Do HR Professionals need to be accomplished Project Managers?

Members of an HR team will undoubtedly participate in projects on a daily basis, even if relatively small. Whether the team is managing the talent initiatives, developing a new performance management system, or reviewing and implementing a compensation review, these critical tasks and people based tasks all combine to become a series of outcomes that need to be managed with clear objectives.

Employers seek professionals with expertise in the area of project management because projects, by their very nature, are prone to complexity. Complexity creates challenges, and although some of these challenges can be overcome by intuition and creativity, many are best confronted with an arsenal of technical skills and knowledge.

Project managers require key skills such as managing a budget, developing change management plans, managing resources and people, adhering to a timeline, and keeping stakeholders abreast of the plans and communication. All these skills contribute to the everyday activities in many HR professional’s daily regime.

If HR specialists want to be taken seriously alongside their commercial contemporaries in any organisation, then they need to demonstrate capability and skill in wider business contexts. Capabilities like Project management and even business process management improvement demonstrate a broader ability to influence and drive the essential tasks and deliverables that are required on a day to day basis.

Equipping HR teams with PM skills helps to significantly improve the efficiency and productivity of the overall HR team for both day to day business as usual (BAU) tasks and one off projects. The application of PM skills enables HR teams and their leaders to help in a variety of ways, including:

  • Planning workload
  • Using time management and tracking tools to identify priorities and resource management
  • Achieving overall visibility of commitments to manage conflict
  • Creating frameworks to support planning and progress towards annual goals
  • Setting clear milestones, objectives and outcomes
  • Improving communications for all employees
  • Supporting and improve collaboration
  • Speeding up team activities and improve communication options

Project management assists every area of business by delivering improved timeliness, efficiencies of scale, speed and money saving and delivering objectives that are necessary. Good project managers will be looking to understand how people are impacted and how to influence the outcomes of a project – HR professionals of course understand this intrinsically.

HR projects typically impact a very broad range of stakeholders including staff, customers and clients, the local community, shareholders, and company owners. Unlike most other business divisions, HR has the capability to create and influence widely across whole organisations and this advantage should be grasped and developed.  

Globalisation, technical advances, generation Z employees, the pandemic culture and a need for data and evidence are all influences on the way in which HR professionals and their role approach people in a wider sense.

Businesses need to have HR teams that are partners within their organisations, helping to deliver globalisation, growth and drive the significant change that is urgently required in all areas of an organisation. But to drive this growth and change however, HR teams need to help and develop the succession pipeline of talent and capability – and post pandemic, this is harder than ever.

HR project managers will be responsible for a variety of things and planning talent project cost management and budget control are essential. The good HR PM will be looking at monitoring spending, estimating total costs, planning the overall budget, and conducting constant risk management reviews.

People analytics, an understanding of big data drivers, Artificial Intelligence and digitisation and automation of businesses are all key becoming key elements of strategic workforce planning. Organisational design is therefore a significant part of an HR professional’s everyday dialogue and responsibility.

As businesses increasingly rely on their HR departments to manage and drive this strategic planning and support the assessment and deployment of human capital, the HR professionals will need to leverage and rely on the skills and capabilities that are deep rooted in project management and collaborative working.

You’d expect HR teams to be proficient in the behaviours that support the development of people – aspects like interpersonal communication, leadership development, influencing and motivational skills or strategic management. These soft skills are a key requirement and are often taken for granted, but without the implementation, organisation and planning capabilities of a logical project management approach, these soft skills are less likely to land and deliver the outcomes that are needed.

From a globalisation perspective, the capability of working cross functionally and on an inter organisational basis is a particular project management skill that is becoming more and more important. Bringing together and utilising individuals from throughout an organisation and engaging them in workstreams and workflows requires a particular range of skills. Good HR PM’s need the ability to make connections with a wide group of people, network across multiple functions and divisions, understand how different elements of a business fit together and interact what they bring to the table with respect to any given project.

The skills of effective and accurate communication, interaction with different types of people, managing styles, engagement and building trust alongside influence, are all essential. Having a project lead that can deliver these attributes enables projects to succeed, as the team members are comfortable with collaborating, sharing and delivering in contribution to the overall success of the project objectives.

Time management and problem solving capabilities are also prerequisites for successful project management that are broadly transferable and help HR teams attend to the many daily and complex tasks associated with supporting a modern contemporary and diverse workforce. A diverse work environment can create many organisational challenges and unless carefully managed and developed, can hinder the growth of an organisation. Diversity for diversity’s sake is not the answer and the HR teams managing the shift towards diversity must be exerts in managing the working environment so that it is people that matter.

As the modern workplace constantly changes and transforms, all operational aspects of the business need to be agile enough to respond to these changes and get prepared for the outcomes and often unexpected consequences. The HR team in any business is at the forefront of this challenge and adaptability is a key component required to support the projects that are created as a result. HR professionals understand that objectives, constraints and developments happen and change quickly within the lifecycle of any project – things can and do go wrong and change in a moment. Being able to respond and where possible pre-empt and adapt to change and disruption, is a core project management capability. HR professionals managing complex and fluid people environments will need this skill set more and more.

The importance of project management in organisations can not be overstated. Companies are starting to realise that its more than just tasks, timings and budgets. The disciplines and outcomes of project management help deliver stronger and better results, and happier employees. When it’s done well, it helps every part of the business run more smoothly and efficiently. Teams are enabled to focus on work and outcomes that matter, free from distractions caused by tasks getting out of control.  Good project management discipline helps the delivery of results that actually impact the bottom line, enabling employees to see how their work contributes to the overall strategic goals and ambitions.

If you would like to speak with us about how support and upskill HR teams within your organisation, head over to the organisational change and HR services section of our website – or give us a call on +44 (0)1491 414 010.


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