Project Management Best Practices for HR Projects

How often do you get tasked with a project?  Monthly?  Weekly?  Daily?  Projects are everywhere, even in HR, but it still surprises me how little focus we as HR practitioners put on improving our project management skills.

Last week I attended a conference sponsored by the Project Management Institute (PMI) for their communities of practices.  As the community manager for the HR Project Management Community of Practice, it’s my responsibility to ensure that we are providing quality, real-time information to two audiences: 1. HR practitioners interested in project management and 2. project managers interested in effectively managing their project team.

While reflecting on this event – the conversations, collaboration and excitement generated for future events – I thought it would be appropriate to revisit a delightful topic we call project management best practices for HR projects.

“Operations keeps the lights on, strategy provides a light at the end of the tunnel, but project management is the train engine that moves the organization forward.”
– Joy Gumz  (love this!)

How do you make project management work for your HR projects?  Send us a message!


Many thanks,

Kristie Evans
CEO / Sr. Transformation Consultant
HR Logistics




Project Management Best Practices for HR Projects

HR professionals have a huge opportunity in front of them to gain and keep that “seat at the strategic table” (boy have we heard that over and over!).  Well, would you believe that by embracing and implementing basic Project Management methodology – which is already being used throughout the organization and is recognized and blessed by the senior leadership – would accomplish just that?

In this article we’ve listed the top 8 project management best practices for your HR projects.  After you read this list, you might find that 2 or 3 of these practices are something you can implement tomorrow.  Others might take a little more time, and are critical to take your team to the next level.  So, consider the ones that will create an immediate impact.  And remember, you aren’t alone.  If you need help just let us know and we can help you to identify the low-hanging project management fruit!

  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, methodology and vocabulary.  This can be high-level, giving them the tools to understand and communicate using the project management language with each other, the HR team, and 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, and are really excited about the idea of using project management methodology. 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, and demonstrate the value of project management to HR initiatives.  As with any change, there will be some resistance, so getting those folks on board will take time, education and some hands on experience.
  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.  The details and planning necessary for this size of a picnic are way less than that of a large organization.  By being savvy about project management and really understanding the processes, you will be able to discern what is essential for the project’s success no matter the size of your organization. You’ll have a template.
  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, 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.  This is especially critical for HR projects that are so visible to the workforce.
  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.  When presenting the plan to your HR team, use their language and context – such as retention rates for talent management – as well as the senior management information.  Use visual depictions of the data and graphics to communicate the concept and impact.  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 the 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.  As you and your team get acclimated to project management methods, you gain confidence and identify how you can begin adding more and more.

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How do you make project management work for your HR projects?

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