Written by Joanne Sacco

5 Ways to Manage People Churn in Your Project

You’ve got a huge project deadline looming and while you’re under the pump, you’re confident you’ll make it. But then you get a sucker punch.
One of your key tech team members has had enough and quits. Now before you think, ‘That won’t happen to me. I know my team. They won’t let me down’, realise that in most major tech projects, some people churn (turnover) is almost inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be a disaster, provided you’re prepared.
Here are a few steps to help you deal with possible people churn in your project.

1. Be proactive rather than reactive

Spend some time fine-tuning your project. Ask yourself:

  • Is it clearly defined?
  • Is the deadline realistic?
  • Do you have enough funding?
  • Is the work scope too difficult or asking too much of your staff?
  • Do all team members fully understand their roles, responsibilities & required deliverables?
  • Does your team have all the tools they need to succeed?

Doing this at the start ensures your project starts off on the right foot and all team members are comfortable with what is expected of them.
Next, create a project overview, it should include milestone timelines plus delineate all team members’ roles, responsibilities & deliverables. This overview is vital for your current team, but is also extremely useful should you experience people churn. It’s an efficient way of helping a new hire quickly get up to speed on your project.
Finally, consider producing a change management plan. It should cover:

  • How much time you’ll need to hire someone new & familiarise them with the project overview
  • What impact this will have on other team members (overtime, overlap of responsibilities etc)

Whether there’s an option for someone within the company to make a lateral move to help out

2. Stay on top of the project at all times

Regular* meetings with key stakeholders, developers, contractors and so on are vital. This ensures you’re updated on all the moving parts of your project. You can then jump in should a problem arise, be it with the work itself or one of your staff members feeling stressed or unhappy.
* not so many that developers are stressed about getting their actual work done!

3. Treat your people well and continually seek feedback

There are a host of things you can do to keep your staff happy and stop people churn from occurring in the first place.
One of the most important is to check in with each member about how they’re faring with their workload. Do they have any worries about workload, deadlines, or a lack of training, support or resources to complete their tasks?
When you get this feedback, it’s imperative you act on it.

4. Create a backup plan

This plan should cover all the contingencies should someone leave before the project is completed. Things like:

  • Ability to reduce project scope
  • Option to extend deadlines
  • Budget tweaks to allow for recruitment costs & delays
  • The possibility of looking within the company for a replacement (preferably someone with some project knowledge)

5. If someone leaves, ask why

The only way you can fix a problem is if you know what it is and what caused it. The person leaving can tell you this, but whether they want to is another matter.
To circumnavigate this, ask HR or someone they didn’t directly report to hold the exit interview.
You should also institute a policy that requires any leaving team member to document the status of their work and contributions to the project. This makes it much easier for the new hire to jump right in.

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