runningIf you’ve followed for a while you know I enjoy running (I’m on MapMyRun, if you’d like to connect!) I’m also a bit of a nutrition nut due to a high school stint in wrestling, several years of running marathon distances and longer, and generally being a nerd. One thing that I have learned over time, and studies have backed up this observation, is that all of us consistently overestimate the calories we burn and underestimate our intake. Let’s repeat for clarity’s sake:

We consistently overestimate the calories we burn and underestimate what we consume.

It’s a part of being human to want to maximize our successes and minimize things that detract from our performance. As I thought through this idea (on a run, of course) I considered the parallel in the workplace when it comes to communication.

Managers overestimate the amount of communication provided and underestimate the amount of desired feedback.

Put simply, managers think they are communicating plenty. They think they are rockstars at communication and have it completely taken care of. At the same time their employees feel clueless and out of the loop. They are not getting sufficient information to do their jobs well and wish the manager would share more often.

Same principle: we want to maximize the activities we do (Wow! I communicated that well. I rock!) and minimize things that detract from that (Well, if the employees listened more then they would know what’s going on.)

One thing I do now for sure–in all of the thousands of employees I have met over the years, I have yet to come into contact with one that told me, “My manager communicates too much.”

When in doubt, share information. The best leaders know that sharing information is more powerful than holding onto it in the long run, even when you have to communicate with difficult team members.

What are your thoughts on manager feedback and communication? 

HR Project Management Skills are Powerful Tools–Do You Have Them?

When you look at a list of key HR competencies, one thing that often is lacking is a good set of project management skills. While it’s easy to try and segment the human resources profession away from the project manager role, I see it as a core part of what we have to do. Today we’ll go over some of the key aspects of HR project management, what it is, where it fits into your career, and how to use it.

What is HR Project Management?

hr project management diagram

It is very much what it sounds like–the use of project management skills for HR projects/purposes. Think about some of the key skills a project manager has that we value from an employer standpoint:

  • Managing a budget
  • Managing a timeline
  • Managing people/resources
  • Ensuring stakeholders are in the communication loop
  • Developing change management plans

It’s difficult for some people to do one of those well, and a good project manager can handle all of that and more. So it’s easy to see how we can use those types of skills to our advantage in a human resources role. The various projects we have to carry out (some examples of those are listed below) need good project management principles to guide them and ensure their success.

HR Project Management Examples

The easiest way for me to understand a concept is through examples of seeing it in action, so I thought we could go through a few to explore the aspects of this competency. These are just a surface glance and not in depth, detailed project plans, but it’s still a good look at how the disciplines work together.

Benefits Change

Scenario: Benefit costs with current providers have become untenable. Management has requested evaluation of other providers to reduce costs, even if it means reducing the level of quality.

HR Project management role:

  1. Work with management to establish specific objectives (how much cost reduction? how much quality deterioration is acceptable? what is the timeline? etc.)
  2. Develop a set of requirements from those objectives. That set of requirements will be the foundation for your RFP (request for proposal) that you use when talking to vendors.
  3. Contact vendors with the RFP, collect bids, and make a selection based on key factors (price is key in this example).
  4. Complete transition to new provider, terminate relationship with previous vendor, and continue post-implementation activities.

HR Project Management RFP Process

HRIS Implementation

Scenario: Your company has been growing and is ready for a new HRIS to help maintain employee records and facilitate some of the HR processes that occur. You have gone through the selection process and are now in the final stages leading up to implementation of the system. You know that it’s critical to get this last step correct in order to hit the ground running. The program will mainly be used for HR purposes (you and one other team member), but there is a manager self service portion as well that you expect to use to reduce time spent answering questions from managerial staff.

HR Project management role:

  1. Work with the provider as soon as you have a working version to learn the ins and outs of the system. If you are doing the training for other staff instead of the provider, make sure you go through the process of using the tool like one of the other staff. For instance, log in as a manager and use the self service portion so you fully understand the capabilities.
  2. Develop a training plan for educating all pertinent staff on the operation of the system, including the need for security and compliance with data.
  3. Work with provider on a launch plan. This could include dedicated support from the provider, especially in the early days when many new users need assistance.
  4. Develop a feedback system so that users can funnel questions, requests, etc. back to you.

