Finding the right people with the right skills and knowledge for a project has been a persistent problem in every company. Knowledge Management was big back in the 90s but ultimately failed because of a mistaken belief that we needed what people know rather than needing the person who knew what we needed to know.
On the other hand, Resource Management, done correctly, supports a fully integrated skills capability that employees can maintain themselves. The workplace contract is changing. Employees want to choose where they will do their work (home, hybrid, or office.) Employees also want to have jobs that they feel better reflect their interests and values, as evidenced by the great resignation.
What can organizations do to become an attractive workplace? Recognize that employees are uniquely talented human beings and treat them as such. Here are four suggestions to get you started, which we’ll cover in more depth in this blog:
- Shift the company culture from command and control toward self-organization.
- Use neurocognitive research to understand what motivates people.
- Support employees in finding meaning in their work.
- Adopt Easy-to-use technology that helps get the right people to the right work at the right time.
Self-organization works better, but our mental models hold us back
Having spent my early career in finance, I’m intimately familiar with the hierarchical organizational structure most organizations use to support their operations. People and money go into buckets, and the thought of people dynamically moving from one bucket to another still makes me visualize a looming mountain of paperwork.
But software has changed the world; what was difficult to do in our early financial systems no longer needs to be done the same way. Today, resource management software can let a company assign anyone to any piece of work without making changes in the general ledger system.
The same holds true in our HR systems. Why on earth would we lock information about an employee’s skills (what few the system even collects) behind the HR firewall when anyone in the world can go to LinkedIn and look up where a person has worked, what skills they have, and even see their references? Never having worked in HR, I’m sure there were once very good reasons, but software and current business conditions have changed everything.
If we want enterprise-wide agility, we need easy and effortless MOVEMENT of the right people, anywhere and anytime. Software can make that happen.
How the human brain works at work
For the sake of simplicity, we use Dr. David Rock’s work as a basis to start an exploration of neurocognitive issues and impacts in the workplace. Dr. Rock developed the “Scarf” model, and we have further tailored it to represent behavior and thinking found in an environment heavily focused on projects/new initiatives: the BACCS Model.
Belongingness – People need other people. Teams and other workgroups that are stable can fill this need at work.
Autonomy – People want to be as self-directed as possible. They will abide by limits, but micromanagement is intolerable.
Competence – Competence is a positive survival trait (inborn). Competence also directly contributes to an individual’s sense of self.
Certainty – Certainty is a range. Some people are confident that Murphy’s law is real (yes, it will go wrong) and enjoy the battle.
Safety – Safety isn’t always about being protected. People also want the freedom to take appropriate risks, to present new ideas, and the freedom to fail fast.
Purpose and getting a man to the moon
Today, the business community acts as though Millennials are unique because they want to work for a purposeful organization. In reality, human beings have always wanted to work for something other than survival. That’s why Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has survival at the bottom and self-actualization at the top.
The key with purpose is that it doesn’t mean the same thing to all people. Every generation learns this lesson anew and creates its own example. We remember the “I’m building a cathedral” story from our childhood, and we replaced that with the story about President Johnson asking a janitor at the Kennedy space center what he did there, and the janitor responded, “I’m helping get a man to the Moon.”
Purpose doesn’t have to be grandiose. It just needs to be about something other than the stock price.
Easy-to-use technology rides to the rescue
Culture—what we’ve been exploring up to this point—and technology go hand-in-hand in the modern world. Culture takes intellectual and empathetic “muscle” to maintain, while technology takes organizational savvy to get right.
Why do we say organizational savvy? Because it’s more important for a system to be easy to use than for it to have every feature under the sun. Software should be designed to support people rather than control them.
Resource Management systems are wonderful if they replace excel, but that doesn’t go far enough. It’s not just about assigning someone to work, because that doesn’t make anyone happy. It’s about getting the right person to the right work at the right time. And once you’ve accomplished that, the next step is letting the right person get themselves to the right work at the right time to fully realize their potential.
