Should HR Develop Project Skills?

I am a huge believer in the power of networking.  And I’m fortunate to be part of a great network of highly skilled and talented professionals. One of the formal networks that I am part of is Interimity.  Interimity is an exclusive, invitation-only community of HR consultants, coaches and interims.  Find out more here. There has been an interesting debate going on in the Interimity community about the value of project skills for HR professionals.  As professionals we need to manage talent within the HR function as well as the wider organisation so I thought I would share the debate here.

Here is a summary from Julia Briggs, Director of Interimity:

As an agency for HR & Communications Independents, increasingly clients ask for interims and consultants with Project Management expertise to go with the traditional HR skill areas.

And in a current list of US HR top talent requirements the focus is on HR systems and data analysis, as well as Six Sigma and BPR.  HR Strategy and Organisation Design feature too, but that’s about it. The emphasis is on structured process, data, systems and analytical skills.

What Interimity members said about project skills:

So we put the question to the Interimity Community to get their views.  And this is what they said.

GLENN JONES is an HR Transformation expert, and Prince2® qualified.  For him PM skills are essential

It’s about value add. If we can demonstrate to our peers and board members that we know what we are doing, and we can accurately deliver it, then we will all prosper. Put simply, fail to plan, plan to fail’. 

There is agreement from other members about the importance of structure. 

As SUE ELLS  (a change management & strategy expert) says,

  ‘Being able to clarify a requirement, and then to deliver on time and budget, with measurable results and happy stakeholders seems like a basic thing for most of us. However, many clients will tell you of significant disappointments they have experienced.’

How do we know that someone IS skilled in project management – is it Prince2® qualification? Anecdotal evidence from group members suggests that once you put the qualification on your LinkedIn profile the approaches from in-house recruiters and agencies increase markedly. (A key value of project skills.)

FRANCES STUBBS  (an HR Project Manager), who has the qualification, comments,

‘Many businesses see structured PM approaches as a core competence so why would HR professionals not be expected to have this? Despite many years of experience in managing HR Projects I’ve found myself being excluded by recruiters for HR assignments because I was not Prince2® or Six Sigma certified.’  

SHARON GREEN is an Organisation & Learning expert and Prince2® qualified.  For her?

  ‘It’s a tick in the box and I felt it helped.  Is it essential, I’m not sure?   Does it mean I am fab? No.  It’s a mark I got through a tough course … and it helps build relationships with IT, which is business critical for HR these days.

KARL WHITTLE, who runs big HRIS projects, agrees with Sharon.

‘Just because you have a certificate does it mean that you are competent in the subject? I think the honest answer to this question is NO!  I’ve recruited, mentored and “trained” so-called certificated project or programme managers who neither have the depth or breadth of experience, but as they have a certificate it moves them to the “top” of a list’.

However SHEILA DAWSON – with her background in workforce management and resourcing – says that no matter how desirable the skills are, the issue is availability.  She struggled to find people with the right mix of skills and wonders if we need to create teams rather than seek the perfect person.  

‘It’s unlikely we’ll get individuals who tick the box on all the skills we need. Do we need HR people with some PM skills or PM experts well-educated in HR?’

In summary, Prince2® is viewed as a key methodology.  But it’s not a guarantee of the real skills needed: proactivity, understanding the analytics, communicating effectively and delivering successfully to time and budget.  In this way, we align our profession with other internal services (eg: IT, Finance).

So, if Prince2® is not the answer, or at least, all of it, what should we be doing to get some of those ‘hard’ skills – in terms of capability and recognition?

Julia Briggs is Director of Interimity, THE source for the best HR & Comms independents – consultants, coaches and interims.   Rigorously screened.  Utterly professional.  Find out more at

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