Winning with Talent Management: Three Real-Life Examples

The wrong person in the wrong role costs real money.  Studies suggest bad hires cost 250% of the role’s salary. In other words, a bad $100K hire will cost you $250K! And when it comes to  the cost of a bad project manager, look at it this way: , what was the size of your last failed project: $1 million, $10 million, $100 million?

You win the talent game with the best talent. But how do you identify “best”? PM College has a tried-and-tested Competency Assessment Program that helps you find and develop the best project managers. Three of our leading clients are using it to get a competitive edge:

“We want to offer learning and development that our talent really needs.” Talent development and training are two critical drivers of job satisfaction, loyalty, and engagement.  These are the sweet spots for our assessments: to develop and sustain superior project management performance.

PMO leaders at a long-time client need to target their training, thereby eliminating unnecessary training programs. The PM College assessment program will do this, ensuring more return from their learning investments. They also want the assessment to  not only discover project managers with the most potential, but also to inform job assignment and development opportunities.

“We need to make sure that new hires can deliver our projects.” Bad hiring decisions drive eighty percent of employee turnover. Another PM College client requires absolute on-time delivery for every project: a hour late is a crisis; a day late can be a national disaster.  Their project managers need to be the best of the best … from Day One. Catching a single bad hire before the offer letter will provide a huge and immediate payoff.

We are working with this client to develop a profile of the ideal candidate, based upon assessments of their current staff. PM College will also use this profile to develop a set of interview guidelines to evaluate candidates on the most critical personality and knowledge topics, in order to target development plans for current project managers.

“We work in an emerging, fast-growing industry.” Organizational agility defines today’s most admired and innovative project-driven organizations. We are working with a global client to extend our standard assessment to cover two additional competency areas: industry and organizational knowledge. Just as PM College can deliver custom learning, we can also create custom assessment packages at a great value. This client will use the results to verify that its current – and future – project managers can keep up with its explosive growth and unique culture.

Are you ready to find, develop, and hire better project talent? Contact PM College now

Better Leadership + Business Skills = Better Projects

What drives project success? Research has consistently shown that it’s having an effective project manager. Results from PM College’s latest research, “Project Manager Skills Benchmark 2015,” confirms this, showing that organizations with highly skilled project managers get significantly better project results.

This result is hardly a surprise, but the magnitude of the outperformance is. Project managers at high skill levels outperform those with project managers at low skill levels – almost 50% better. In addition, high-performing organizations appear to emphasize skills beyond project management tools and techniques. High performers’ project managers excelled at leadership skills, especially displaying integrity and honesty, building relationships, and building trust and respect.

LeadersAndPMsDiffer

There is a lot more insight in the report but let me highlight one key finding.  As one might expect, project managers in all organizations need to improve across all areas of the talent triangle: leadership, business, and project management skills. Their skills are good to excellent in 15% of organizations and inadequate to fair in 30%.

However, senior leaders are far more likely than project managers to see benefits realization, project alignment with strategy, and poor communication as challenges. This perception gap extends to skill improvement priorities (see graph). Note that the biggest gaps are in leadership, business, and strategy skills: project managers

The study is available for download now. Stay tuned for an invite to our upcoming webinar to review and discuss these results. Hold the date and time: 18 June (2 PM Eastern).

Find Your Best Project Leaders

My last post noted that filling gaps, improving skill mastery, and driving behavior change are the improvements that organizations need. But how can you design these objectives into your talent improvement program? If you have had a program in place, how do you know you have the right mix? And how do you  measure its impact on the organization?

Who are the truly competent initiative leaders in your organization? And how do you know?

Any competency improvement plan starts with identifying what the “truly competent” project or program manager looks like for the particular organization. We intuitively know that more competence pays for itself. And there is strong evidence for that intuition: it’s in our Building Project Manager Competency white paper (request here). But lasting improvement will only come from a structured and sustained competency improvement program. That structure has to begin with an assessment of the existing competency. Furthermore, the program must include clear measures of business value, so that every improvement in competence can be linked to improvements in key business measures.

My experience with such programs is that PMO and talent management groups approach the process in a way that muddles cause and effect. For example, a training program is often paired with PMO set-up. Fair enough. However, if the training design is put into place without a baseline of the current competence of your initiative leaders, then that design may perpetuate key skill or behavior gaps among your staff.  You may hit the target, but a scattershot strategy leans heavily on luck.

In addition, this approach will leave you guessing about which part of your training had business impact. You may see better business outcomes, but not have any better idea about which improved skills and behaviors drove them. Even worse, if your “hope-based” design and delivery is followed by little improvement, then your own initiative may well be doomed.

So how should you fix your program, or get it right from the start? We at PM College lay out a structured, five-step process for working through your competency improvement program.

  1. Define Roles and Competencies
  2. Assess Competencies
  3. Establish a Professional Development Program with Career Paths
  4. Execute Training Program
  5. Measure Competency and Project Delivery Outcomes Before and After Training

These steps were very useful for structuring my thinking, but they’re more of a checklist than a plan. For example, my PMOs almost always had something to work with in Steps 1 and 3. Even if I didn’t directly own roles and career paths, I had credibility and influence with my colleagues in human resources.  However, the condition of the training program was more of a mixed bag. Sometimes I would have something in place, sometimes I was starting “greenfield.”

The current state of the training program informs how I look at these steps.

