All HR professionals participate in projects of one kind or another. Hiring and training executive team members, establishing new hybrid work processes, implementing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and facilitating a positive workplace culture – these critical HR jobs require effective human resources project management that involves coordinating many different stakeholders to reach a common goal. What is a project if not a series of related tasks undertaken to achieve an overarching objective?
For this reason, project management skills are vital for professionals who work in the field of human resources. Human resources project management skills have become particularly important as they help HR professionals increase their efficiency and productivity. A Master of Human Resource Management can help prospective HR professionals build up these skills through coursework that focuses on contemporary issues, key HR management concepts and how to apply them in different situations.
In this post, we will look at why project management is important for human resources professionals. We will cover why these skills are useful for anyone who wants to be noticed by employers, why HR-related projects are particularly important for many organisations and why the changing nature of HR may increase the need for project management skills in the future.
Why project management is important
Employers seek professionals with expertise in the area of project management because projects are prone to complexity. Complexity creates challenges, and although intuition and creativity can overcome some challenges, many are best confronted with an arsenal of technical skills and knowledge.
A project might seem straightforward when everybody first sits down to discuss it, but when your colleagues return to their desks and other priorities begin to get in the way, expectations can quickly change. And not in a positive way. Team members who cannot complete tasks within a reasonable time frame can slow down the rest of their team. This may delay delivery times, which could result in reallocation and management issues.
In many ways, this is the classic project problem, the impediment that brings so many initiatives to a grinding halt. However, it can be relatively easily overcome with the right leadership and organisation – which is why effective project management is important.
Project management is about careful management of deadlines – the date of the entire project, but also deadlines relating to individual components.
It is about staying on top of who is responsible for what and encouraging them to meet their targets.
It is also about ensuring accountability without denying flexibility – putting the human in human resources.
It is a difficult balancing act, which is why those who can pull it off are so highly sought after, regardless of their area of primary expertise.
Human resources project management affects everyone
Why do those specifically recruiting HR professionals look for skilled project managers? In great part, it simply comes down to the reach a human resources department has.
A procurement project might affect some staff and a few external businesses. A marketing project might affect some customers, some members of the community and ultimately shareholders. However, an HR project can affect a very broad group of stakeholders. That includes staff, customers and clients, the local community (including individuals and businesses), shareholders or company owners and businesses closely associated with the company undertaking the project (such as insurance firms).
Like few other business units, HR has the power to create flow-on effects throughout an entire organisation, as well as the community and economy within which it operates. Well-executed human resources project management can lead to a positive outcome for not only a small niche segment of stakeholders but also a potentially large and diverse population of people.
Which project management skills are important for HR?
Project management is something that all HR professionals will likely undertake in their careers, which is why project management skills are important. These include communication, negotiation, team leadership, coaching, motivation and time management skills.
However, the following three skills are most important for HR professionals given the types of projects they manage:
Effective communication skills
HR professionals often act as mediators or liaisons between different workplace stakeholders, such as employees, managers and executives. They may need to accurately explain workplace policies, communicate information between different teams or departments, or handle difficult workplace situations. For these reasons, effective communication is paramount to ensuring that information is delivered accurately, respectfully and sensitively.
Scheduling and time management
Many projects that HR professionals undertake, such as engagement surveys, performance reviews and restructures, need to occur sensitively on a strict schedule within a carefully managed time frame.
For this reason, a critical human resources project management skill is scheduling and time management.
In any HR project, there will be risks. For some projects, these risks will be small. For example, an engagement survey may not garner the feedback that executives were hoping for. However, some risks can be catastrophic. For example, if a restructure is not properly managed, it could destroy an organisation’s culture and productivity for months.
How HR professionals can learn project management skills
As we can see now, the ability to manage projects is an essential skill for human resources professionals. The following steps can help professionals learn the necessary human resources project management skills:
- Job shadow other senior HR professionals who have successfully managed multiple projects.
- Continually ask for feedback from stakeholders on how project aspects or steps can be managed better.
- Incorporate project management strategies, such as Agile or Waterfall methodologies, into human resources project management.
How HR is changing
In a market where the role of HR is fast evolving to be even more important than ever, HR professionals need to ensure that they focus on human resources project management skills.
HR’s importance in the context of an organisation skyrocketed in the wake of COVID-19 when suddenly people could no longer work in the way they used to. As the pandemic forced most organisations to have their staff work from home, HR had to quickly figure out innovative ways of ensuring that staff was productive and happy at home and that leaders were able to effectively lead.
Beyond this, as the world emerges from the pandemic, HR’s responsibility to create a positive culture and retain employees has been even more important in the wake of the Great Resignation, a phenomenon in which many employees are resigning and looking for more rewarding and flexible work.
HR is becoming more ‘human’, as some commentators have put it. This contrasts with the past understanding of HR, where human resources professionals focused on more administrative-related tasks such as performance management on behalf of the organisation. Now, the role of HR is absolutely to champion employee engagement and ensure maximum employee productivity through motivating staff and offering benefits that appeal to everyone.
How HR continues to evolve
As the nature of HR changes, professionals with human resources project management skills can help effectively facilitate innovative projects and initiatives. One of the best ways to learn these skills is through formal education, such as RMIT Online’s Master of Human Resource Management. Our program has an in-depth curriculum that can help you understand current and future HR trends from local and global perspectives, enhance your workplace management skills and guide strategic cultural shifts. Explore the program and learn more about how you can help create better workplaces as an HR professional.