Friday 3 January 2014

Valuing Staff and Developing Careers

When I started my new role as Director of Project Management at OpenBet the role of PMs here took me by surprise. OpenBet as an organisation had little understanding of project management – thankfully, because that’s why they needed me!

The work carried out by PMs differed wildly across the organisation, with some doing a fairly recognisable job whilst others were little more than admin assistants. There was also no standard project management methodology in place. Small wonder, then, that morale was low and attrition rates high.

Setting the wheels in motion to establish a company-wide methodology was the logical and easy first step – basing it largely on PRINCE 2 and ensuring that all PMs gained PRINCE 2 certification.

What I considered to be far more important was to create a meaningful career path for project managers, sending out a clear message that their contributions are valued at OpenBet.

Given my history with the Association for Project Management (APM), the APM’s Competence Framework was the logical starting point.

APM’s Registered Project Professional (RPP) process elevates 27 key competencies as the ones to be most closely evaluated when assessing a candidate for RPP status. At OpenBet we identified a subset of those, being the 20 most relevant competencies for PMs’ day-jobs in the company.

We then encouraged PMs – and by that I mean anyone on the PM career path from Project Administrator to Programme Director – to complete a self-assessment measuring his or her experience against those 20 competencies. This enabled them, in agreement with their line managers, to create SMART objectives targeted to boost their overall competence whilst at the same time contributing to OpenBet’s goals.

Hand in hand with that we introduced the notion of a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Log and encouraged PMs to maintain one, logging a minimum of 35 hours per annum – the APM’s minimum requirement.

All line managers were mandated to hold one-to-one mentoring sessions at a minimum of once a fortnight, and they were given personal objectives that ensured they also completed all mid-year and end-of-year appraisals on time and to a high standard.

Finally, we introduced “Lunch & Learn” sessions – a monthly gathering of the whole PM community with a guest speaker, internal or external, to speak on a topic of interest at a one-hour session where a finger buffet is provided. For example, we have had presentations on the APM and on agile project management amongst other topics. We video these sessions to ensure that anyone who cannot attend, e.g. we have PMs in Australia and Canada, can catch up via the company wiki.

The response from the PM community has been quite dramatic. At the first few meetings PMs were introducing themselves to each other, such was the level of “partitioning” between the divisions. They decided independently that completing a self-assessment, although private to them and their line manager, should be compulsory for all PMs, and those PMs lacking qualifications such as PRINCE 2 and MoR (Management of Risk) began asking for training.

Their status has been raised within the company and many are telling me that at last they feel “valued” and believe there is a recognisable career path for project managers in OpenBet.

All of this has raised the standard we require from our project managers and we are attracting and keeping excellent people. Ironically, with a self-assessment matrix and a CPD Log we have armed our project managers with a great “Sales brochure” should they want to move on, and at the same time our attrition rate in the PM community has shrunk to zero. That confirms to me my belief that if a company demonstrably values its people it will reap the benefits.

Steve Syder is Director of Professional Services at Openbet, the world's leading provider of interactive gaming and betting solutions. He is a Fellow of the APM, an RPP Assessor and a contributor to the 6th Edition of the APM’s BoK.