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How to Do Project Management Staffing Right

As the economy recovers, capital spend is returning to perform more projects, increasing the demand for qualified project resources.  Unfortunately, leadership for these new projects and programs cannot always come from within.  The organization may be unable to secure long-term funding for full-time employees and so have to seek out contract work, or the internal staff might simply not have the necessary skills or experience available for critical roles.

When seeking outside talent, a myriad of common challenges arise, including unrealistic timelines, unclear requirements, and process gaps between the organization and its staffing partner.  But far and away the biggest challenge when staffing project managers is an overemphasis on technical skills for a leadership position.

As the following graphic demonstrates, while project leaders are not in the Corporate Strategy layer of an organization, they are in their own layer above Technical Execution.

Staffing Pyramid copy

The vast majority of hiring departments and even staffing firms do not appreciate this crucial distinction and seek out the hard skills that make managers “qualified” rather than the soft skills that distinguish them from the field.  Skills like “political savvy” and “negotiation” simply do not easily show up on a resume or even an interview, like having experience building plans and monitoring actuals does.

Leadership vs Functional Skills

It takes a staffing firm that is uniquely qualified in working with and evaluating project managers in order to find leadership qualities.

Staffing Options

Just as all projects are unique, staffing needs for the projects will vary.

If your organization is seeking full-time employees, there are two options.  The standard is full-time placement for a fee, with the usual fee being 25% of 1st-year compensation.  The other option is called “Try to Buy,” or a declining fee, where there is a recurring fee that goes away after 6-9 months.

If your organization is only looking for a temporary staffing solution, there are two additional options.  The first is Staff Augmentation, where a contractor is brought in and paid by the hour.  The second is a Managed Service, where the staffing/consulting firm uses their own staff to complete the necessary duties.

You can access our full Staffing white paper here.