RPO Wars: Episode III – Return of the Project Manager

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A time right about now,

In a galaxy not far, far away …

The line between good and bad RPO implementations has been drawn

Between the reality of well-spoken account managers versus what is actually delivered

Perceptions of customer service and successful project launch does not always align

When the project moves from concept to reality, it is at this juncture the client needs to take control

With their own internal resource to manage expectations or rely solely on the supplier …

The distress call came over the speaker phone as launch approached: “the supplier is a man down and needs to postpone.”

Like the sound of running boots of a legion of X Wing fighters scrambling to prepare for an emergency attack, the project team assembles to respond to the news that the supplier had to move a promised resource to a different project and does not have another resource lined up to replace them.

If a company relies solely on the supplier to project manage the launch of new services, they are at the mercy of the resources supplied which can be disastrous if the supplier is not reliable. It reminds of the quote by Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker: “If you will not fight, you will meet your destiny.” To loosely correlate: “If you do not project manage yourself, you will meet your destiny.”

This is written from a corporate staffing leader’s perspective and as outlined in RPO Wars Episode I – C3RPO & RFP2D2 and Episode II – A New Decision, companies that dedicate a resource to act as project manager to take the project from selection through development to implementation, will be less vulnerable to supplier shortcomings and resource availability.

Let me clarify: most suppliers have the best intentions when engaging a new client and preparing to launch a project. However, suppliers manage projects from their perspective and what they think is best for the client. A client-provided project manager will manage from the client perspective and keep suppliers aligned with client requirements. Consider it “the force” or defensive shield to protect you in time of need.

For those organizations that have a project management office in place, it is a matter of coordinating with them for a resource. For those that do not have a dedicated project management resource available, it is a matter of identifying a current team member or partnering with a firm that provides project management resources.

I don’t like to compare project managers with Ewoks from “Return of the Jedi,” but for the purposes of this article, I will. As the Rebellion collaborated with the Ewoks (an arboreal population of teddy-bear type creatures that inhabit the planet) to defeat the Empire on the forest moon of Endor, the project team will partner with the project manager to execute the Development and Implementation phases of the project plan.

The project manager will have four specific duties: project plan development, plan management, communication, and advisory … Advisory being a unique skill that has the ability to visualize processes and anticipate client and vendor needs.

The Project Plan

In its basic form, the project plan should have four phases:

  • Discovery
  • Development
  • Implementation
  • Ongoing (measurements & improvements)

Through RPO Wars Episode I and II, we moved through the steps of the Discovery phase and we now move through the development and implementation phases. The project manager will lead the project team through the project plan. They will assure all tasks are completed in the Discovery phase and will establish new tasks, roles, and responsibilities, timelines, and milestones for these next phases. Recurring meetings will be scheduled and group emails distributed regularly throughout the project.

The Development Phase Plan

This phase is critical to the success of the project. During this phase, all of the essential pieces are created and aligned to execute the new program. Like planning for the Death Star trench run, let’s take a look at the playbook.

The Development Phase will have five elements:

  • Process
  • System
  • Tools
  • Training
  • Communications

Each of these elements will need to be defined and created with the help of the internal and supplier project teams.

Process — working with supplier and internal process owners, business requirements need to be outlined to improve upon current state operations and workflows developed to map these future state requirements. A point of caution: when improving operations, a common mistake is to try to fit the old process into the future state; I recommend you “blow up” the old while assuring all users of the process are considered when developing the new workflows. If a system is available, attempt to automate as much of the process as possible and fully leverage the system.

For those with existing hiring management systems and established workflows, it is possible for suppliers to have their recruiters work inside your system versus you working inside the supplier system. The system decision should be finalized before outlining the workflows.

System — before a system is configured or user training developed, assure the system meets the business process requirements. If you opt to use the supplier system, oftentimes they are not configurable or they are reluctant to make system configuration changes due to system limitations. In this scenario, work closely with the supplier to find the right work around which might require a blend of old and new or paper and automation. But be sure you negotiate for what works best for you.

