HR Needs a Different Approach to Project Management

Author(s): Laura Meikle

Project managers are dedicated resources that companies employ to lead a project team to complete a unique deliverable the organization has deemed necessary. Once the project is complete, they will typically release a deliverable to the end users who will integrate it into their daily processes.

HR leaders are often asked to act as project managers in order to build out unique programs from scratch. However, HR’s role goes beyond the typical role of a project manager as they must support the change and make improvements over time, long after the project has ended. Additionally, HR is often involved right from conception and may be the driving force behind the demand for a new initiative. In the end, HR leaders are not only acting as a project manager, but also as the project sponsor, a process owner, and an end user. In other words, HR’s role in managing a project starts early and never really ends.

Subsequently, HR's use of the generally accepted project management practices should also be adaptable. Rather than trying to make their projects fit within the traditional project management phases customize your approach to ensure effective program delivery and long-term support. For example, the project phases HR could use to build and deliver a program are as follows:

Phase 1: Scope

This phase starts with the initial request to solve an observable symptom or create a new program to remain competitive. It is essential to determine the cause of this demand, and then clearly outline the project and its boundaries in detail.

Tasks to perform include:

  • Identify the issue (symptom)
  • Pinpoint the problem (cause)
  • Set boundaries for the project
  • Identify the project team and stakeholders impacted
  • Analyze the current state
  • Determine project feasibility
  • Define the strategy for the program
  • Set metrics to measure success
  • Develop and present a business case to obtain budget, time, and resources

Tools and/or techniques to leverage include:

Phase 2: Design

In this stage, you will make decisions on how to approach the problem and build the end deliverable. Be sure your solution aligns with the organizational goals and culture.

Tasks to perform include:

  • Gather and review survey data and employee feedback
  • Research potential program approaches and methods
  • Select the best fit solution to fulfill organizational goals
  • Determine tactics necessary to realize the chosen solution
  • Communicate the program design to project stakeholders

Tools and/or techniques to leverage include:

  • Surveys, focus groups, observation
  • Decision-making tools
  • Online/offline communication tools and techniques

Phase 3: Prepare to Implement

This phase is most concerned with future planning to ensure all the required elements and guidelines are in place before the program is launched.

Tasks to perform include:

  • Align the related HR practice and overall HR strategy to support the program (for example, align Talent Acquisition strategy to support a campus recruitment program)
  • Plan the actions required to implement the program
  • Outline the internal communication plan
  • Develop a follow-up plan to track program success and gain feedback over time

Tools or techniques to leverage include:

Phase 4: Implement & Manage

This is the stage in which you will introduce the program and ensure effective continual performance. It's likely that you will either manage it directly or transfer ownership to the appropriate leader while supporting the change.

Tasks to perform include:

  • Launch the program across the company or as a pilot test
  • Support change management with program users
  • Monitor metrics to determine program success or failure
  • Make improvements based on feedback and analytics

Tools or techniques to leverage include:

Not all projects will fit into the phases outlined above seamlessly. I suggest that you use this as a general guideline and make them work for your own conditions. The point is to take what seems to be an insurmountable request and approach it thoughtfully while breaking it down into tangible steps. Take the time needed to determine the problem you will be solving, perform an environmental analysis before the work begins, find right solution – not just what everyone else is doing at the moment – and continuously improve the program after it has launched. Addressing these major elements of HR project management will help you to ensure your project is a success.

Still feeling daunted? Check out McLean & Company’s practical research which breaks down HR projects into manageable phases and supplies the required tools and templates. We ensure that you have everything needed to see a project through from conception to implementation. Additionally, our subject matter experts are available to guide you through the process one-on-one and tailor it to your situation.

McLean & Company's Modernize Performance Management project model

By Laura Eastman

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