Transitioning to Shared HR Services

Scenario:

Your company has had embedded HR generalists in business units for the past several years. Over that time it has become more costly, more difficult to maintain standards, and is a frustration for business units to have that budget “hit.” The leadership has decided to move to a more centralized model of delivering HR services and has asked you to evaluate that proposition.

HR Project management role:

  1. Begin researching the level of staff needed to meet current requirements via a shared model and compare that with existing HR headcount to determine how many will have to be reassigned/terminated. Create a draft budget that will cover running the new HR delivery model.
  2. Lay out a plan for what sort of service will be delivered best by a shared model and which might be more difficult to administer (employee relations, for example).
  3. Determine what other below-the-surface areas will be affected by this. While it will help ensure a specific standard of service, it could also make managers unhappy because they no longer have dedicated resources. These types of items will need to be incorporated into the change management communication plan to ensure they are addressed at some point of the implementation phase.
  4. Prepare a presentation with your findings and recommendations for the leadership team.

As you can see, there are a variety of projects that can use these types of skills. These examples were written with you as the head of the HR team having to carry this out, but in some organizations there are actually dedicated HR project management professionals in place to handle these sorts of tasks. Let’s look at how that works.

HR Project Management Job Description

Let’s qualify the role the same way we start developing our jobs in the workplace–with a description. Now, as I said, we usually don’t see a significant number of dedicated HR project management jobs, but it’s instead part of a larger HR role. The bigger the organization the more likely there is a dedicated position just for managing the human resources projects. Here’s a sample description:

The HR Project Manager is responsible for the management of HR projects to include managing project budgets, resources (internal and/or external), timelines, risks and third party vendors. Responsible for overall direction, coordination, implementation, execution, control and completion of specific projects ensuring consistency with company strategy, commitments and goals.

Responsibilities

Project-Based Customer Relationship Management
• Establish and maintain relationships with the business units and key partner groups to understand their business needs, ensure alignment on objectives, and ensure ongoing buy-in across all project activities.

Strategic Planning and Project Initiation
• Translate business objectives into projects with clearly defined scope, timing, deliverables, resources, and key measures of success.
• Formulate and continually re-assess the appropriate project management approach and project management skill set / resourcing mix across internal and external partners to ensure all project tasks are successfully completed.
• Create project plans, including timelines and milestones.
• Negotiate sufficient resources from HR sub-teams, IT, Corporate Communications, business units, and other groups as appropriate.
• Effectively set and communicate project expectations to team members and stakeholders.
• Define project success criteria and communicate to team throughout project life cycle.
• Manage and coordinate HR-related project activity resulting from business unit acquisitions.

Project Execution
• Manage ongoing project plans, budgets, resources, and vendors.
• Facilitate meetings and drive project issues through to resolution.
• Develop and deliver progress reports, proposals, requirements documentation and presentations.
• Proactively manage and communicate ongoing changes in project scope, identify potential crises and devise contingency plans.
• Coach, mentor, motivate and lead project team members. Influence project team to take positive action and accountability for their assigned work.
• Manage Requests for Proposals (RFP’s) with vendors relating to HR projects.

Change Management
• Identify all stakeholders, both direct and indirect, and determine level of involvement needed for project success.
• Work closely with Change Management Manager and Corporate Communications to ensure appropriate change management activities are defined and included in all project plans.

Post-Implementation Transition and Evaluation
• Support the ongoing development of best practices and tools for HR project management and execution.
• Conduct project post mortems and create recommendations in order to identify successful and unsuccessful project elements.
• Ensure comprehensive and seamless project post-implementation transition.