  • Training program in place: My approach is to jump straight to Step 5, and drive for a competency and outcome assessment based on what went before.  I assume steps 1-4 as completed – even if not explicitly – and position the assessment as something that validates the effectiveness of what came before. In other words, this strategy is a forcing function that stresses the whole competence program, without starting anew.
  • No training program in place: I use the formal assessment to drive change. As PMO head I have been able to use its results to explicitly drive the training program’s design. More significantly, these results are proof points driving better role and career path designs, even if HR formally owns those choices.

PM College has a unique and holistic competency assessment methodology that looks at and assesses the knowledge, behaviors, and job performance across the project management roles in your organization. As always, if your organization would like discuss our approach, and how it drives improved project and business outcomes, please contact me or use the contact form below. We’d love to hear from you.

FYI: For more reading on competency-based management, check out Optimizing Human Capital with A Strategic Project Office.

Help others answer “their” questions

Placing yourself in another’s shoes is one of the most effective ways to confront reality.  I particularly like  Gary Cohen‘s take on how you can use the right questions to not only express empathy, but to also increase accountability (from my Q&A with Gary, author of JUST ASK LEADERSHIP: Why Great Managers Always Ask the Right Questions.

  • Crossderry:  I like the distinction you’ve made between questions that answer “your” questions — i.e., questions where you own the decision — and asking questions that help others answer “their” questions.  Can you talk more about such questions and how they can be used to reinforce accountability?
  • Gary Cohen: One of the most important questions leaders can ask is, “Whose decision is it?” When leaders allow job descriptions to determine decision-makers, not rank, decisions are usually made by the most informed party, and everyone must take ownership of their work. Blame and credit are easy to assess, in these instances. If, on the other hand, leaders make others’ decisions, they take away accountability from coworkers. Blame and credit are harder to assess, and it takes longer for new leaders to emerge because there’s less incentive to take ownership of their work.

Whose “truth” are you after?

Continuing my Q&A with Gary Cohen, author of JUST ASK LEADERSHIP: Why Great Managers Always Ask the Right Questions

  • Crossderry: Coming from the other direction, how can senior leadership make it safe to ask and answer questions openly and honestly? Put another way, what distinguishes an organization that cultivates “approval-seeking” from an organization that rewards “truth-seeking”?
  • Gary Cohen: While leaders should seek to cultivate a “truth-seeking” culture over one that’s “approval-seeking,” they must be mindful of whose truth they’re after. Too often leaders express disapproval when their coworkers don’t arrive at the answers they hoped to get. This disapproval prompts coworkers to fish for the truth/answer their leaders prefer. In this way, “truth-seeking” becomes “approval-seeking” in disguise. Continue reading

Using questions “within” your personality

What in the wide world of sports is goin' on here?

The second topic in my Q&A with Gary Cohen, author of JUST ASK LEADERSHIP: Why Great Managers Always Ask the Right Questions, focused on personal transformation.  His answer was not quite what I expected, for he rejected my assumption that transformation would needed as  “a matter of course.”

  • Crossderry:  Of course, so many of us will be moving through different firms and roles that change will be a constant in our careers.  Any suggestions for making personal transformation a “core competence” that we leverage as a matter of course?
  • Gary Cohen: Well-designed questions will enable you to learn as much as you can about each firm, role, and set of coworkers, as quickly as possible. Questions signal a desire to learn from and work with others, not compete and contest. If you’re an exceptional question-asker, wholesale personal transformation may not be necessary to successfully navigate each and every career change.

“Just Ask” Leadership

Just Ask Leadership Fail

I finally have a few minutes — semi-snowbound here in Evansville — to catch up on old posting themes.  Earlier this year I had a chance to do a Q&A with Gary Cohen, author of JUST ASK LEADERSHIP: Why Great Managers Always Ask the Right Questions.  Gary is a serial and successful entrepreneur — ACI Telecentrics was his major liquidity event I believe — and he’s currently partner and cofounder of CO2Partners, LLC, operating as an executive coach and consultant.  

The book is based on a fundamental insight: As leaders advance, they tend to ask fewer questions and provide more answers. Which is exactly backwards according to Cohen: “Leadership is about allowing others the chance to flourish and you do that by asking questions.”

Luckily, I had the chance to ask Gary a few questions myself.  I’ve been struck by the fact that many Crossderry readers are relatively new managers in technology-driven industries. They’re coming from roles where they were rewarded for knowing answers, not asking questions.   So I asked Gary: “What do new leaders need to unlearn before they try to use question-based leadership?”

Toddlers and young children are bursting with questions: Where does the water from the faucet come from? Where does it go? Why? Questions are the entry point of most significant learning–because they generally indicate an investment in the answer. But parents and teachers can’t or don’t entertain every question from every child and every student. Continue reading

Mentorship Start-up “Crash Course”

I very much liked this BNET article by Jennifer Alsever on starting a mentorship drive (here).  The article is rich with sources and tips, so check it out.  The four basic steps are listed below:

Decide Why You Want a Mentor Program — Set your program up to succeed by defining goals and involving top execs.
Pair Up Proteges and Mentors — Create profiles and match people according to your goals.
Set the Rules for Engagement — Make sure people meet regularly — and know what to talk about when they do.
Keep Tabs on the Program — Make sure mentoring is providing the results you want.

Not that I’m looking to integrate mentorship into my group’s social media strategy, I appreciated the explicit decision and goal-setting advice.  I’ve seen many explicit promotions of mentorship in people development efforts, but I’ve never had any real idea of what that mentorship was supposed to accomplish.  Now that I have a chance to drive this topic, perhaps I can learn from those mistakes!

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