The importance of project management for HR professionals

18 Mar 2024

Jason Jack

Creating a work-from-home policy. Developing a comprehensive onboarding process. Implementing a performance management system. Designing and administering employee engagement surveys. Executing a succession-planning programme. Upgrading your existing HR Information system (HRIS). Conducting a needs assessment for a learning and development initiative. Creating an employee wellness programme. Undertaking a major recruitment or restructuring exercise.
In terms of project management for HR, these are just a few examples of HR-related projects frequently undertaken by human resource practitioners.

Good Project Management for HR drives organisational success

Traditionally, only companies involved in the construction and engineering sectors were interested in and involved in project management. Now, project management techniques are used outside the traditional project industries and adopted by many human resource professionals to better manage their work.
As the role and function of human resource management in organisations grow in size and complexity, HR professionals play a pivotal role in driving organisational success. Therefore, the ability to effectively plan, execute, monitor and control these activities has become a key requirement.

One of the key elements of projects is that they all possess one key characteristic – they are all temporary and finite in nature. Coordinating a training workshop may take a few hours. Designing an employee engagement survey may take several weeks. Analysing workforce data and forecasting future staffing needs as part of a workforce planning initiative may take several months. A major change management undertaking, involving mergers, acquisitions or a massive restructuring may take several years. Despite the duration, they all have clearly defined beginning and end dates.
Let’s look at some of the key ways in which these management-by-project approaches, tools and techniques can directly benefit human resource professionals:

Structured approach to activities

Project management infuses a structured approach to HR initiatives. Employee engagement surveys, for instance, would involve administering surveys to measure employees’ satisfaction and engagement levels, analysing survey data, identifying areas for improvement and developing action plans to address issues raised by employees. An employee onboarding programme would involve creating orientation materials, training programmes and feedback mechanisms. By outlining clear objectives, milestones, and timelines, HR professionals can ensure that initiatives are executed efficiently, minimising delays and optimising resource utilization.

Project Life Cycle

This method identifies the four stages in a project’s lifespan – initiation, planning, implementation (with monitoring and control being a key component) and closing. Each stage has its own needs or requirements and produces its own results to help accomplish the overall project. For example, a company may be undertaking a project to ensure legal compliance with recent changes in the minimum wage, in accordance with recent legislation.
This project would span the various stages of the project life cycle and involve activities such as obtaining necessary approvals, analysing qualitative and quantitative employee data, conducting HR audits, updating documentation and training HR staff on new legal requirements.

Stakeholder identification and engagement

A key pillar of project management is to identify the interests, expectations and influence of ALL stakeholders, and manage these relationships effectively. An organisation-wide restructuring exercise, for instance, would involve consultation and engagement with both external stakeholders (trade unions and other employee representative groups) as well as external stakeholders – department heads, user departments and employees at all levels in the company’s hierarchy.

Greater collaboration and communication

Effective project management fosters seamless collaboration and communication among cross-functional teams within the HR department and beyond. Through regular meetings, status updates, and transparent communication channels, HR professionals can align stakeholders, mitigate risks, and address challenges proactively, fostering a culture of teamwork and synergy.

Comprehensive planning

Project management employs specific tools and strategies to ensure that project activities are in alignment with overall goals and objectives. Tools such as the Scope of Work and Work Breakdown Structure and Gantt Charts encourage attention to detail and establish clear timelines and areas of responsibility and accountability to specific individuals.
A talent development initiative for instance, would involve several areas of responsibility, such as succession planning, creation of leadership development programmes, and career pathing initiatives, which would all have specific timelines, budgets and HR staff assigned to specific activities.

Ability to identify & manage change & uncertainty

In today’s fast-paced business environment, adaptability is paramount. Project management equips HR professionals with the tools and techniques to navigate change and uncertainty effectively. Through robust risk management strategies, agile methodologies, and contingency planning, HR projects can pivot swiftly in response to evolving circumstances, ensuring resilience and success in dynamic landscapes.

As HR professionals, understanding and embracing project management can be transformative, offering a framework for success in an increasingly complex and competitive landscape. By embracing project management principles and harnessing their benefits, HR professionals can elevate their strategic contributions, drive organisational excellence, and champion a culture of continuous improvement and innovation. As the custodians of human capital, HR professionals wield immense potential to shape the future of work—and project management serves as their guiding beacon on this transformative journey.
To explore this topic in greater detail, please join us on March 19, 2024, for the course on Project Management for HR Professionals.

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