The 5 Key Lessons Project Managers Can Learn From HR


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To be a successful project manager, it’s necessary to possess a wide variety of skills. Those skills come from several disciplines, spanning technical aptitude, organization skills, and leadership abilities. Although certified project managers go through training in these crucial areas, however, it can take years to develop the right skill set and know how to use it effectively.

Fortunately, there’s another field of study that encompasses many of the skills that project managers need to thrive, in part because it involves many of the same types of responsibilities: human resources management. For that reason, it may be useful for project managers to take a page from the human resources playbook every once in a while. Here are the five biggest lessons that they can draw from the world of HR.

1. Managing Personalities is Essential

When a project manager first takes on a new task, one of their first steps is to assemble a team with the right mix of skills to get the job done. That would be easy to do if skills were the only factor at play. In reality, a successful team also has to be able to work together to achieve the goals at hand, and that means understanding how to manage the different personality types that make up the group. This is something that HR professionals become especially adept at since they are in routine contact with employees from every level of their organizations.

2. Listening is the Basis of Communications

One of the most important skills that any HR professional can possess is the ability to listen to others and connect with them. They learn this as a part of active listening skills training that’s a core part of the CIPD certifications higher-level HR managers possess. For project managers, it’s essential to develop active listening skills, because no team can be effective without them. Such skills help encourage teamwork, build trust among team members, and aid in problem-solving ‚Äì all of which are vital parts of successful project management.

3. Culture-Setting is Job One

One of the biggest hurdles that many project managers encounter within their organizations is a resistance to the basics of good project management. What they find instead is territorialism, adherence to tradition, and a general fear of change. That means project managers must help to establish a solid culture of project management before they can be effective within the context of the company they work for. To do it, they can take their cues from (and get the assistance of) HR, since they’re the principal gatekeepers and enforcers of overall business culture. In many cases, members of a company’s HR department will have played an integral role in creating the existing business culture, and therefore will know how best to alter it.

4. Conflict Management is More Than Playing Referee

As any project manager should know, conflict will be a constant companion in their work. They will face budgetary conflicts, management conflicts, and even cultural conflicts. The most destructive of all, however, are the kinds of interpersonal conflicts that crop up in teams, almost without fail. Keeping things moving along isn’t just about settling disputes, however. Instead, project managers should take their cues from HR, and understand that the most important goal of interpersonal conflict management is to understand both involved parties and to reach a real solution that everyone will accept.

5. Different Employees Require Different Motivation

Project managers, unlike their organizational peers, work with different teams for different tasks. Each team they lead will have its own dynamics, strengths, and weaknesses. They will also be made up of different people, all with different motivational needs. This is something that HR professionals deal with every day, and the tactics they use to keep employees happy and motivated are the same ones that project managers should use, too. Keeping all team members motivated and working toward a shared goal is a key factor in productivity, efficiency, and project success – just as HR understands it to be the key to the success of the business overall.

Two Fields, One Goal

At the end of the day, project managers and human resources professionals share many of the same end goals. It only makes sense, then, that they should share overlapping skill sets, as well. For project managers, there’s plenty to learn from the HR discipline, such as the lessons covered above. They’re just the tip of the iceberg, however. For that reason, project managers should make it a point to get to know their organization’s HR staff. They can and will become a very valuable resource ‚Äì and in fact an ally ‚Äì that any project manager should be glad to have on their side.

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