Qualifications

Degrees/Designations:
Bachelor’s degree preferred with a specialization in management or related field

System Knowledge/Experience:
Minimum 5 years working knowledge of HR systems, processes, trends, and best practices
Previous HR project management experience required, including demonstrated ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously with different stakeholder sets
Advanced experience with HR project management tools and methods to include risk management, strategic planning and change management
Strong interpersonal, organizational, analytical, presentation and critical thinking skills
Demonstrates ability to build mutually-productive relationships and interact with senior management and key partner groups (e.g., IT, Corporate Communications, HR, business units)
HR Project planning and strategy concepts
HR project management skills

HR Project Management Plan

failing to plan planning to failSuccessful projects start with a plan. We’ve all heard the old adage:

Failing to plan is like planning to fail.

So how do we start? Here are the 5 key steps in the management process:

  1. Project conception
  2. Project planning
  3. Project launch/execution
  4. Project control
  5. Project close

While it looks like a short list, it covers a broad and deep set of requirements, responsibilities, and more. Each of the pieces of the sample job description above fit into a piece of this five step process.

Developing a project management plan means that you have taken the time to think through the steps and what resources, time, people, etc. will be necessary to accomplish each. In addition, you’ll need to think about risks to the project and what you can do to mitigate that risk.

Speaking of risk, one interesting idea that my friend Alison Green has discussed in the past is the value of conducting a “pre-mortem” on a project. We are pretty much all doing “post-mortem” reviews of projects (you are, right?!?) to determine what went well, what went poorly, etc. They are great tools for helping to refine our processes over time. However, the downside is that the project is already finished, and any lessons learned can’t help to improve the results.

Enter the pre-mortem.

This is basically a meeting that is held in the middle of the project where stakeholders gather to discuss what kinds of things could hamper implementation or reduce the impact of the intended results. In other words, what could go wrong? This information is then used to improve the project in real time instead of waiting until it’s over to make any sort of adjustments.

Human Resources Issues in Project Management

Let’s take a step back for a second and look at the broader picture of the organization and what sorts of challenges that might present themselves. A specific one that I have observed in the past is the responsibility of a project manager for the results without the accompanying authority over the employees to enforce deadlines.

For example, an engineer reports to the Director of Engineering, but his Project Manager needs him to focus on a specific task. Without that position power of being “the boss,” it could introduce challenges for the project lead to get things done. This could be due to performance issues on the part of the engineer, or it could be due to competing priorities from the project lead and the supervisor.

This is a big reason why I am such a fan of influence and leadership skills (check out the leadership reading list if you haven’t already for more on this topic). A friend of mine is a superstar project manager. I kid him that his life is dictated by spreadsheets. However, that attention to detail allows him to run multimillion dollar projects seemingly with ease. In addition, his demeanor makes him instantly likable, which contributes to the long-term success of his projects because he can easily get along with employees, leadership, customers, and other stakeholders.

I’m describing this because I know that while you won’t find “be nice” on any list of key project manager skills, I know from experience–it’s one that pays significant dividends.

HR Project Management Jobs

While I touched on the availability of these positions earlier, I think it’s important to note the career implications of this specific skill set. For starters, it’s something that HR pros need to understand, especially as they advance up the career ladder (no matter what HR job title they have).

Being able to pull off successful projects is a significant career booster and can help to lead to new opportunities of increasing responsibility. I know that might be understood, but I wanted to be sure and highlight the importance of this specific career skill.

Wrapping Up

Today we looked at a fairly broad slice of the HR project management world. Without extending this to the length of a book, I do want to mention that we didn’t even talk about software or systems that can help with this type of planning. Why? Because laying software over a broken planning process doesn’t solve the problem, and in some cases it can make it even worse.

It’s important to define and understand the key principles of project management and how that ties into HR. Once you have done that you can begin exploring tools to help you accomplish your goals. I’d love to hear from some of you on these questions:

  • What sort of HR projects have you completed in the past?
  • Any specific HR applications of lessons learned that might be valuable to share?
  • What are your thoughts on specific applications of HR project management?

Oh. No.

Did I really just send that? Let me check my sent items.

Yes, I did.

Aaaggghhhhhh.

Maybe they won’t see it.

Who am I kidding? They are looking at it right now.

Sigh.

oops sent emailI may be the only person who accidentally sends emails on a regular basis, but in case I’m not, I have recently started doing something that really helps me to avoid that little problem.