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Tools — the enemy of chaos is organization. And continuity begets quality user experiences. If users are defined as recruiters, HR reps, hiring managers, and candidates, then a uniformed process with tools establishes standard operations and reliable experiences. This creates positive feedback from all user groups. That said, develop tools and instructions for each user as simplified as possible. For example, for recruiters develop a step-by-step process outline and tools per step such as hiring manager intake outline, company marketing scripts to entice candidates, phone screen scripts, resume submission to hiring manager script, and interview schedule script. This will help mitigate variance in operations and user experiences.

Training — develop user training that is applicable to each user group and delivered as your culture prefers. For example, if your company culture prefers classroom sessions over webinars to roll out new programs and process, use this same training delivery method. However, it is always a good idea to develop and administer just-in-time web enabled curriculum to reference when users call for assistance.

Communication — similar to training, develop user specific communications to bring awareness to the project and the changes that will occur in the recruiting and hiring process. Take advantage of what works best in your company culture to bring awareness. Depending on the size of your organization and the scope of change, communications can be defined as email notifications, breakroom posters, table top tents, or paper memos, to name a few. For most of my clients, emails work best. Also, depending on the size of organization and scope of change, develop a schedule to outline when notifications will be sent and to which user groups. Send multiple communications to notify others about and support the new program. For example, different types of communications can be as follows:

  • Prelaunch introduction to HR and hiring managers to educate them on the new program and partnership with the supplier.
  • Prelaunch details to HR to more clearly define training schedule and specific launch dates for business units.
  • Launch to HR and hiring managers to announce the kickoff of the new program and what to expect next.
  • Post launch to HR and hiring managers to reinforce the change and promote executive support of the project. Invitation to escalate any issues or successes to HR or project owner.

The Implementation Phase

This is when it all comes together. All the tasks of the project plan should tick off on schedule like a squadron of X-Wing fighters taking off in formation to attack a legion of TIE Fighters. “Gold Leader, this is Red Leader, we are starting launch now!” The project manager now steps forward to lead the charge to assure roles, responsibilities, and tasks are in motion and on time. Picture Han Solo blasting a path and yelling “you’re all clear kid, so let’s launch this thing and go home!”

  • Communications — check
  • Training — check
  • Recruiter kickoff meetings with managers – check

The project manager role is largely done upon launch and post-launch reviews. It is after time and proof of strategy that the project manager might be called again to help adjust or improve RPO initiatives.

It is during this time as the project owner that you will find yourself winning and losing recruiting battles within the business. You will find your Lando Calrissians who pretend to adopt but don’t, and your Palpatine’s who intentionally undermine progress for their own gain. And you will find alliances, your Han Solos, and Ewoks, to help you to victory. Be wise as Yoda to “your allies seek and know.”

With a nod to the original Star Wars trilogy, this brings an end to RPO Wars. Similar to the ongoing story of the Star Wars franchise, RPO Wars will continue all around us and new stories are being written by others like you … and they will be told so that we can all learn. With that, may the force be with you!

About the Author

Brenan German - Bright Talent Resources copy

Brenan German (linkedin.com/in/brenangerman) is founder and president at Bright Talent Resources, Inc.,a boutique human resources advisory, project management, and recruiting services firm.

As lead consultant, he acts as an advisor to organizations wanting to re-engineer or develop a high performing, measurable, technology enabled, human resources function. He has over 20 years of hands-on human resources leadership experience developing intelligent and successful talent management functions within some of the country’s most respected and well-known companies such as The Gallup Organization, Edwards Lifesciences, and Black & Decker. His particular expertise involves the alignment of talent management strategies to business goals, and the implementation of systems and processes to reach measurable objectives, demonstrating clearly the bottom-line impact expected of strategic human resources programs.

A graduate of the University of California, Irvine, he is an active participant in a number of organizations: chair of the Orange County Employment Managers Association, founding board member of the Talent Acquisition Group of San Diego, member of the Society for Human Resources Management, and Advisor to Sigma Pi International Educational Foundation.