Mitigating Risks of Staffing Turnover on a Transition and Activation Project

By: Brandon Sanchez

Change is an inevitable part of every Transition and Activation project. Change in location, change in services, change in workflow, the list goes on and on. With change being a constant in our field, there is an immense focus placed on planning for risk in the event that a significant change does not go as planned. Internal project team turnover is a recent trend that has been impacting healthcare construction projects across the country. The success of any significant, long-term project stems from a collaborative effort of the project team, whether it’s a three-person team or a 30-person team. These team members understand the project  history, design intent, and decision-making rationale that are crucial to navigating through and beyond the milestones necessary to reach project completion. Disruption to this core project team, whether through the onboarding or the departure of a team member, can have ripple effects through the project team.  Project staffing changes, specifically turnover, on long-term projects often result in a new team member having to play informational “catch up”, rebuild connections within the team and other stakeholders, and assume the responsibilities of the previous team member, all of which does not happen overnight. Below are some recommendations for mitigating the impact of staffing turnover on projects, ultimately ensuring that you remain on track to deliver your project on time, within budget and according to scope.

Delineate and Document Project Team Member’s Roles and Responsibilities

Having a clear understanding of a project team member’s areas of responsibility is incredibly helpful in the event of project turnover. Understanding what may need to be reassigned due to a departure can allow you to assess any gaps in the team and the area of expertise required by a potential new candidate. If the gap is not immediately filled, having a Roles and Responsibilities matrix can enable a project team to flex by delegating tasks evenly until the new team member joins.

Document Decisions and Assumptions

Keeping a record of project decisions and assumptions made related to the project provides an abridged project history that serves as a source of truth and understanding for the project. This tool is organized by category of information, whether it’s related to the entire building (e.g., hours of operation, visitor management system details, public amenities, or technology available to visitors) or related to a specific department (e.g., patient population and services offered, department-specific technology, or staffing assumptions). This document, when maintained regularly, also serves as a great orientation tool for new team members.

Cross Training and Succession Planning

When a project team member is leaving an organization, creating a clear succession plan for the succeeding team member can ensure that information is captured and transferred to the new employee in an organized manner. This could be a binder of project materials, details and tips related to the job function in question, and in the most ideal cases, a one-on-one approach where the outgoing team member can meet with and help orient the incoming person assuming their new role. If a one-on-one handoff is not possible, the remaining project team members can assist with historical context, a review of pertinent project materials, scope, and internal and external roles/responsibilities.

Set up a Collaborative Document Repository

Having a shared, collaborative, and organized document repository (e.g., SharePoint, DropBox) is not only of great benefit for existing project management needs, like storing and communicating documents and information to various stakeholders and fellow team members, but also acts as a way for a new incoming team member to “time travel” through previous work efforts and have access to this ecosystem of materials, contacts, and other helpful resources. These folder structures typically exist in a cloud-based environment, which helps avoid information being lost in the physical memory of an outgoing staff member’s computer.

Experiencing turnover on a project team will always require an additional set of resources to help bring a new team member up to speed, but implementing the tools mentioned can make the process as seamless and least disruptive to the project pace and goals as possible. Organization and preparation benefit existing team members as much as team members who are new to a role, project, or the organization.