Build or buy: how project management impacts training + development

Project management is about managing scarcity. PMs are given a budget (probably not enough) and a talent pool (stretched to the gills) and told to make everything work. All that time spent juggling talent, schedules, and freelancers makes practitioners intimately aware of the talent shortages and surpluses in their organizations. Yet that information is too often siloed away in the project management office.

“There’s an opportunity to work with training and development folks as well as human resources to point out a gap and ask for help in filling that gap,” says Andreas Zapletal, veteran project manager and president of project management platform

Sharing the low-down on which skills the organization is over- and under-supplied with resource managers, training professionals, and human resources isn’t about creating more work for PM professionals. It’s about making life easier on the next project. An informed, proactive project management office can share insights about productivity and staffing levels that doesn’t step on toes, but provides unique perspective to functional leaders.

“Sometimes resource managers are too close to the situation to be able to see it clearly,” Zapletal says. “And talking about long-term development can help project managers see the resource managers’ perspectives as well.”

Here are a few conversation-starting tips to get project managers and talent development on the same page.


When less is more

Using project-driven perspective to spur more hiring and training is absolutely a positive. PMs can also demonstrate value by quelling irrational exuberance, helping their organizations make better decisions about how to rein in unnecessary development spending.

Dani C. Kimlinger, human resources and organizational psychology leader at MINES and Associates, recalls an episode spurred by a single client request for a certified mediator. This novel requirement created a flurry of interest in the discipline, and internal practitioners were lining up to get their own mediation certifications—at a training cost of $3,000 each.

Then a MINES project manager stepped in and restored order. “The PM pushed back, asking us ‘Did I miss something? Are other clients requesting this? Where’s the data?’” she says. “We saw that it could have been just a one-off request because our clients in that case were attorneys and themselves certified mediators.”


Align with human resources

Being heard as a strategic talent development voice by the rest of the organization may be a challenge, so look for other strategic partners to add their insights to yours. Human resources makes an excellent candidate for an alliance.

“HR is developing into a more strategic role, after previously being the folks who took orders and worked on compliance,” Kimlinger says. “Now they’re being charged to think through talent management and talent gaps, and working with employees to develop their areas of interest.”


Don’t just talk over money

Couples on the rocks often spend too much of their time together talking about money. If relations are chilly or virtually non-existent between project management and talent teams, it’s probably because you only talk when a spreadsheet is on the table.

“There’s really good communication between the departments during budgeting seasons once or twice a year, but it’s not as strong between those points,” Zapletal says.

Training rollouts, hiring seasons, professional reassignments, and offshoring discussions are all opportunities to take part in resource management discussions.

“There’s a level of trust required in order to have conversations about resource manager decisions, and that takes time to build,” he says. “But in an ideal state, you’re all meeting on a regular basis and successfully adapting your resource planning based on what each of you knows.”

Post by Jason Compton

Jason Compton is a writer with over 15 years of experience covering marketing, sales, and service. Based in Madison, WI, he is a regular contributor to Direct Marketing News, previously served as executive editor of CRM Magazine, and has been published in over 50 outlets.