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3 Ways to Resource Your Project for Strategic Success

We all know that people deliver projects, and having the right people on the team makes a huge difference as to whether the work is completed successfully or not.

And yet, putting the thought into selecting the right team is sometimes an afterthought.

You might be able to get away with that for smaller or straightforward projects, where ‘generic’ project managers and resources would be able to successfully deliver the work. But on large, strategic projects, you are more likely to get the results you want if you carefully align the people and skills with what is required.

Let’s say that your strategy involves opening new facilities, growing the amount of physical locations you have and expanding your operations. You’d want people leading that work who understand the market, the challenges of such a fast expansion programme and who can motivate and lead a team during a period that would see a lot of new hires.

The question to ask would be: do you have anyone internally already who fits the bill? And what skills would be required more broadly on that project? Would you need a dedicated website developer to update your digital presence with information on your new locations? An interior design team? You get the picture.

Knowing your strategy is only the first part. Making sure that you have the people in post to deliver the work – and to do it well – is crucial as well.

In this article we’ll look at 3 ways that you can resource your strategic projects when you don’t have the perfect candidates waiting around for you to give them more work. And the first way to do that is to make the best use of your internal, existing resources.

In-House Project Resources

You’ve got a pool of people ready to take on project work and to support your strategic initiatives. They already work for you!

However, the thing with internal resources is that they don’t always have the skills you need for the projects you have planned.

If your strategy involves a lot of digital work, for example, you need digital experts. Do you have any in-house? If not, your plan should be to train up the people who you do have. Not everyone is going to want to retrain as a digital developer, for example, but you may find that there is a cohort of enthusiastic (and available) project resources who are prepared to learn a new skill.

It’s worth remembering, though, that being available doesn’t equal being the right person for the job.

Make the most of these people, because they are the ones who show the aptitude and interest to develop their careers over time. They are prepared to learn something new and hopefully this will be a win for the company and for them as individuals too.

Carry out a skills analysis to establish what skills you need for the upcoming projects. Then you can match this to people with the right kind of background and experience to develop these skills. Then design a training programme for them. This should involve a mix of the ‘hard’ technical skills that they are lacking – a particular programming language, for example – and the softer, people and leadership skills that will help them excel in their future roles.

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Contract Project Staff

Project teamThe second option for staffing your strategic projects is to find contract resources that have the skills you need.

Contract resources are handy because you can often get people at short notice, they have a broad business background, having worked in a lot of places as a contractor and you can flex your workforce easily. Contractors can be highly specialised, which is excellent for when you need a particular skill in the short-term but don’t have any reason to have that skill in the business longer term. In that situation, it wouldn’t make sense to recruit anyone permanently, because they would end up with nothing to do once their skills had been used.

However, contract resources can be expensive. They are often on day rates, and this can add up over time. You also have to be really intentional with knowledge transfer. If you have hired a specialist contractor, and then expect your own staff to pick up some of what that person did, you need to plan a handover period and adequate training – and let the contractor know that is what is expected before they leave.

Recruit New Permanent Project Staff

Your third option is to recruit new permanent staff with the required skills. It can be a challenge to go out to market to find someone who is both a good fit for the organisation in cultural terms, and who has the skills you are looking for.

This means it’s even more important to plan your resourcing as far in advance as you possibly can. It could take you three to six months to get a candidate in post – sometimes longer if they have a long notice period at their existing employer. If this person, and their skills, is essential for a strategic project, you won’t be able to get that work underway until they are in their new role.

It’s also important that you know exactly what it is that you need in terms of skills. You’ll have to explain that to candidates and their future line managers. And you’ll need to agree a way of testing those skills during the recruitment process so you can be confident you’ve offered a job to someone who can make a real difference to the programme of work that you have on the go.

In reality, you’ll probably use a mix of these three methods to staff up your strategic projects. Training might feel like the hardest sell from these options. Managers often worry about the cost of implementing a training programme for existing staff, especially if you are looking at training up large numbers of people to get ready for your strategic delivery projects.

The alternative is to not do the training, but to use one of the other two options we looked at. These also come with cost, and it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of each option to look at the benefits alongside the price tag. For example, upskilling existing staff is often a more cost-effective option longer term as it helps build employee loyalty and boost morale, reducing turnover.

How far in advance do you plan the skills needed on your projects? Tweet us @2080StrategyEx. We’d love to hear about how you get the right resources in place for your strategic initiatives!

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About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth Harrin
Elizabeth Harrin is a career project and programme manager with over a decade of experience in healthcare and financial services. She's also a content strategist, award-winning blogger and author of several books about project management. Find her online at A Girl's Guide to Project Management

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