When replying to a message

When I’m replying to someone’s email, I hit “Forward” instead of “Reply.” This empties the “To” field and allows me to write without having to worry about accidentally sending the note prematurely.

[Note: this has always been one of my biggest fears working in HR. The other involves printing sensitive stuff to a public shared printer. Shudder.]

When composing from scratch

When I’m writing an email from scratch, I leave the “To” field blank until I’m finished and happy with the email.

Next time you’re writing an email and you are worried about sending prematurely, just follow the applicable step above.

You’re welcome. :-)

What email tricks do you use to help you get the job done? Have you ever sent an email that wasn’t quite ready to be released into the wild? 

I spent last week at the Brandon Hall Group Excellence Conference, and it was an incredible event. Yes, I’d say that even if I wasn’t working for Brandon Hall Group. :-) I wanted to take time today to share a brief summary so you can get a sense of what was discussed, since most of you couldn’t be there.

I wrote about several sessions from the conference, and you can find notes and links to the full articles below. I’ll be sharing more over the next week–I’m still processing the conversations, sessions, and comments and trying to make sense of it all in the midst of getting over sleep deprivation. :-)

Talent is a Business Area, Not an HR Area

The first session I sat in on was the integrated talent management workshop. Attendees learned how to build a talent management strategy and some of the key pieces to include based on our research. For example, the top two talent concerns for businesses today:

Sustaining employee engagement (30%)
Developing high potential leaders and succession management (27%)

Read moreTalent Management is a Business Function

Developing Leaders Requires Effort

My favorite session on day two was a leadership development panel. I liked it because it wasn’t focused on selling me the idea of leadership development–it instead helped to offer insights into how to actually do it. As a practitioner I always had these kinds of questions:

  • What does leadership development look like?
  • How do we measure it?
  • How do we know if it’s working?
  • What should a program include?

Read more: Leadership Development Panel Insights

Getting Your Hands Dirty Unconference Session

The last session of the event, and one that I co-led with Trish McFarlane, was an unconference session. It worked out well because we had a group large enough to spur some great discussion but small enough to give each person an opportunity to share their input. We discussed learning challenges, talent issues, and more. I hope to write a full follow up post just to that session in the next week or two, because I want to highlight the unconference format and how you can use it in your daily work (hint: not your average boring meeting).

One of the Best Things, As Usual

One of the best parts of the event was the level of personal connection with attendees, sponsors, etc. I always love coming away from these events with new friends, and this was certainly no different. I also ran across an idea or two for some new research I hope to carry out in the coming year, and that has me excited as well.

This post brought to you by National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation . The content and opinions expressed below are that of upstartHR.

Over the past few months we have discussed restaurant skills and the impact they can have on someone’s long-term career options. We have also covered some amazing topics within the restaurant industry, and I hope you have learned as much as I have about the variety of career opportunities available. Today we are going to take a slightly more scientific look at those skills, but stick with me, because this is great information.

 Food and Beverage Service Competency Model

If you’re not aware, a competency model is a tool that defines the key KSA’s (knowledge, skills, and abilities) required to perform a job successfully. The rest of this post is built on that foundation, so it’s important that you understand the relevance of that. Competency models are powerful things, because we can use them to hire, train, and manage employees with a purpose and a plan (instead of merely guessing at the restaurant skills our staff need).

The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) developed the Food and Beverage Service Competency Model, a model geared specifically toward the restaurant industry. Now, if you’re anything like me, you probably had an initial thought of “Seriously? How complex can it be?” Don’t worry, it can be as complex or as simple as you’d like, depending on the career level/position you’re targeting. Check it out: Continue reading

This week I’m hosting the Strategic HCM themed HR Carnival. For those of you that might be new, the HR Carnival is a series of links to blogs around the world that are gathered together for a single post. Sometimes there is a theme, and sometimes it’s wide open in terms of topics. I try to create themed carnival posts, because I like collecting content around a specific topic to allow you to go deep into one content area. As you might have guessed, this time we’re talking about strategic HRM (or strategic HR, whatever works for you). Here’s what I requested from the community in terms of content:

For this Carnival, I’m looking for posts around the theme of “How to be a strategic HR player in 2015″. In recent weeks I have spent a lot of time researching and writing about HR strategy, strategic planning, etc. I took the SPHR exam, which focuses heavily on strategic HRM. I think HR as a profession knows that this “strategy thing” is important, but they don’t know how to do it, where to start, etc. I’d love to hear some examples, simple ones, of how people actually put this stuff into practice. Or maybe just a tip or two on where to start for the newbies.