So, how do you accomplish this lofty goal? You start with the obvious:
Step One: Pick an easy-to-use tool that supports every stage of the process, from prioritizing work by importance (the portfolio) to ensuring that you have enough of the right people to do the work (capacity). Next, you’ll need to assign work. That means you need basic skills to start and much more complex knowledge of individuals later.
Don’t rush this step — you need to do it right. Doing it right means always remembering at every step of the way that this system belongs to the people whose lives will be managed by it. It is a “power to,” not a “power over” system.
Step Two: Get people involved in planning their own development. This includes a commitment to providing access to training facilitated by someone other than your HR department (microcredentials, etc.)
Five years ago, this might have been difficult to do. Today, there is no excuse, including “we don’t have the money.” Why? Because it costs more to hire new people than it does to invest in the people you already have.
Step Three: Allow people to bid on what work they want to do next. Notice the word “bid.” That means they must be good enough to be chosen.
There needs to be some level of internal competition to keep people striving and developing. After all, even the most type-A personality will have at least a tiny lazy streak, and competition is the surest way to overcome it.
Step Four: I can almost guarantee that at some point, you’ve said to yourself, “I’m sure there’s someone in this company who knows the answer to this question or has a background in this area.” It is here that we reach the penultimate goal of self-organization or continuous agility: allowing people full access to the system.
By the time you reach Step Four, your organization will be an industry-leading firm, and you’ll have done it all without inventing a new form of management (holarchy) or consciously choosing to become a “Teal” firm. And everything outlined in this blog is based on a series of small steps, meaning you won’t have to turn your company inside out to accomplish them.
In the final analysis, evolution works better than revolution. In human systems, it just takes foresight and tenacity to achieve your goal.
The evolution of Resource Management into a people-centered discipline
Within the PM community, there are two competing views about what the focus of Resource Management should be. One side strongly believes that people are just another resource on a project, just like equipment and supplies. The other side believes that implying people are plug-compatible widgets who can be scheduled and treated in the same manner as equipment is a sin against humanity.
My own opinion acknowledges that the discipline of capacity planning is essentially the same for people as it is for equipment. Resource Management, on the other hand, is all about people. I believe that as we rethink our language, we should start to think of it as People Capability Management.
Focusing on resources and skills
In the meantime, even if our language is still in the process of evolving, I do think we’re seeing significant progress in our thinking. When we use the term “resource,” we’re starting to envision a real, live human being.
Additionally, the emerging role of the “Resource Manager” and the new features that exist in resource management software are both supporting the gradual move toward a more people-oriented perspective. I’m particularly excited about the skills and competency features that we are continuing to add to Tempus Resource.
In my experience, specific features within software can become the catalyst to completely change the way a subject is discussed within a company. If you asked management to support an effort to document everyone’s skills, but had no place to put the information or means to use the information to get more work done, it would never happen. With the right feature, on the other hand, a world of possibilities can emerge.
I recently came across a survey that said 75% of employees believe their organization consistently fails to recognize and take advantage of all the expertise they have to offer. And we wonder why we consistently see stats that tell us 63% of employees are disengaged? Each of us has only to look to our own set of skills to know that a job title doesn’t even begin to encompass all of who we are and what we can contribute as individuals.
The way forward
There is an old saying, “Never waste a good crisis,” and I think that applies here. As a community, we need to rethink how we assign and manage work in companies. There are many, many moving pieces in the equation, but I believe the outcome is well worth the effort. If the topic interests you, be sure to check out the linked references in this blog, read more on the topic online, and follow my posts here or on LinkedIn.
Want to learn more about how Tempus Resource offers enterprise skill management that is secure, powerful, and fully integrated? Don’t miss our Skills Management Deep Dive Feature Overview.
From centrally managing, defining, and governing your enterprise skill matrix inventory to improving engagement and data collection with end user management of their skills, Tempus Resource’s purpose-built platform is reshaping resource forecasting and capacity planning for the world’s leading companies.