The people within your project management office (PMO) are your biggest expense. They can also pose the most significant risk to the projects under your purview. Understanding project resource risk and managing the people risk in your PMO projects is vital to keep on time and budget.

Managing people is a major challenge in projects – life is the most unpredictable of things. That’s no reason to resign yourself to the vagaries of your staffs’ lives; your projects can still work to minimise people risk and keep a lid on costs and timelines.

To aid your resource and people risk assessments, we’re going to explore:

  • Common examples of people and resource risks in project management
  • Ways that your PMO and projects can minimise people risks
  • Some positive risks associated with people

What is project resource risk?

Your biggest asset and liability when managing projects are the people working on them. As well being able to push a project forward and deliver results, people can cause all kinds of problems or difficulties, usually through no fault of their own.

There are four common risks associated with the people on your project:

  • Temporary loss of people – Usually due to sickness or a family issue, it’s very common for people working in your projects to need unexpected time off. There could be a sickness bug that goes around your team, someone who experiences mental health problems, or a family bereavement – all can’t be directly planned for.
  • Permanent loss of people – Less common but with a bigger potential impact is when a team member leaves a project permanently. This could be due to promotion, resignation, or long-term sickness. The permanent loss of skills will be just as costly in the short term, but there are long-term costs to replace a permanent loss.
  • Not enough people – There are lots of reasons why your project may be understaffed. Delayed projects elsewhere can tie up the staff needed to get a project rolling or there could be a hiring freeze outside of your PMO control. Not having a full complement of staff when a project starts causes the whole timeline to be thrown off.
  • Queuing of people – Skills can be highly sought-after within your projects, such as software developers or testers. As such, these people can be shared around projects rather than dedicated to one workflow at a time. This requires strong planning and nurturing of shared resources; you don’t want to burn out your star developer or negotiator.

Once you’re able to understand the risks, your PMO can work with project managers and the business HR department to keep on top of the causes of these risks.

How can I minimise resource risk in project management?

Knowing what causes the risks to your human resources allows you to plan effectively and mitigate, or at least minimise the risks that come with them.

Health and wellness

As much as running a PMO can feel like it’s all about the KPIs and a dashboard covered in green results, you need to take care of your people, too. Invest in people by giving mental health days, access to wellness resources like gym discounts and online class memberships.

Positive scheduling

We’re not all designed to work 9-5, and if your projects don’t require fixed schedules, then offering flexible working is a positive. By working around the hours your teams need, you increase their engagement and make it less likely they will look for other jobs. Having a good absence policy that doesn’t penalise people will also reduce unexpected absence.

Focus on outputs

It’s rarely necessary to have your project teams tied to their computers and phones for seven hours a day. Have your KPIs focus on output rather than hours to encourage productivity and reduce staff turnover.

Plan with contingency

Look at past projects, and patterns build in people contingency in your planning. You’ll have data about average hours lost in projects so you can plan to have space to accommodate them. Strong planning can also ensure you have the right people ready to start new projects.

Training and skills development

Keeping the people under your PMO skilled and well-trained will pay off in both productivity and loyalty. By training your project staff, you’ll get strong project outcomes.

What are the positive risks associated with people and resources?

It’s wholly possible that your team can exceed your expectations. They can upskill themselves, there can be no sickness during a project, or the business can offer a good bonus or pay rise that has good effects of retention.

Celebrate projects that finish early and reward people when it’s their efforts that bring it about.

The take-home

Project resource risk and managing the people risk in your PMO is essential to keep your projects on track. Having strong planning and a focus on people alongside your numbers should keep your risks to a minimum.