Sometimes on a project you need to find some extra pairs of hands. That can be easier said than done. These days many companies have gone through a number of rounds of redundancies and don’t have ‘spare’ people sitting around waiting for project work to come up. So finding additional project team members can be a challenge. Here are some options to consider if you need to find a couple of extra helpers on your project.
Bringing in contractors is a quick way of getting skilled resource. You can generally get all kinds of industry knowledge. Using a preferred recruitment agency is one way to streamline the hire process and get the skills that you need.
Contractors can be expensive. They also rarely have knowledge of your company unless you have worked with them before, even if they do have industry or specialist knowledge. You have to go through a recruitment loop to bring them in and that can take time. If you use an agency to help you source suitable candidates you will also have to pay agency fees if you take on any of their suggested team members and that can equate to a couple of months’ salary.
You can ask suppliers if you can ‘borrow’ one of their application experts if you need technical help. You’ll probably have a good working relationship with a supplier already, so you know them and their staff which can make the transition easier. They will also know you and your working environment. You may already have day rates negotiated in your contract with them so you can cut out some of the commercial negotiations, making it even faster to bring someone on to the team on a short-term basis.
Suppliers may need convincing before they will loan you one of their prized members of staff (even if you do offer to pay for them at consultancy rates). As a result, this can be a difficult route to take as you may not get anywhere. However, if you don’t ask, you don’t get! It is still worth a call in to your account manager to see if they have anyone available to help you out on a project where you are short-handed.
Other internal resources
Who else in the company could step in? Ask your project team members for their recommendations. They are likely to know of colleagues who would be a good fit for the project team and who would have the required knowledge and skills.
Bringing someone else on to the project team from another department requires you to bring them up to speed quickly on the way the project works, its goals and their contribution to it. Sometimes training a new person can take longer than just getting on and doing the work with your existing team, so think carefully about who you bring on. You don’t simply want another pair of hands, you want someone who will make a useful contribution to the project.
If you take the drastic step to cancel holiday requests you can get more hours out of your team members. However, that’s the only pro I can think of and this option has a lot more cons! If you do decide to cancel leave, make sure you have a clear policy on when this holiday time can be taken instead.
There will be a massive impact on staff morale of refusing requests for annual leave and going back on your earlier commitments by asking staff to cancel their existing plans. This is really not a good option.
Cutting out travel to and from meetings by allowing staff to work from their existing place of work or home can mean you eke out a few extra hours a day from project team members. If they don’t have to travel, they can work more effectively – it is hard to work from the car or on the train, and even if you do make calls or review documents, it is not the kind of work you would do if you were at your desk. You are distracted. So reducing travel time allows you to spend more time at your desk. Also consider letting people stay over if they are travelling distances. While this might seem counter-productive, it is better than people rushing to leave before the end of the working day to get at least some of their journey done during work hours. Equally, people stuck in a hotel will often check their emails in the evening or work later because they haven’t got anything else to do!
Project team meetings are always more effective face to face, so limiting travel means you have to potentially take a hit on other types of efficiency. Also, do you really want to squeeze extra hours out of your project team members? Wouldn’t it be better to get a new member on the team to take some of the burden rather than expecting team members to spend their evenings away from their families on a laptop in their bleak hotel room? Watch out for the hit on morale and on meeting efficiency if you opt to review the project’s travel policy.
You know a lot about the project and the team, so you could pick up additional tasks. Even if you don’t have the technical knowledge to complete a lot of the tasks, you could take on some of the administrative or other aspects of the work to alleviate the burden on team members who are over-stretched.
You’ll have to drop some of the project management tasks if you do this, so you will be sacrificing good management and governance for project progress – only you can work out if this is really worth it. The risk is that your involvement will be seen as permanent. If you bought in a contractor for 3 months it would be very clear that they would be a temporary resource, but using your own time just overburdens you and gets the team into the habit that you can pick up some of the less attractive areas of their own work. Handing these back to them in a couple of months when things are quieter could be a real challenge!
These are some of the ideas I came up with for dealing with a resource shortage in the project team. What other techniques have you used to manage with a lack of resources?
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