That’s where this article comes into play.  We’ll discuss some of the top techniques you can implement within your project team to avoid and deal with turnover.

Is History Repeating Itself?

Let’s begin by examining the first step: comparing the project context with similar previous projects. Before getting your project into gear, take a close look at the project scope and compare it to other projects in your organization that were similar in background and duration.  If this project is unique to your company, consider taking a look at case studies of organizations that are similar to your own.  Determine if these projects encountered high turnover rates of critical staff members such as engineers, project accountants, programmers, etc.  If the turnover rate was high in the previous project, chances are that history may repeat itself in your current one.

Establish Trusting Relationships

High turnover rates in project teams are often reflective of the relationship between employees and their job satisfaction on the project.  Be sure to establish trusting relationships with your employees.  This not only encourages open communications about motivations and aspirations, but it also makes your employees feel that they can be honest about their anxieties and frustrations.

 Keep An Eye Out For The Signs

 Project leaders will want to keep an eye out for the signs that employee turnover is about to become a problem.  These signs may include a lack of motivation, unexplained absences, job hunting signs such as resume updates, delays in responsiveness, and poor performance.  If these signs materialize within your project team, be sure to take the team member(s) aside to discuss their behavior.  You may often discover that these efforts at honest and productive communication can be enough to dissuade employees from leaving the project team.

Prepare Yourself For The Turnover

Of course, there are some instances where turnover within your project team may be inevitable.  If an employee is determined to leave, you should prepare yourself by creating a “transition” strategy.  You may want to consider having the employee give you more than two weeks’ notice if they plan on leaving the company.  Oftentimes, two weeks is not enough notification to train new employees and gain access to necessary files and documents. Speaking of which, it’s vital for you and the employee’s manager to identify all the critical documents that the team member has on his or her work computer.  This is an especially vital step to take if the employee hasn’t given you enough notification regarding his or her leaving date.  By gathering these critical documents, you can maintain the integrity and security of critical organizational processes and projects.

 Smooth Over The Transition

 Throughout the transition period, you’ll want to maintain a positive relationship with the employee who’s leaving.  This can help ensure that the new employee has access to the training and materials he or she needs to integrate into the project team.  The replacement will need time to absorb everything and ask the right questions, so find out if you can motivate the leaving employee (using an incentive) to stay a bit late during the next few weeks or even come back for a day or two after leaving the organization. This can make the transition much smoother for the replacement, which can minimize or even eliminate project disruption altogether.

 Track The Transition To Closure

 After the employee leaves the organization, you want to track the transition to closure. This means paying attention to how the replacement is handling his or her new role on the project team.  Be sure to pay extra attention to the new employee and ask questions about how he or she feels about the project.  Encourage other employees to mentor the replacement.  By fostering a positive and productive project team, you can ensure that the replacement becomes a successful fit, as well as minimize any future employee turnover.

In conclusion, by developing a turnover strategy before the beginning of major projects, you can help ensure that employee turnovers don’t prevent you from achieving major project milestones.