“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
– George Bernard Shaw
If you’ve read our other blog on the subject of workforce transition, then you know about the importance of both planning and improvising as skill sets that are vital to the process. But there’s one other factor that is absolutely indispensable if success is to be achieved, especially when the transition in question is one of staff augmentation, and that is communication.
When planning a transition in, the fact that it is a collaborative process should always be at the forefront of your mind. Communication is so, so important. By working together, you can overcome anything- but you have to be working together, and that means talking to each other. A lot.
Here are a few basic steps that you can follow that will ensure that you, your staff, and your client’s personnel are all communicating effectively.
Make sure it’s a good cultural values match
All the healthy communication practices in the world will go to waste if you and your client just don’t see eye-to-eye on the big questions. Make sure before you even decide you want to do business with this client at all that their values align with yours. For example: do they prioritize workplace diversity as much as you do? Are they team players or rugged individualists? Is transparency as a business practice a crucial element to maintaining integrity, or is it for suckers? Take a good, hard look at the prospective client’s moral compass and decide if you think it points North.
Here at PVM, for example, we have a zero tolerance policy (LINK) for discrimination on the basis of immutable traits such as race, sex, gender identity, etc. We take this very seriously and have rejected clients for disrespectful behavior along these lines in the past. We believe that diversity among our staff is a source of strength, energy, and creativity at our company, and we actively treat it as an indispensable asset.
If it seems like your ethics are aligned, great; have your respective HR departments communicate your standards to each other, and make sure everyone at both companies knows, unambiguously, what kind of cultural values landscape they are going to be operating in.
Collaborate on a master checklist
You’ve sized up each other’s values and decided to move forward. What’s next?
Have your project lead and your client’s project lead sit down and generate a master checklist. This checklist will be used to design the transition process (see also: our blog about the importance of planning(LINK)), as well as measure the process’s advancement as it moves along. This checklist should cover onboarding requirements, service requirements, transition in activities, tasks, and anything else that you decide together can serve as a benchmark of the ultimate success of the project.
Once the project leads have generated the checklist, they should each bring it to all relevant management at their respective companies for revision and approval. This step is not complete until everyone involved is on the same page about this checklist! Laying out all these expectations in plain language, as thoroughly as you can, at the very outset of the project will give you a key reference point for avoiding or resolving conflicts or misunderstandings along the way.
There are many valuable tools to choose from that can be used to implement this checklist into the transition process; Microsoft, Apple, and Google all provide apps for this purpose. We'd like to recommend Atlassian's renowned task-tracking software, Jira, which has been a trailblazer in this particular set of capabilities and an essential resources for us over the years.
Meetings, Meetings, Meetings
It’s 2021, so this is going to seem like stating the obvious, but it’s important enough to include: Are you going to have your meetings in person, remotely, or a blend of the two? If remotely, what application is everyone going to use? Are they all experienced in it, or will some need training? Is it secure enough to meet the needs of this particular client? As Emmett Wolf once said, “A man is only as good as his tools,” so make sure yours is a reliable one.
So now that you know how you’re going to have your meetings, here are some to set up right away:
- A meeting with all staff from both companies that outlines the entire transition plan from a bird’s eye view, and delegates all of the responsibilities within it
- A meeting to facilitate channels of communication between all parties: your management, your staff, your client’s management, your client’s staff, HR departments, legal, etc.
- Weekly meetings with your client’s key personnel to ensure that their needs are being met and offer them space to discuss problems and solutions.
- Weekly internal meetings among your own key personnel to assess the progress of the project
And speaking of that last one…
Evaluate often, and be actively transparent about it
First of all, get that time tracking tool. Communication between you and the staff is a two-way street that needs to be meticulously maintained, and to that end, they should be communicating to you what they’re doing and how much of their time it’s taking. This step alone will help demystify any speedbumps in the process.
Use routine status reports to your client as an opportunity to open the floor for their feedback and take that feedback to heart. If they think you’ve made a misstep, you want to be the first one to know about it. But even if everything is going smoothly, your client will be exceedingly grateful if you come to them with a wealth of information about how the transition is going, rather than them needing to come and ask you. Keep your status reports timely and meticulous, and you will keep them happy.
If you really want to go above and beyond, offer your client the ability to perform 360 performance evaluations of your own staff. 360 evaluations are an excellent tool, because the variety of feedback sources offers a far more comprehensive assessment of performance than merely what you hear from just one; it helps adjust for potential personal biases having an impact, as well. Once again, we see that the maximizing of communication has enormous benefits.
Use the master checklist to put a bow on it
Remember that master checklist you made at the very beginning? It will have been a useful tool up to this point, but here, at the end, is where it really comes in handy: as the project managers who generated the checklist continue to discuss it through the process and mark tasks “done,” they will have a clear idea of when the whole transition-in project is complete. At this point, all key personnel should meet to determine that they are in agreement about its completion, revisiting each step and ensuring that all parties are satisfied with the results.
From here, it’s just a matter of paperwork. Your client will formally accept the transition by having all its key personnel sign off on it, and just like that: the ball is rolling, and the real work the staff augmentation was intended for can begin. It's off to the races! You will find that these planning and communication practices you established during transition will have been well worth your while when you see how they come in handy going forward.
Keep working hard and, as we like to say around here at PVM, Expect the Best!
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