Finding the right resources, whether human ones or equipment or tools, can be a challenging task all its own, but an essential one; especially the human type. However, there are ways to prepare for this task. If you have been working at your company for a few years, then you should have first-hand knowledge of the staff’s abilities, capabilities, and personalities. However, if you are new to your company and/or to the staff, then your ability to select the right personnel is not as easy; or if you are about to hire new team members. So how can we overcome this challenge? We all use CVs, check references, ask the usual questions regarding experience, challenges they have encountered, and the typical “where do you see yourself in 5 years.” Additionally, more and more companies are placing more importance on the results of attitudinal surveys rather than on experience, which is a good measure of how people work.
The reasons for using attitudinal surveys are varied, but in general, they demonstrate a candidate’s ability to be flexible, adaptable and open to change. These qualities in staff members are crucial to most companies in the current work environment since organizations are constantly having to work in international settings, diversify their services to meet clients’ needs, and take on structural changes quickly to stay competitive. Therefore, having people that easily adapt to change and are not intimidated by taking on new challenges, are great resources for any fast-growing organization.
Mind you, it is not feasible nor necessary to have the same type of staff person in any organization. However, in project management at least the project manager and team leader should possess a work attitude that is malleable, not afraid of change, and will approach any situation head-on. This is particularly necessary, since the remaining project team may be more rigid and focused in their thinking, which is also a critical attitude to have for the right tasks. For example, as a project manager on a large construction project, I had to be able to react and address challenges on an hourly basis, but, as a project manager, you keep these issues away from your team so that they can continue with their work. On the same project, I had an exceptional mechanical-electrical team that was focused and rigid. Shifting a schedule or making design changes made them nervous and apprehensive. It was a challenge working with them since the client kept asking for changes on a continual basis and they would almost fall apart when they were asked to make revisions to their plans. However, they were the most professional sub-consultant I have ever worked with. They rarely, if ever, had any errors in their plans or calculations. That, of course, is an asset to itself that does not occur often.
So now that we know what we need, how do we get it? Well, the attitudinal surveys are a huge help, but they do not cover everything. The one-on-one interview is still critical. And, instead of asking about the projects they have worked on, you should ask them what their most challenging project was? How they addressed the challenges? What did they learn from that experience? And how their personalities or how they view work helped them get through it? The latter will be the most telling response, since it will demonstrate how they view themselves, as well as what parts of their personality helped them, such as their desire to try new things, their penchant for time management or planning, and so on.
Also, one other thing to consider is their capabilities and/or lack thereof. If you feel you have found a team with the appropriate personalities for your project, but you think they lack certain skills, training or other acquirable traits, then you should already consider if training in project management, or leadership, or negotiation or presentation skills, are something the candidate can learn and will benefit from, as well as if your firm is willing to pay for this training and allocate the time for it. In general, these skills can be taught, but a flexible and open personality is not something that can be developed as easily. Psychologically, these traits start to develop from birth through their environment, as well as other experiences. Also, the candidates might not be open or even able to be flexible. Therefore, as most companies have found, finding the right personality is more critical than skills and experience. The two latter ones can be achieved, whereas personality is sometimes set in stone when we reach adulthood.
Lastly, believe it or not, a candidate who is affable and friendly is also a big plus. A project team might have the best collective work experience, have the right college degrees, as well as years and years of top-notch experience, but if any one of them are unable to deal with people, be at least somewhat empathetic to others, or be able to treat others with due respect and courtesy, then the team will not be cohesive and this will severely impact the progress and outcome of the project.
When pulling together your project team, start with a list of your needs, both technical and managerial requirements, then check their CVs and references, move on to the interview part, and, when you find the right people, determine if they will require skills that they can learn through training, such as:
- Project Management
- Presentation skills
- Time management
- Communication skills
- Stakeholder engagement