Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Managing Employees in IT Project Management

Human resources are an integral part of any IT project. They provide the knowledge capital and also execute the design, implementation, test and maintenance of the code. It is a largely dynamic resource and provides its own challenges and opportunities. The IT project manager needs to understand its nuances and manage it well to be productive for the organization.

There are several issues that need consideration for managing employee relations. The project manager needs to be sensitive towards them and manage them so that employee morale is maintained and issues are handled diligently. We can look at some issues and approaches that can be taken by the PM to promote healthy team environment while being effective.

a. Employees with pride issues
Due to prior work experience, university background, technical knowledge or any other motivators, certain employees consider themselves superior to others. This causes rift between teams wherein other members do not feel comfortable in interacting with them. There may be occasion of rude behavior, not helping team mates, not doing a work considered to be “too simple job” etc. A PM’s responsibility is to pitch in such cases and talk to the employee. As a key stakeholder in the overall IT cycle, the PM is responsible to let the problem employee know that teamwork is far superior to mere individual contribution, and get him in line. Great projects work when all stakeholders have involvement and dedication to it.

b. Managing employees with anger issues
Employees with anger issues can cause low productivity, stress, lack of dedication and unpalatable working atmosphere in the office. The PM should step up in this case and hold a conversation with the employee. In such cases, the employee should be made aware of the importance of being cordial in office relationships. The manager can also recommend some personality development sessions and training for the employee.

c. Tackling employees with work avoidance habits
The PM needs to look out for employees with work avoidance habits. These employees try to stretch work by doing it slowly and avoid taking additional responsibilities. The PM should use KPI to measure the employee performance. It should be communicated clearly to the employee that shunning work adversely affects her career growth opportunities. Making processes for tracking and periodic feedback is a responsibility of the PM for the resources reporting under him.

d. The lone rangers
Lone rangers are employees that are great as individual contributors and do not prefer to work in a team environment. The PM should make sure that this should not go out of hand. As a successful IT project involves ample group work, lone rangers should learn to be team players as well. Devising incentive schemes that involve peer reviews, 360 degree feedback etc. makes the employee dependent on its peers for feedback. By tying incentives to team work, they provide incentive to the employee to work in a group and foster relationships with the co-employees.

e. Sexual harassment challenges within team
Sexual harassment within team is a grave issue that sometimes challenges the PM. Once such an issue is brought to his notice, the PM should hold conversations with all the parties involved. Then depending upon the issue, the PM may choose to step in and warn the culprit of official action. The PM may also forward the matter to the HR department for their support and policy.

f. Promotion aspirations of team members
Handling the promotional aspirations of the team members is a difficult task. Every employee seeks career growth in the company. The PM should chart out the career growth path for his resources and tie it to the SMART goals. The SMART goals are MBO (Management by Objectives) technique that set goals for employees that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound. As the employee sets out to achieve these goals, the manager should periodically apprise them of their status and help in course corrections.

g. Aspiring employees to skill upgrade
Organizational success of employees is also dependent upon them updating their skills with the changing times. It is important that the PM motivates all its project members to keep updating their technical and business skills in accordance to changing project demands. The employee incentives can also be tied up with them going for learning new tools, attending a workshop, learning a new language, implementing a mini project etc. In regular meetings with the project members, the PM should assess their individual career aspirations and help them identify skills they would want to develop upon.

h. Handling leaves
Managing employee leaves is something that every PM comes across. Clear policies for leave management should be set up in place. Also the PM should think about backup resources before granting leave to any employee. There should be enough resources available such that the work in the project does not get stalled due to any employee taking leave and no one to fill in the absence.

i. Building channels within team
The PM should act as a channel between teams. He should act as a facilitator for inter team interaction. This is essential in a large organization wherein there are multiple teams involved in complex projects. Facilitation includes building communication links with the other managers, helping in identifying resources in the other teams that would provide the needed information, managing approvals to gain access to information etc.

j. Power distance while being approachable
It is important for the PM to maintain a degree of power distance with the team members. This would help him gain respect, support and have a degree of control on the teams. While this is important, the PM should also be approachable. He should allocate time for his resources based upon prior appointments. He should be a mentor for the team but does not need to involve himself in all the team’s activities. The PM is like the coach of a team.  He involves in the team, guides it, mentors it and speaks on its behalf; but does not do the actual playing.

Prepared by A. Singh