Top 3 Reasons Key Performers are Essential

Our team has been in staffing mode for the last 2 weeks (Or as our HR staff says “Talent Acquisition mode”). Every time I am involved in starting up a new large program I start thinking about the people we are staffing into key project roles. I am constantly reminded by advisors that not everyone can be a “star performer” when we are choosing the project’s team and I know that to be true from years of managing people and projects.

So I always focus my attention on ensuring we get the top talent and skills in the key roles and positions. I came across and interesting blog post that summarized my reasons for this focus really well – even though it was not talking specifically about staffing a project.

Dr. Karen McGraw, President of Silver Bear Group, wrote a post on the Top 3 Reasons Key Performers are Essential to an HPI Analysis for the Human Capital Blog which performance consultants read. I figure that if performance analysts have tips on focusing on key performers, then so should managers.

Karen lists 3 reasons why key performers are essential to doing a Human Performance Analysis and they line up perfectly with why we as managers should ensure we have key performers in critical positions:

  1. They produce the outcomes that drive business results. Needs no further explanation!
  2. They have best practices and tips they can share. The top performers are going to provide leadership and practices to the whole team.
  3. They know how to work around barriers and across boundaries. I just wrote about forming coalitions in the last post (PMs dealing with Politics) and pointed out the need for working around barriers and across teams.

So there you go – short and to the point.  Your key performers are what will define the success of your organization or project.  Pick them wisely.  Human performance professionals already know this. As managers, we should follow their lead!


Googled Knowledge vs Real Know how

Your new project has just been approved, and now you need to staff it.

Whether you go to HR to get resumes of potential team members, or post available team positions on LinkedIn or Career Builder, your problem is the same. Every resume you sift through seems to have all of the project ‘buzz words.’  Which resume reflects real project expertise, versus “Googled” expertise?

I am seeing a disconcerting pattern in today’s staffing. I look at someone’s resume for a position on a project and it looks like they have done everything and know everything—yet when I count up the years of experience it doesn’t add up.

How can that be?

Here’s how:  Job seekers are advised by various recruiting experts and websites to “fill your resume with the right buzz words to get you noticed” and advise that the buzz words you choose should “come directly from the job description.”

Although these experts caution job seekers to use the words only if you have the expertise, I can tell you that it is not always the case, at least on project management resumes I’ve seen. And it gets worse. “” has a list of universal keywords to “help you attract attention.” OK-In fairness to job seekers, I realize that their resume will be read first by an applicant tracking system (ATS) and if it doesn’t match target key words it will never be reach a human.  (Who decided that a computer scanning program was the best way to screen applicants???)

This makes it really tough for those of us who are trying to staff with real expertise and not over inflated resumes.  After all, anyone can Google key words to review wiki definitions, read examples, and quickly obtain surface level knowledge of a topic. While definitions, facts, and key factors may be Googled, a good project manager can conduct behavioral interviews that focus on how the interviewee solved a particular problem, reacted to a crisis situation, and applied PMBoK knowledge in real life. Furthermore, making simulated scenarios, and exercises such as “fix the project schedule” or “how would you crash this schedule?”, will quickly let you ferret out real knowledge from Googled knowledge.

I dont think that these HR and recruiting firms have it right – in fact I think they are poluting the water with bloated resumes because of the way they use automated systems rather than actual interviews.  I guess they are getting ready for hiring robots rather than humans!

What other techniques do you use to ensure that the staff you bring onto your projects can do the real work of project management?


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