January 5, 2018

5 Ways HR Can Learn from Project Management

Written by

If you work in an organization that produces a technological product (or even one that owns many digital properties), chances are there is someone on your tech team with the title of “project manager.”

As that person sprints between desks using acronyms you’re unfamiliar with and talking comfortably in tech terms that sound like a foreign language, it may seem like their job couldn’t have less to do with your role in HR. But you’d be incorrect. Because here’s a project management term that any human resources professional will recognize — risk mitigation.

Also Read: 5 Ways to Use Technology to Improve Workplace Productivity (Plus Product Suggestions)

In the end, that’s what project managers do. They mitigate risk in the release of projects by managing the entire process from ideation to planning to creation to execution and rollout. And that’s very similar to what a great HR team does as well. They mitigate people-related risks to ensure everyone at the organization is set up for a successful, supported, and happy career. Need more convincing? Here are a few lessons HR teams can learn from project management pros.

1. Start with needs

Great project managers don’t start their work with a named project, they start with a need. What are customers looking for and what product can we create to fill that space? What is broken and how quickly does it need to get fixed?

Your HR team can more successfully plan for quarterly goals by using the same method. Instead of implementing projects or ideas (like a new performance review plan or benefits partner) because of a perceived requirement, look for real needs. Regularly survey team members to find out what their biggest challenges are at work, then go from there to plan solutions. You’ll find that the projects you take on are more successful and that less time is wasted doing the wrong thing with the right intentions.

2. Delegate

Project managers are master delegators. Though they are perhaps the most important party to a project’s success, they don’t actually create any of the components of the project. Instead, they assemble the best people for those jobs, delegate tasks, and then manage for completion.

In our changing world of work, HR departments can learn a lot from that method. In 2016, 71 percent of HR leaders reported that they’re spending more time on business needs not related to talent. The tasks that took their attention from people priorities included managing relationships with board members, planning responses to legislative needs, and managing corporate social responsibility plans.

All of these are certainly valid endeavors, but one person (or even one team) can only do so much so well. That’s where delegation comes in. Ensure that your team members are all set up to focus on the needs that are most critical to HR and those things that they excel at, then delegate the rest.

3. Create structure

Project teams need structure to succeed, and that’s what project managers provide. They set milestones, meetings, and reporting at regular intervals. These expectations help keep everyone on track and make it easier to notice when risk creeps in.

Everyone benefits from structure and clear expectations. Without those things, it’s hard to meet performance goals. Yet only half of employees report they are confident they know what’s expected of them at work.

When it comes to HR, implementing structure can happen in a variety of ways — clear job descriptions, regular team-wide town halls, formal performance review processes, and so on.

4. Get buy-in

Project managers report that about a third of all their projects fail because of a lack of involvement from senior leadership. Getting project buy-in from the C-suite helps ensure each project’s goals are on track with organizational priorities, helps create champions for the project’s completion, and shows individual team members how critical the project is to the company’s overall success.

HR efforts can benefit from the same approach — whether it’s rolling out a new set of core values or instituting a new payroll process, your efforts risk failure without buy-in from the top. Involve leadership in your decision making, or better yet, ensure HR has a seat at the executive team table.

5. Invest in the right technology

The vast majority of project managers use some sort of project management software to do their jobs. Those who do use such a tool report improved communication, higher quality products, better adherence to timeline and budget, and increased customer satisfaction.

Leading large projects without the right software tool would be a Herculean, if not impossible, effort. And it’s not just project management. Most professionals these days can benefit greatly from a tech solution. HR is no different. There are thousands of tools on the market that address a variety of HR software technology needs — everything from benefits management to performance reviews to recruitment tracking to employee recognition and more.

With so many solutions on the market, it’s important to choose those that truly enhance your workflow. Otherwise, you might end up wasting time and money on a tool that sounds great but doesn’t fit.

TechnologyAdvice can help you wade through the options. Explore our directory of tools or schedule a call with an advisor (it’s free!). We’ll listen to your biggest HR challenges and recommend top solutions.

Free Download

Buyer's Guide to HR Software

Get My Free Guide