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Training Project Team Members On The Job

Make the time! The benefits are many!

When are you providing training to your team members? Likely many of you do so on occasion throughout the year when there is no project going on and they can spend time out of the office. And sure…there is value to training outside of the office. However – how about training them while on the job? Adding professional development opportunities while working on projects provides your project team members a variety of benefits, including:

  • Opportunities to immediately apply new skills and knowledge on a current project
  • Personal and professional growth
  • Enabling your team members to work on a variety of projects because of an increase in their skills and knowledge
  • Increased morale
  • A continuous learning environment
  • Increased comfort level around risk taking

Key here…a continuous learning environment. And let’s face it, it benefits the company too! Your team is more likely to continue with the company when they are provided opportunities to continue to develop their skills and learn new skills.

Let’s look at an example at how you might include training in the midst of project work (realizing you are always up against short deadlines, tight budgets and so many other constraints!). Without doubt, internal projects are the easiest in which to incorporate some professional development opportunities. It is much harder when working on an external client project because there will be concerns about budget, resources, time, etc.  So let’s focus on internal projects only.

Your team is about to start an internal project implementing a new customer relationship management (CRM) system for use by sales and marketing. Your team consists of 10 members from various parts of the organization – sales, marketing, IT, finance and other business units. On the project team, five of the members have worked on large scale projects before; the other five are more junior and have been individual contributors on projects. This is their first opportunity to work on a larger project.

You decide that you want to provide a variety of learning opportunities in conjunction with the project to increase the skills and knowledge of the five who are more junior and also help to provide some development opportunities for the other 5 members. Since it is an internal project – though certainly of important to the company – you are provided the opportunity to do so by the stakeholders when you explain the benefits of incorporating professional development in with the project. Additionally, it has certainly helped that Learning & Development within HR has been pushing for the company to incorporate continuous learning into all aspects of work. The 10 people on the project team are about 3 people more than necessary for such a project, but resources are available currently and it is a good learning opportunity.

Here is how you will incorporate professional development opportunities:

5 Junior Team Members
(individual contributors in past)

5 More Senior Team Members
(Worked on projects in the past)

  • Will be assigned to tasks on project in which they have either very little or no prior experience – partnered with a more senior member
  • Will be provided another senior member as a mentor to guide them through the project
  • Will sit in on all status meetings and stakeholder meetings to get a better understanding of how projects run overall
  • Will be mentors to other team members (provides them leadership skills)
  • Will be teamed up with more junior members on various tasks on projects to help them develop their skills
  • Will be provided development opportunities themselves – such as presenting status reports to senior executives

Let’s look at one example from the team. John, who only has experience as an individual contributor and has not worked on a project team, is paired up with Sanjay who has 6 years experience managing various aspects of large scale client projects. Sanjay is responsible for requirements gathering from the various stakeholders within IT, Marketing and Sales to ensure the system is built to their expectations. John will work alongside Sanjay to learn how to gather requirements. Additionally, John is provided a mentor. His mentor is Annalee who has 5 years experience working on various IT and application development projects.

John spends a couple of days shadowing Sanjay as he does the requirements gathering, and then Sanjay allows him to conduct a few sessions while providing him support in doing so. Sanjay and John work together on compiling the information into a technical requirements document for the team to work from. Additionally, Sanjay and John jointly present the findings to the executive sponsor.

Annalee schedules weekly 1-on-1 sessions with John to encourage him, answer questions, and ensure he is getting the support he needs. She talks about how she got started and learns about John and his goals. They meet over lunch or after work over drinks.  John finds he is learning a lot from Annalee about the project management profession and he is excited about the opportunities. Frankly, Annalee finds she is learning from John too and enjoys sharing her knowledge.


Of course such a situation is not always feasible – this is ideal with lots of support from throughout the organization. But look for the opportunities to provide development opportunities to your team members on every project – even as simple as assigning someone to a new aspect of a project for them – such as scheduling or gathering requirements – in order to enable them to further development their skills.

Your thoughts? How might you incorporate some learning opportunities into every project for your team members? Please share in the Comments field below. Thanks!

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