By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman
Getting new contractors up to speed quickly and keeping them in the loop can put an added burden on busy engineering managers and project managers, who already spend as much as 90 percent of their time communicating.
Fortunately, a project communication plan can help newcomers receive essential information and assimilate swiftly, as long as you keep their needs in mind when you develop your plan.
“A project communication plan is definitely a helpful tool for meeting the communication needs of a specific audience such as contract engineers,” said Bonnie Biafore, a certified project manager, consultant, author and trainer.
“When done correctly, it provides a roadmap. So professionals who work remotely, or who come in to work on a specific task or portion of a project, are assured of getting the vital information they need to become productive and complete their assignment.”
Here’s a look at how to use a project communication plan to get contractors up to speed and keep them informed.
Create a Separate Audience
The first step in creating a communication plan is to identify who needs to know something about the project, what they need to know and how to convey the information. Since contract engineers often join a project midstream, make sure they receive vital information filed in the project history by treating them as a separate and unique audience.
“Don’t make contractors hunt for recent customer change requests, control documents, lessons and tips, or designs that they need to review,” Biafore said. “Use the communication plan as a checklist or control document to get them what they need right away.”
Make sure contractors receive copies of rules, procedures, processes and closed issues that may have been distributed during kickoff meetings by using the communication plan as an onboarding checklist.
Then, be sure that contractors receive status updates, lessons learned, issue reports and information about decisions and guideline changes that affect their work throughout the project. Contract professionals will be able to work more effectively if they can take advantage of tips, shortcuts or practices to avoid.
“If they will be joining a small project team or third party team, take that into consideration as well,” Biafore advised. “Because you don’t want to replicate the information they may be receiving at team meetings and contractors may not need to know everything about the project. Overloading them with reports and information may slow them down.”
Share the Project Definition Document
Distributing the project definition document to prospective or new engineering contractors can help them understand the big picture, how they fit into a project and why their work matters. Creating line of sight between employees and the business strategy is a key driver of employee engagement and productivity.
The project plan contains way too much detail and can be hundreds of pages long, Biafore explained. But the project definition, which is part of the communication plan, provides a short, high-level summary of what the team is trying to achieve, the benefits of the project and what success looks like. And since it also spells out risks, assumptions and constraints, the project definition document gives contractors a succinct summary of vital information.
“It provides just the right amount of information to a new contractor when combined with a job description and specific scope of work,” Biafore said. “They can get an immediate sense of what the project entails and how success will be measured by reading just a few pages.”
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