Fast, Effective Ramp Up of New Team Members

Quick Summary
You can't afford to have new team members milling around unproductively trying to figure out their project role and responsibilities. Throw them a rope—and get them productive faster—with this detailed guideline by Steve Trautman, excerpted from his book Teach What You Know: A Practical Guide to Knowledge Transfer Using Peer Mentoring.

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What this is

A guideline to help you improve team member orientation and training, in two parts. In the first part, project managers will find guidance for clearly explaining the "big picture," so team members can prioritize correctly and make better decisions. Following this guideline is a training plan template used to orient new project members or cross train the existing team. Use it to break a role down into the skills required to do the job, create "test" questions showing the depth of the skill needed, and list the resources available to help "pass the test."

Why it's useful

As people are assigned to new project teams there are two things they need to know early on—the context around the project (i.e. relationships, customers, success metrics), and the skills needed to be successful. They find out many of the boundaries or requirements of their work after mistakes have already been made. These tools address two core issues: getting the "big picture," and defining the required skills. With these tools in hand, project managers can set expectations, mitigate risk, and reduce rework before there is a problem.

How to use it

When a new employee accepts an offer, or a project team member accepts an assignment:

  • Ask someone on the team to be the primary mentor. Agree on the specific role each of you will play in orienting the new team member, using a checklist of possible tasks.
  • Develop a training plan (or ask the mentor to develop one) clearly outlining the needed skills, success metrics, resources available, and the dates needed to meet deadlines. (See page 7.)
  • Meet with the mentor and the new team member for a few minutes to clarify roles, talk about the process, hand over the training plan, and decide how you will all stay in touch. The manager and mentor should both offer advice on how to be successful on the team.
  • Give the new team member a checklist of issues to be resolved before any training begins: office setup, tool installation, passwords, documentation, introductions, recurring meetings, email distribution lists, etc. It usually takes less than a few minutes to make the list and less than a day to execute it.
  • Introduce the new team member to the "big picture" next, using the worksheet provided on page 3. This short discussion provides context.
  • The mentor and the new team member should discuss how they'll stay in touch with each other, email vs. voicemail, handling interruptions, troubleshooting, problem escalation, contingency planning, status reporting, learning styles, and general cooperation in this process.
  • Then the mentor and the new team member enter a cycle of on the job training, assessing learning, providing feedback and then using the skills that have been learned to get work done.
To read more about Peer Mentoring and its use in the project environment, check out Steve's conversation with

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Related Templates
Practical Knowledge Transfer for Professionals
Read our interview with Steve Trautman.

Team Member Introductions
The process outlined in this guideline will accelerate your team's "getting to know you" process so they will become more productive with less time trying to figure each other out.

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