7 Questions to ask your HR Project Manager

So you are engaging an HR consultant to complete a project for you, here are some key questions to ask before you sign on the dotted line…
1 – “How will you get up to speed on the business context?” 
The more they understand about the wider business context, the more chance they have of recognising and managing any impacts or implications, so it’s worth ensuring that you don’t skimp on this background time.  Knowing what can be done on both sides to ensure this is effective and efficient though will benefit everyone, as well as having an understanding of how much time you need to build in for this is important.
2 – “What do you think will be the main impacts on my employees?” 
Recognising and managing impacts as early as possible is key to a successful project.  They may have thought of something you haven’t and be able to help to position things well right from the start.  There may be another impact that they’ve missed and you can cover all elements off together.
3 – “What information do I need to give you upfront?” 
When you bring in an external project manager or any other consultant there will always be a period of getting up to speed and exchanging key information.  For HR projects this can sometimes be a challenge where data access is restricted, information may be anonymised or data is just poorly managed (we’ve all been there). How much of your time will it take to prepare, gather and present information or answer any questions on the data?  Has time been factored in for resolving any issues with the data?
4 – “What happens if you win the lottery next week?” 
A less sombre version of the “if you get hit by a bus” question.  As with all consultants you’ll (rightly) need reassurance that you won’t be left hanging if they are unexpectedly unavailable. If they are independant, do they have arrangements other consultants who could pick up where they left off if they were unable to deliver for any reason?  If you are using a large consultancy, how likely is it that your main contact will be re-focused elsewhere and what plans do they have to avoid delays in such a situation?
5 – “How often will I see you?”
While there are significant benefits to someone taking something and running with it, the dangers of going down the wrong lines obviously grow the longer that you go between meetings.  With HR projects regular site visits to really understand the current ‘mood’ within the organisation are particularly valuable.
6 – “Which employees or managers do you need to speak with and when?” 
The stage at which it is appropriate to speak with employees and / or managers will vary depending on the nature of the project itself.  It may be that the project will be well underway before it is the right time to have direct conversations, but if it’s a project that needs an HR specialist, then it is highly likely that employee and manager input will be needed at some stage.  An HR project has a much higher chance of success if the context is understood from a number of different perspectives.
7 – “How do you plan to measure success?”
There can be a temptation and tendency for HR projects to be considered unmeasurable as they often touch on less tangible aspects of business.  Where measures are taken they can sometimes be blunt and don’t touch on the real issues.  For example, if the project is a headcount reduction and you employ X less people at the end of it, then strictly speaking it has hit its goal. But we all know that other impacts around treatment, reputation and risk will be just as important, so ways to measure these aspects should always be considered.  A logical approach is to consider what it is that would really make the project a success for you, and then find ways to measure that.  It could be based on employee engagement, productivity, customer feedback, budgets or manager assessments.  The important thing is that there is a focus on understanding what really makes the project a success, and finding ways to measure against those criteria.
Drop us a note if you think there are other important questions that we’ve missed.