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Seamless Transition: A guide to onboarding a Main Contractor Project Manager into a Project Management Consultancy

With the high demand for Project Managers in New Zealand, we see more Consultancy firms hiring PMs with main contractor backgrounds. Project Managers making this change have fundamental transferable skillsets but do have skill gaps that will need addressing. A considered and personalised transition plan is required to upskill and support these PMs to set them up for success in a Consultancy environment.

Our recommendations on how to successfully execute this transition are below.

Understanding the landscape: Begin by acknowledging the differences between main contracting and consultancy. While main contractors focus on executing projects, consultancies provide expertise, strategies, and solutions. So a transition will require a shift in role responsibilities and mindset which needs to be supported by the consultancy.

Skill assessment and gap analysis: Conduct a thorough assessment of the Project Manager's existing skill set. Identify the skills that align with consultancy demands and pinpoint areas that need enhancement. Soft skills like stakeholder engagement, strategic thinking, and problem-solving gain prominence in a consultancy role.

Personalised onboarding plan: Tailor an onboarding plan that caters to the Project Manager's unique needs. Provide resources that bridge the gap between their contractor experience and consultancy expectations. This could include specialised training, mentorship, and exposure to consultative practices.

Mentorship and knowledge transfer: Pair the transitioning Project Manager with a seasoned consultant who can act as a mentor. This mentor should guide them through the finer details of consultancy, sharing insights on client interactions, proposal development, and delivering value-driven solutions.

Immersion in consultancy projects: Gradually integrate the Project Manager into ongoing consultancy projects. This exposure will offer practical insights into processes, client dynamics, and the intricacies of strategic project management.

Tailored training programs: Develop training programs that emphasise the consultancy aspects of project management. This could include modules on client relationship management, business development, and translating technical expertise into actionable insights for clients.

Encourage collaborative learning: Foster an environment where the transitioning Project Manager can collaborate with consultants and leverage their collective expertise. Regular team interactions can accelerate the learning curve and provide diverse perspectives.

Real-world simulation: Organise mock consultancy scenarios or role-playing exercises to simulate client interactions. This helps the Project Manager gain confidence in presenting solutions, managing client expectations, and delivering strategic value.

Continuous feedback loop: Maintain open communication channels for continuous feedback. Regularly assess the Project Manager's progress and adapt the onboarding plan based on their evolving needs.

Celebrating success: Acknowledge and celebrate milestones achieved during the transition. Recognising their growth and contributions boosts morale and reinforces their value in the consultancy role.

In the dynamic landscape of New Zealand's project management consultancy, transitioning a Project Manager from a main contractor background requires a blend of strategic planning, personalised support, and a commitment to cultivating consultancy skills. With a thoughtful approach, you can seamlessly integrate their technical skills with the strategic way of thinking needed for success in their new role in a consultancy.

If this is something your business is interested in get in contact with any of the Construction team to chat about this further.