HR Project Management: A Practical Guide

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HR Project Management: A Practical Guide

With the labor market in an unpredictable state and technology rapidly changing the way businesses run, HR requires tools to help them hire, manage and retain employees—the success of an organization depends on it. HR project management is a smarter way of working that enables HR teams to carry out their tasks and plans in an organized, efficient manner. 

Let’s look at what project management looks like in Human Resources, its benefits, and how to get started with HR project management.

What is HR project management?
HR project management examples
Benefits of project management in HR
How to apply project management elements to HR

What is HR project management?

HR project management refers to using and applying project management skills and principles for HR purposes to streamline work and achieve project goals. Furthermore, formal project management processes and tools help lower risk and increase the success rates of a wide range of HR tasks.

Strong project management skills can help HR:

  • manage budgets, timelines, and people,
  • attract new talent,
  • communicate effectively with employees and stakeholders,
  • plan and execute training and team bonding initiatives,
  • and develop change management plans.

One approach to project management is the agile HR method. It’s primarily an approach used in project and software development, but HR professionals can adopt this mindset to deal with an ever-changing work landscape where fast solutions are necessary.

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The foundation of agile HR is structuring it in a way that makes it quicker and easier to adapt to new situations, maintain a flexible approach that can be shaped as the workforce changes, and be more responsive to customer needs.

HR project management examples

Project management has five distinct stages: 

  1. Initiation – The start of the project, defining core goals, and assessing if you have the resources you need to complete the project.
  2. Planning – Planning what tasks need completing and in what order, creating a budget, and allocating resources.
  3. Execution – The heart of the project, fulfilling all tasks. 
  4. Control – Monitoring what the team does and tracking the time taken to complete tasks to predict the scope of future projects. 
  5. Close – Delivering the final product and evaluating the team and individual performances. 

Here are some examples of what these stages would look like when managing a typical HR project.

Project: Launching a new careers page

Initiation: What is your goal for creating a new careers page? To educate candidates on the organization or what a typical day looks like in a particular role? To increase the volume and quality of applicants and reduce attrition? And what resources will you need to complete this project? 

Planning: Break this project into smaller tasks such as planning what elements will make up your new careers page, writing new copy or creating videos for it, publishing it on the website, and your proposed launch date. Who will complete these tasks, and how long will they take? 

Execution: Assign tasks to relevant team members and begin methodically working through them. 

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Control: The project manager should monitor all team members’ progress, be a point of contact should any issues arise, and check the finished product.

Close: The new careers page is launched. Each team member self-evaluates their performance, and the group performance is analyzed to see what went well and what could be improved next time.

HR Project Management

Project: Planning a team-building event

Initiation: What are you hoping to achieve with the team-building event? For new members of the team to integrate with the existing members? For everyone to learn how to communicate more effectively? To build trust? To help the team work together more effectively and productively? 

Planning: What day will the event take place? Will it happen on-site, somewhere else, or will it be remote? Which team members are invited? What supplies will be needed (workbooks, stationery, etc.)? How much will it cost in total? 

Execution: Distribute tasks to relevant HR team members, liaise with department managers in question, and start creating the event. Book a location and transport (if needed), create or purchase any required equipment, and design an itinerary for the day.    

Control: Ensure everyone is playing their part and everything is in place before the event. Have one or two HR members attend the event to monitor how attendees respond to it.   

Close: The team-building event happens. Afterward, each team member evaluates their performance in planning and executing responsibilities, and the team can discuss key takeaways. You can also send surveys to all employees who attended the event to see if the initial goals were met.  

Benefits of project management in HR

Project management in HR has numerous potential benefits for the entire organization.

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Keeping focus and alignment

Project management is rooted in defining goals and guiding a team in successfully completing those goals. When you have goals that are clear and broken down into smaller, manageable tasks, team members stay focused and motivated because they know what they’re aiming to accomplish.

Better collaboration

Telling employees to “work together” is unlikely to result in desired change, and this is where a project manager and project management framework can help. 

When all roles within the project are clearly defined, the collaboration between team members becomes smoother and more cohesive. You prevent confusion about who is responsible for particular tasks. This becomes critical with projects that require the collaboration of two or more departments. For example, launching a new careers page would involve HR and IT. A recruitment campaign would need HR as well as the marketing team. 

Two departments that often collaborate on projects together are sales and marketing—whether it’s launching a new product or trying to meet sales targets—yet there is often a disconnect between these teams. But when sales and marketing departments work together effectively, it leads to growth and a boost in business performance.

Improving productivity and managing workload effectively

A clear understanding of all tasks along with Gantt charts helps manage the workload of everyone involved in the project, and transparent processes create room for greater efficiency and productivity.

HR teams often work on numerous critical projects simultaneously; therefore, project management skills and procedures can boost productivity across the entire organization. For instance, a European bank rolled out agile project delivery techniques to its HR team, which helped distribute the talent pool more effectively and boost productivity by close to 25%.

Project managing practices also encourage and empower the use of time management and tracking tools to measure how productive a team is, which can help predict how long future tasks will take more accurately and pinpoint any over or underperforming employees. 

