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Project Management Best Practices for HR Projects

Hi There, GovLoop! It’s great to be here and re-connect with friends in the Federal Government! To start off my blog, I’d like to begin with something that I’ve grown quite passionate about over the last year – project management and HR projects! I hope you enjoy my first post on Project Management Best Practice for HR Projects.



This week’s Lunch Break was on project management best practices for HR projects. (What’s a Lunch Break? Find out at the end of this post). So – what about project management and HR projects? HR professionals have a huge opportunity in front of them to gain and keep that seat at the strategic table by embracing basic Project Management methodology – which is already being used throughout the organization and is recognized and blessed by the senior leadership. During the webinar, we covered a few things holding HR back from using project management, why use project management for your HR projects, a few success stories, and then, most importantly, tips on how to get started. With that, below I’ve listed the highlight of the lunch break – the best practices.

Project Management Best Practices for HR Projects

  1. Seek out Project Management experts already in your organization – there is a wealth of knowledge and experience within your organization. Seek out the project management experts, in and out of your department, and ask them what they are doing. Get their input, pick their brain about what works, and what doesn’t. Maybe they can direct you to some internal or external resources. This also helps you to build strategic alliances with other departments.
  2. PM-ize your team – Provide project management training for your senior HR managers. Start with an intro to project management providing them an overview of the processes and methodology vocabulary. This can be high-level, giving them the tools to begin talking and understanding and communicating the project management language to each other, to the HR team, to other senior leaders throughout the organization. There’s going to be one or two of those senior leaders or managers that really stand out, pick it up quickly, are really excited about the idea of using project management methodology, and those are the ones you want to provide the in-depth training to – think of them as the program champion for this change. The key here is that they must be authentic about their interest in project management. Incentivize these folks to get their PMP certification. These are your advocates – support them!
  3. Start out small, do one thing at a time – and take one step at a time – for a few reasons. This gives you a chance to perfect the process and really learn it. You can build credibility and a reputation for success. And finally, it takes time to educate your team and get them in the groove of the new process. As with any change, there will be some resistance, so getting those folks on board will take time, education and some explanation.
  4. It doesn’t always have to be a grand production – Take for example a company picnic. For a large organization with 40,000 employees – this is a huge undertaking and a LOT has to be planned for and taken into consideration. An accurate assessment of resources, budget and work breakdown is critical to making the picnic a success. Now, take a small organization of 100 people. Perhaps there are just two of you working on the project because your supervisor asked you to. The details and planning necessary for this size of a picnic are way less than that of a large organization. And being savvy about project management and really understanding the processes, you will be able to discern what is essential for the project’s success, and what can be bypassed.
  5. Set the expectation of using Project Management methodology – By using project management methodology, and giving your team the chance to try their hand at different tasks, they can learn by doing. It can be daunting at first, but by giving them a safe place to try it out and contribute they can become more comfortable with the process and be willing and able to take on more and more each time.
  6. Be objective and realistic about your project – Being objective and realistic about your project will help you to define the critical steps for accomplishment. What are the needs, constraints, budget, regulations, and expectations for the projects? This also lends itself to building credibility because colleagues and senior leaders know you are honest about the challenges of your project and they know what to expect when they work with you which sets the stage for successful collaboration.
  7. Celebrate, debrief and report on your project – Celebrate accomplishments and recognize hard work when you finish a project. Taking the time to debrief after execution also encourages a deeper understanding and learning for all team members. Remember, debriefing should focus on the actions, non-actions, results – it is not a time to blame your team member for something that didn’t go as planned. The debrief is about making process improvements for future projects. Once you’ve debriefed within the team, share your findings with senior leadership. Prepare a report with the outcomes, challenges, how the challenges were managed and results. And draw connections to the organizational goals.
  8. Present in a way your audience listens – When presenting the project plan or results to senior leaders, they are looking for the data and budgets and impact on the organization (think retention rates). But when presenting the plan to your HR team, those kinds of details might be too much information. Focus on the most important thing using visual depictions of the data and graphics for the dashboard. If you use a Gantt chart, color code the progress for each step – red / yellow / green. This will get your team accustomed to using these tools and value they bring to your projects.

We hope you find these tips useful and something you can begin to use immediately. You don’t have to do everything at once. Pick two or three – or even just start with one thing. And as you and your team get acclimated with project management methods you can begin adding more and more.

What’s an HRL Lunch Break? Every few weeks we host a short, timely, and free webinar on a relevant HR topic. To check out and register for upcoming events, visit our Calendar!

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