People Managers are Project Managers

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

By Liza Arceo

Project is a term we used since we were in elementary. This is the activity that we did, some as a group and some all by ourselves. Who cannot relate to staying awake for almost 24 hours to finish a project to be submitted tomorrow that you started just today? I think at least one’s in our lives we have experienced the real meaning of the word “cramming” which always goes with the word “project” when used in a sentence.

Those were the days that cramming works. When we talk about projects in the world of work, it’s a serious topic. It involves a lot of time from planning to execution up to the evaluation. Projects may vary from large-scale to ad hoc, and some are very critical that they can make or break the organization. As Human Resource professionals, aside from being People Managers, we are also Project Managers. These projects are what we sell to our stakeholders, to management, and to the whole organization. HR projects may vary year on year depending on the strategic goals and direction of the business. Hence, project management is one of the vital skills for HR to continuously contribute, implement change, and improve the business.

In the November learning session of LeadCom entitled “Project and Risk Management”, Mr. Elvin Aquino, the Corporate Safety Manager of South Pacific Inc. has shared the steps in project management, how to mitigate risks, and what are the best practices he has done over his many years of experience in project management. The mentees were able to relate very much to the key aspects of project management especially when the risks were discussed.

Here are stories shared by three HR professionals on their experience in getting involved in a project and the pitfalls they experienced plus the lessons they learned from their experiences.

Story #01: “As a Global HR Service Associate in an IT Software Services company, we have to launch a new labor policy in response to DOLE’s strict regulation of ENDO in the Philippines. The project team consists of different members from different parts of the world namely Manila, the U.S., and Prague. In order to implement the policy in January 2021, we have to deliver the draft policies, draft contract (done with the help of a law firm in Manila), and speak with the managers/stakeholders to educate them on the new policy. However, in the course of doing the project, our timeline keeps adjusting because it took us time to set team meetings since there are three time zones being considered. As a solution, our team agreed to meet less frequently and instead, use the online project management software available in the company. It is where we collaborate, assign tasks & deadlines, and monitor the progress of the overall project. The tool enables us to work more efficiently on the project at our own time.”

Lesson: Technology helps us get our work done efficiently and be more productive. Use the available resources and project management tools. This is perfect for projects with team members working in different locations (especially most of us are still in the WFH setting due to the pandemic).

Story #02: Events and programs are projects that will always be part of HR. One HR Head shared her experience from her previous company. “I was a member of the project team assigned to work on the Medical Mission & Outreach program. During the planning, the objective of the project was set and made clear to everyone. Each member was delegated tasks to accomplish in preparation for the Medical Mission & Outreach program. All our prep tasks were done except for one thing which was left unplanned. There was a big question of who will do what on the day of the event. The members of the team were at a loss and did not know that they were supposed to have a role in the program itself. So, the project lead has to command certain tasks to whoever is available to do it. The project team survived that day even if there was confusion among us at the start.”

Lesson: When planning a project, be as detailed as possible especially on the tasks that need to be done before, during, and after the project (or event in this story). It is necessary to clarify the roles and accountabilities using the RACI* model. And, evaluation is also important to assess how the project went. This will provide learnings for the team and avoid the same mistakes in future projects.

*RACI is the acronym for responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed.

Story #03: When project management is the topic, the next term that will come to mind is risk mitigation. And, that’s what most project managers do. They identify and mitigate risks from planning to the rollout of the project. But, what if the project manager who leads the project leaves in the middle of the implementation phase? This is what one HR Specialist has shared. “The project lead is the HR Director who happened to be my immediate superior. She championed this project in the company with the objective of improving the goal alignment, engagement, and execution of team & individual goals. As her only subordinate, I was very involved in the overall project which is expected to finish within a year. Unfortunately, my superior had to leave the company in the middle of the implementation. This led me to take over the project and continue its implementation even if I was not prepared for such a role.”

Lesson: When identifying risks, always include the retention risk. Be ready with a plan if the people involved in the project, especially those holding mission-critical roles suddenly leave the project. This lesson also applies to all organizations. With the increased competition in the workforce market, employees are now changing jobs faster than before. It is necessary for companies to have a strong bench ready when the need arises.

These days, Human Resource professionals are highly valued in organizations because of the role it plays in driving organizational success. By knowing how to carefully plan and execute a project, and learn from the pitfalls or challenges that may come our way, we can ensure that our project management system in HR will always bring value to our company and its employees.


About the Writer:

Liza Arceo is the Sr. HR Specialist at PHINMA Properties and currently finishing her master's degree at the University of the Philippines-School of Labor and Industrial Relations. She joined PHINMA Properties in 2012 where she started with corporate recruitment then shifted to OD and Talent Management. She has been passionate about the HR profession since college by being a JPMAP member. Now, she continues to be an active member of the premier organization by being a mentee in PMAP's Future Leader's Program.

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