Projects have become the norm with businesses ‘flying while they build the plane’. Many employees are focused on their business as usual commitments during the day and working on projects at night. This is a double-edged sword as employees are exposed to great work and opportunities for career development, but it also means they are working harder and longer. Many employees are prepared to do this however there is often not much (if any) downtime between projects to recharge.
By their nature, projects produce extreme ebbs and flows in work which some organisations do not have the resources to deliver. Contingent workforces can help alleviate the strain, and the ability to introduce key skills sets can have the added bonus of up-skilling the team, while ensuring projects are delivered on time.
Hours worked do not necessarily translate into increased productivity. Employers need to set clear expectations and goals measuring performance on whether these are achieved or not, not the hours or work that has gone in to trying to achieve them.
In a project-driven environment, success is often based on employees’ cognitive ability and behavioural traits. The ability to pick up information and analyse quickly, effective task management and prioritisation (particularly understanding what can wait), the ability to articulate actions required and desired outcomes are important. Employers must use techniques like personality and psychometric testing and benchmarking to assess candidates to ensure they have the right people on key projects.
People leaders are under pressure too – they are often hands-on and having to do the hard graft and lead at the same time. People managers are often working the hardest. Senior leaders are trying to lift levels of capacity and people managers are often getting caught in the middle.
These results also suggest that employers need to critically assess project-based work within the business – will the projects deliver material returns and outcomes like increased profits or competitive advantage? If not, park them and focus on those that do.