Efficient use of resources

Project management in HR provides a solid overview of any project and its goals, enabling you to prioritize where and when you invest finite resources, including time and money. This helps HR teams to stick to a schedule and budget and use resources in the most efficient way.

Improving recruiting and onboarding efforts

Project management will also have a positive impact on recruiting and onboarding of new employees. Agile project management principles can lead to inspired recruitment programs and an increase in the volume and quality of applicants, new employees starting their roles with the right training and being better equipped to perform, and better utilization of talent across the organization. This also helps HR win a seat at the table with business leaders as they can clearly demonstrate the direct benefits of project management in HR to the bottom line.

Seeing the bigger picture

A clear grasp of timelines and progress empowers HR to regularly update leadership on projects and gain valuable insight regarding team priorities when working with conflicts or limited resources. HR professionals can see how project goals align with broader organizational goals and convey this to the leadership team.

How to apply project management elements to HR

There are certain aspects of project management that can help improve the way you work even without rolling out the full HR project management methodology within your team. Let’s find out what you can do!

1. Define the scope of your project before starting

The first step is to gauge the brevity of your project. Here are some helpful questions to ask:

  • What is the size of the project?
  • What are the project goals?
  • What resources do we need to achieve these goals?

The answers to these questions will help you create realistic timelines and roadmaps to successfully complete the project.

It can also be helpful to prepare a project scope statement template that you can use for each project. Here’s an example of what this would look like:

Project nameAccurately describe the project, for example, “New careers page to improve volume and quality of candidates.”
Project scope statementSummarize the goals and objectives of the project. These should be measurable and achievable within your proposed time frame. For example, “Increase the volume of candidates by 25% and the quality of hire by 30% by March 2023.” 
Introduction/background to the projectWhat current issues do you need to address? What is the proposed solution? And when will work be commencing?

For example:

The careers page currently has a loading time speed of 8 seconds and a conversion rate of 1%, which results in an average of 100 applicants per month. In addition, the quality of hire is currently 65%.

To improve the volume and quality of candidates, the HR team decided to revamp the careers page to boost the employer brand and give candidates an idea of what a typical day looks like in a particular role and the skills and behaviors they need to perform. We received instructions to commence work on this project on April 29th, 2022.   
Business caseWhy is the project needed, and what are the benefits to the business?
DeliverablesThese are the outcomes that lead to the successful completion of the project. For example, increasing the page loading speed of the careers page or increasing the conversion rate of people landing on the page and completing a job application. 

2. Assume that your project is dynamic

Having a plan is important, but there will inevitably be unexpected challenges and changes in circumstances that require you to adapt your original plan. This is why it’s imperative to treat your project plan as a guide rather than a rigid procedure that must be followed no matter what.

If your plan does need to change, consult proposed changes with the project team to ensure everyone is on the same page.

3. Hold regular project status meetings

To ensure HR project management is a success, the team should regularly provide and receive updates on progress throughout the different project phases. Ensure team members know what to prepare for meetings and what questions they may need to answer.

This leads to productive meetings where you can identify and solve issues before they become larger obstacles. 

4. Help team members develop project management skills

Encourage and support team members in learning and developing project management skills such as stakeholder management, planning, proactive issue resolution, and change management. Skills like these lend to well-equipped team members who can effectively manage various HR projects.

5. Consider using a project management tool

There are a wide variety of tools, including Asana, Trello, and Airtable, which can help manage and navigate projects by providing an overview of responsibilities, who’s in charge of what, insights into the status of tasks, and allowing team members to communicate

A dedicated tool helps you stay organized and track progress from the start through to the completion of any project.

6. Conduct project evaluations

After you’ve completed the project, it’s beneficial to evaluate what went well and what didn’t so that you can learn from mistakes or oversights and improve next time. Conducting a project evaluation means you will have a list of recommended improvements before the next project begins. 

7. Hire an HR project manager

If you recognize the benefits of an HR project management approach and want to adopt it as a department, hiring a dedicated HR project manager is the next logical step. An HR project manager will plan and oversee the implementation of a diverse range of HR programs within your organization. There may be someone on your team interested in and suited to the role, or you may need to hire externally.

The role of an HR project manager is to plan, direct, and implement various HR programs related to HR management, employee development, and customer service.

Key responsibilities: 

  • Driving the execution of HR-related projects and programs
  • Ensuring that HR projects are delivered on time, within the scope and budget
  • Tracking, monitoring, and reporting on HR program and project progress to ensure successful execution

Skills & competencies

  • Project management
  • Operational excellence
  • Change management
  • Networking
  • HR governance
  • Customer-focused
  • Data-driven
  • Analytics translation
  • Digital culture architect
  • Strategy co-creation

Over to you

Even if you don’t adopt the full HR project management approach, you can apply some of its elements, like scoping the project, conducting project status meetings, and adding evaluations to your workflow. Project management leads to more efficient and productive ways of working and, what’s more, increases the chances of bringing any project to successful completion.

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