Projects are pretty common in Human Resources, and if you haven’t already, it won’t be long until you’re involved or indeed leading one. Often however HR related qualifications don’t include any material on project management techniques, so what do you do?
Gantt charts are great…but really it’s about the team
In all the SWOT (Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analyses I’ve completed over the years, one factor is always present across all four categories, the team I’m working with. Regardless of what other techniques I’m using, such as Gantt charts, my first priority is to engage the team and ensure they’re on-board with the project. Sometime ago I was asked to lead an ambitious project with the goal of increasing the organisations EEO representation within a particular role in the agency. Essentially the executive wanted (and actually needed) a few hundred more people in this role from a particular EEO group, I won’t go into the detail here but there were very strong business reasons for this – and there still are. The team that I was working with was sceptical at best, primarily due to promises the organisation had made previously and failed to deliver on. The team where amazing, they were connected both with members performing the role and people in the community that were part of the EEO group we were tasked with recruiting, what was holding us back was this level of distrust members of the team had with the organisation.
The reality of a project like this, indeed most projects within HR, is that without the team supporting and working towards that shared goal it simply isn’t going to enjoy the level of achievement that would otherwise be gained with a fully engaged team. At this point I should mention I turned this around and we delivered an amazing result in that first year, surprising many within the organisation of the level of success we achieved. How I did this was simply through the narrative, asking leading questions which place the team members hearts back into the project. The type of questions I asked of key members individually were ‘What would this mean, if we achieved this goal what would the outcome really be – the outcome beyond the figures?’, or quoting the number of clients that would for the first time experience interacting with someone from this EEO group, actually from the same EEO group as many of the clients. These type of leading questions facilitated a quite rapid change from ‘we can’t do this’, to ‘what if we can do this?’.
So the first thing I do when faced with a project in the HR space, I do what I’m good at, I get the team members on-board. I ensure they all invest in the project, because I want the very best out of them. The charts and figures around the project are great, but get your team on-board first, it will not only make the project easier – but you’ll get a lot more individually out of the experience.