Your first project manager is a huge step for your agency. Hiring an experienced, talented person to oversee your team is essential for growing and scaling your business. And while hiring that person is the hard part, keeping them around is what matters most.
Fortunately, there are a few ways you can show that you care about their experience and create an environment where they feel comfortable and empowered to do the best work possible.
Onboarding is one of those things that can make or break your relationship with new hires. In this post, we discuss why onboarding matters so much – and what makes good onboarding processes great ones.
What Is Onboarding?
When a new hire joins your company, the first few months can be challenging. They don’t know their co-workers, they don’t understand the culture, and it’s hard to get used to working in an office environment with all its rules and norms.
That’s why it’s so important for companies (especially agencies) to have procedures for onboarding new employees. This process helps ensure everyone is on the same page: they’re getting up-to-speed quickly and making a good impression.
Onboarding typically involves an orientation, formal introductions to managers and co-workers, training on tools and processes, and giving them access to important internal documents.
The onboarding process is especially important for agencies because it helps ensure that employees are able to do their jobs well from day one. This can help develop trust between the employee and employer, which means that they’ll be more likely to stay on longer than they would have had they received no support during their first few weeks at work.
For your first project manager, it’s about more than showing them where the bathrooms are.
This person will be responsible for managing tasks, communicating progress to stakeholders, and keeping the team in sync with each other. Onboarding can help ensure you have the best people on board to lead your projects from start to finish – and avoid any hiccups along the way.
Onboarding is not just about welcoming someone into their new role; it’s also about setting expectations and clarifying roles so everyone knows what they need to do when things go wrong. This process will answer questions like: Who should I contact if I don’t understand something? How do I escalate issues? Is there someone here who knows everything about our product/service?
Why Is Onboarding Important?
The onboarding experience of your first project manager is a critical part of their journey. You want to make sure that new hires feel comfortable and confident in their role from day one. A good onboarding experience will help new hires hit the ground running and produce their best work.
A well-planned onboarding program can ensure that all new employees are getting up to speed on projects, processes, and procedures as quickly as possible. This includes:
- Setting expectations for what the job will be like day-to-day
- Getting introductions to key stakeholders, including peers and managers
- Providing access to internal resources (if applicable)
Another big benefit of having a really great onboarding experience is that it can create advocates for your company outside of the office.
If new recruit feels like they have been given all the tools and information needed to succeed, they are more likely to recommend you to others. If they feel confident in their ability to do their job well and understand what is expected of them as a result of their training, they will be more likely to stay with your company for longer than if not.
How Do I Create My Own Onboarding Process?
This depends largely on who’s doing most of the work within each agency department (HR team members versus managers). If someone has been working on creating new hire protocols for some time now, then those steps may already exist.
Onboarding is a process, not an event. If you’re an agency owner, it’s important to think of onboarding as an ongoing process that happens at various points throughout the year and not just when a new hire, such as a project manager, starts their job.
Think about how this would work in a traditional office environment:
- The first week on the job is spent getting familiar with your surroundings and orientation – what you can bring into the office, where everything is located, who works where, etc. You also learn about your benefits package and any other policies that impact your life at work.
- In month two, everyone pairs up with someone in their department for lunch or coffee outside of the office, so they have time to get to know each other better as peers, rather than just colleagues (this helps foster good relationships within teams).
Onboarding your first project manager properly shows them you care about their success and helps them be successful.
- Listen to the new hire: They’re coming in with a lot of enthusiasm and energy, and they are hungry for information. You will want to make sure that you listen carefully so that you can identify what they need most from their onboarding experience.
- Make sure they understand their role and responsibilities: You don’t want your first project manager feeling like an outcast in the organization or confused about what is expected of them, which can lead to low morale or possibly even job abandonment!
- Create a plan for their first 90 days and ongoing learning: A good way of doing this is by creating an onboarding plan before hiring anyone so that when it’s time for training there won’t be any surprises involved (or disappointments). If possible, also provide them with opportunities after completion where they can continue learning how best practices work within a specific role through mentorship programs or career development seminars at least once per year.
In the months after someone is hired, you should continue to deliver information about their role, performance, and opportunities for further education or training. This can happen in two ways: formal training and on-the-job learning.
While formal training is important (and highly recommended), it’s also helpful to allow employees to learn more about their roles through observation, discussion, and collaboration across the agency.
How Do I Onboard My Project Manager?
The onboarding process for your project manager will be different from the standard employee orientation. The first few weeks are critical for you to set the tone for their time with your company, and it’s important to make sure they understand how things work. Here are some tips:
Get To Know Your Project Manager
The first step in onboarding your project manager is to get to know them. Ask them to tell you about themselves, ask them what they want from the job and what they expect from you. It’s also important for them to tell you about their previous experiences, strengths, and weaknesses as well as their career goals.
