Project managers are not like “people managers” in that they don’t usually have to worry about human resources related issues. The temporary nature of projects means that once a team member completes his/her work or once the project is concluded, that person is released back to the functional/resource manager.

So while PMs are worried about schedules, delivery parameters, customer satisfaction, and stakeholder management they often forget to consider the people management side.  The default mode is to let that resource manager worry about it, so long as it does not interfere with the project.  Whether the issue is continuing education and training, compensation, or employee satisfaction, these issues are rarely on the radar screens of project management practitioners.

This is not necessarily surprising given that PMs are assessed and rewarded against project measures rather than people measures.  Even when teams meet to discuss lessons learned during the closeout phase I have observed many instances where the people management skills of the PM are forgotten.

Part of the complexity of this situation is the fact that in many organizations PMs are assigned projects and indeed project teams with little input and no ability to administer consequences.  So if the PM has no ability to “hire” the team members or “fire” them then the prevalent attitude is “why should I care about their development and/or morale?”

Unfortunately PMs who ignore the people management side of the house do so at their own risk.  They reduce the chances of project success and will likely be in a category of PMs that do not attract team members to come work for them.  Even if employees have no say in the matter, they will join the team because they are directed not because they want to.  Their performance will suffer and the project will be at risk.

The name of the game is “what have you done for me lately?”  PMs who care about their team members and work with people/resource managers to resolve issues, address needs, and reward positive contribution are more likely to succeed. This is easier said than done as many PMs don’t feel empowered enough to act on HR related matters so they try to ignore them.

This is where the role of PMO type departments becomes critical in bridging the gap between the functional managers and project managers to ensure that people’s needs are not forgotten or ignored.