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Being a successful manager means getting the best possible work from your team. This often means enabling your team members to be successful in their given fields. In this article, we explore different ways you can support your team and offer skill-building opportunities for your team members.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to choose the best people for the project? According to project management standards and methods, this is how project managers be working. But often I hear my colleagues say things like, “If only I could have picked the resources for my team. I wouldn’t have chosen Person X.”
It’s a common complaint, and it happens for a very common reason. There are often only a limited supply of skilled people in the company and these are allocated to other projects. Along comes your project and they aren’t available. So the Project Management Office, or your manager, or your project sponsor, assigns you with resources who perhaps don’t have all the skills you need. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they are rubbish and won’t help your project at all. It just means that you might need to spend some time developing them and building their skills so that they can contribute 100% effectively to the project.
If that happens to you, why not try these methods for developing your team member’s skills. The faster you get them up to the level you need, the easier you will find working with them on your project.
Mentoring is a technique that pairs an experienced person with someone less experienced. The mentor can offer specific guidance with particular issues. The pair normally meet regularly, perhaps monthly, and work through an issue that the mentee (the person being mentored) is having.
A task management toolcan help you identify the activities that they may need assistance with.
The mentor can also provide access to their network of colleagues or suggest alternative resources that could help.
Coaching is another tool that can be used, but it is different from mentoring. The coach normally has some training (a mentor doesn’t need to have had any formal training) in coaching methods. Coaches usually help their colleagues come to their own conclusions or find solutions to problems that are most effective for them.
This might not be the best way for your team members to develop their skills, especially if they need to be directed in how to do a particular task, so carefully consider whether this will help before choosing this route.
When more formal skills development is required, training could be the answer. This could be run in-house by your Project Management Office, or by an external training provider. Make sure that the training being offered matches what your team member needs to improve: there is no point sending them on a generic system administration course, for example, when what they need to know is how to build reports in a particular software package.
Talk to people who have attended the course or used the provider before, or read online reviews. Get quotes from a number of suppliers before making a commitment to one.
You could also build your own in-house courses, which can be tailored specifically to the needs of your team. Your company’s HR department or Project Management Office could help you do this, but it does depend on having someone skilled in the subject matter and available to deliver the course to the people who need it.
If your skilled resources have some time, you could pair them up with the less experienced ones for some workshadowing. This is where the colleague who needs development spends time working alongside and watching their more experienced counterpart. There is an element of hands-on training and they get the option of asking questions.
However, it does take time and can be slower than formal classroom training or even other forms of learning on the job. And it depends on whether the people you want to learn from are available – chances are they won’t be, or they won’t have adequate time to allow for a full transfer of knowledge to take place. Workshadowing can be a good start to give someone a taste of the job and what is involved, but it’s unlikely to solve all your skills problems.
5. Shift Resources on Projects
Consider relocating a team member to projects where they’ll have the opportunity to develop essential skills your team needs. You’ll may need to temporarily bring in someone new to your project, but if the opportunity arises for inter-departmental training, it could benefit both the team member and the project’s long-term health.
Discuss this option with your Project Management Office and the people involved, and be sensitive about it. Being taken off a team for not having the right skills can be a difficult thing for some people who will take it personally, so take care to manage their transition in a professional way that allows for maximum skill-development as the goal.
However you go about improving the skills on your project team, remember to allow extra time while they are learning as an unskilled or newly skilled person will be slower than an experienced person. When they are up to speed, you’ll have a confident team member who can contribute effectively to the project and you’ll also be satisfied knowing that you have improved their skills and possibly opened new career doors for them as well.
6. Informal Training
Self-directed learning is another approach that you can try, either alone or alongside the options mentioned above. It involves providing the team member with the resources they need to learn by themselves on the job. This could be a book on the subject, or a blog or other online training resources.
There are a lot of online training opportunities available on every subject possible, so you will have to spend some time seeking out a quality, reliable source. Task your team with finding and sharing online learning modules so the team can support each other and find training appropriate for your needs.
You can also use your online project management tools as a resource center for skill development. Create a folder for your team with helpful articles related to the project. Or use your to share updates about online courses and training opportunities. Make learning fun, and a core offer to your team. Your leadership will be remembered.