Explain Organizational Structure And Culture
The next step is to explain your project manager’s role within the organization. You might say something like:
- The organizational structure of our department includes a director, several managers, and team members, and other support staff. The director reports directly to the VP of Marketing Communications (VMC), who oversees all marketing initiatives across our company.
- Our department’s organizational culture is collaborative; we’re focused on getting good work done together as a team, with each person sharing responsibility for their tasks and supporting one another in doing so. We value transparency and communication in our day-to-day operations as well as during crisis situations when problems arise or decisions need to be made quickly without delay.
- Communication with other departments is typically facilitated through regular meetings between teams or individuals from those groups; this can happen either face-to-face or virtually via video conferencing tools like Zoom or Slack.
Presenting Your Agency’s New Project Manager To The Stakeholders
Once you’ve brought on a project manager, it’s important to get them oriented by helping them understand what their stakeholders expect from them.
This is where your training comes in. You’ll need to walk the new PM through how to deliver on those expectations and communicate with the stakeholders. This way, they’ll know how best to work with different people in different situations – and you’ll be able to rely on them when needed.
Present the new project manager to your key stakeholders and discuss their background, experience, and expectations. This will help the team members understand what they can expect from this person in terms of style and approach. Additionally, it allows you to gauge how well your team is prepared for a new leader (or learn where they may need more training).
Provide A Schedule Of Key Events
To help your project manager get up to speed, it’s important to provide a schedule of key events. These are the dates and times when you want them to be present at meetings or available for quick questions. Include the names of people they should meet with, documents they need to read, resources they can access, and tasks they should complete. Also include notes on who you would like them to contact in case of questions or issues that arise.
Share Your Work Plan And Style
An essential step to onboarding your project manager is sharing your work plan and style. When you’ve decided which projects they’ll be managing and how they fit into the overall organization, sit down with them and explain how you manage projects in general
- How do you decide what gets done first?
- What’s the best way to communicate progress?
- Is there a certain way that tasks should be assigned or delegated?
You don’t have to share all of this information at once, but make sure to cover it early on so that your new manager can get comfortable with their role before diving into the nitty gritty details of daily operations.
Remind Them How To Communicate In Your Organization
You should make sure that your project manager is aware of how you prefer to communicate and how the team prefers to communicate. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s important to highlight what is unique about your organization’s communication style. For example, if one of your team members doesn’t respond well when someone sends them an email or text message at 7:00 p.m., they might not want their project manager sending them those types of messages after hours.
You should also make sure that your project manager understands the preferred method for communicating within each department in your organization. Is there any particular tool used by your sales team? Is there a specific process for communicating concerns between marketing and development? This will help ensure that all aspects of communication are consistent across departments and teams within the organization – which can be very helpful when onboarding new hires, especially if they’ve worked remotely in previous roles.
Assigning Your New Project Manager Their First Starter Project
The first project that you assign to your new PM should be one that is relatively small in scope and duration. The goal is to give them an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the key players on the team, learn about how things are done, and gain experience working as part of a team.
Choose a starter project based on whether it aligns with your company’s strategic priorities and objectives. If there are several projects available for selection, choose one that meets these criteria:
- It can be completed within 2-3 months (ideally around 4–6 weeks).
- It has some existing documentation or previous iterations so that there isn’t too much initial setup time required. However, if there is no documentation available at all regarding this particular topic or focus area, then opt for something else instead because this would require more upfront investment in research before any actual work could begin – and this will only increase the chances of failure if you choose not to go through with it after all!
- Has clear milestones so as not to cause confusion along the way resulting in missed deadlines or late deliverables due a lack of communication between the parties involved – otherwise known as “scope creep”.
Make Sure To Give Your Onboarding Process Plenty Of Time
It is important that you give your onboarding process plenty of time. There are many factors to consider when determining the length of time required for each individual’s onboarding process, including:
- How much experience they have with their role (the more experienced, the more it will take)
- How much support/training they need (the more support/training needed, the longer it will take)
When creating your onboarding program and schedule, start with a general time frame in mind, and then adjust based on how things go as you move through each stage. If an employee has been doing something similar elsewhere, but it’s new at your company – or if they’re new altogether – you may need extra time to help them get accustomed to everything.
You may decide to assign your new project manager a buddy. Buddies can be useful for a variety of reasons, but when you’re onboarding a new project manager, it’s important that they have experience working with, and guiding new managers. They should also be good mentors who are willing to help the new PM succeed in their role.
A good buddy will answer questions and give advice when needed, as well as provide nonjudgmental support during stressful times on the project. The ideal candidate is someone with whom you can rely on guidance through tough situations – a mentor figure in other words!
It’s important to think about the onboarding process in advance, so you can make sure it’s a smooth transition for everyone involved. If your project manager is joining a new team, they will need time to learn more about their co-workers, their style of leadership and management as well as what they expect from each other.
They may also have questions about how your organization works and operates on a daily basis. If this is the case then now would be an excellent opportunity for all parties involved in order to create an environment where everyone can feel comfortable working together with one another!