Make sense? Are you with me?

Good. Let’s jump into the submissions.

Strategic HRM Carnival of HR

David Richter from OctopusHR offers a great case study into how the HR team aligned training goals with the organizational strategy (with some excellent results). I really like this one, because case studies are excellent tools for learning about how other organizations face challenges. All too often we hear about business issues or successes independently, but a case study that highlights the issues and how the organization overcame them is especially powerful as a learning tool for the rest of us. Well done, David.

hcmx radio strategic hrm development planningMy friend and colleague Trish McFarlane posted on the Brandon Hall Group blog about her recent HCMx podcast with David Wentworth. During the episode they talk about the changing world of learning and development, but it really gets into strategic territory when they discuss how to link individual performance with organizational performance. That, my friends, is what aligning talent practices with organizational goals looks like. I encourage you to check it out!

Sandrine Bardot at Compensation Insider brings us a plan for how to get buy in for your compensation and benefits plan. This is an excellent post not only because Sandrine offers us an easy template for putting this into practice, but because she also gives us some critical advice for getting your stakeholders on board.

Dan McCarthy of Great Leadership by Dan shares excellence in written form as he discusses strategic alignment of leadership development programs. I’ll be honest–many organizations think that even having a leadership development initiative is enough to check off the “strategic HRM” box, but as Dan mentions in his article, it’s just the beginning. You have to continuously reassess to determine the strategic fit.

Amit Bhagria of Young HR Manager gives us his insights on strategic HR in 2015, and what I particularly liked was the initial review of the previous year’s high level changes to consider (mobile, social, economic, etc.) When teaching students to prepare for the SPHR, one of the keys I had to drill into them was the importance of evaluating the external environment in the strategic HRM planning process, and that’s where Amit starts in this post.

Jeanne Achille of Devon Group offers something simple, yet easy to miss. Often when we discuss strategy and how to “live it out,” we forget that a significant portion of the way we communicate is nonverbal (or “presence,” as Jeanne refers to it). Developing a strategy is only half the battle–if you can’t communicate it properly then you are going to ultimately fail.

Linda Brenner at Designs on Talent finally gets us to one of the most basic of strategic HR tenets: metrics. Measuring quality of hire (you have to check out her definition!) is a must if you want your talent acquisition practices to be strategic for the long term. If you’re not measuring, how will you know if you’re meeting your goals?

Winning the award of “strangest title” in this HR Carnival is a look at Aristotle’s beliefs on oysters by Tim Jones at Lumesse. The gist of the story is that for many years, people believed something that was completely false simply because they didn’t test the theory. This translates to the world of strategy in that we have to be looking for opportunities to test what we believe. This is something I plan to write on soon because it’s so critical and yet rarely done. Don’t assume that a new project will fail–test it. Don’t guess about someone’s reaction to a new policy–try a pilot program. Excellent reminder, Tim.

Allison at Meshworking provides insights into the power of using employee contributions to drive and enhance your engagement strategy. The point here that made me stop and think is that when HR discusses employee engagement, the initial suggestions are very tactical. However, incorporating an overall engagement strategy (or engagement culture, as I like to position it) that includes employees in the development process is a much more powerful strategic HRM move than one driven only from the corporate side.

Jennifer at Workforce Software gives us some strategy resolutions for the coming year. The specific item pertaining to strategic HRM I appreciated was this: total workforce management allows you to visualize your entire workforce, across all locations. And that insight empowers faster, more strategic—and more cost effective—decision making.

A big thank you goes out to all of the participants for sharing their knowledge and insights!

Which article about strategic HRM did you like best? Why?