Tuesday 15 March 2022

Competence management and rotation of human resources of a project-oriented enterprise


This report is addressed to the problem of equalization and rotation of human resources involved in multi-project management of project-oriented organizations.

The practice of multi-project management in project-oriented companies shows that coherent theories of increasing its efficiency by equalizing resources between projects fail when it comes to highly qualified human resources. They are not as easy to transfer from project to project as equipment, raw materials, materials or even low-skilled personnel (for example, employees of working specialties).

And the higher the qualifications and the wider the set of professional skills and knowledge of the employee, the higher the risk of removing such a specialist from the project, and the more difficult it is to quickly integrate his knowledge and skills into another project.

This problem is most acutely faced by companies offering various business services (first of all, comprehensive consulting, for example, companies - system integrators, auditors, organizational consultants), as well as highly specialized project-oriented companies - design bureaus, large advertising and PR agencies, large recruiters, etc.

This report analyzes the specifics of human resources, which makes their rotation in order to equalize in a multi-project an extremely complex matter with a poorly predictable result, and also proposes an approach and a set of organizational development tools that allow solving this problem. To illustrate the theses, examples will be given, primarily relating to industries and services for which projects are the main form of profit. At the same time, the main conclusions of the report will be valid for internal projects of process-oriented companies.

For a better understanding of the problem under consideration and the proposed solutions, we present the main terms used and their definitions proposed by the authors of the report.

Terms and definitions

A key specialist is an employee with deep knowledge and experience in a certain professional area used in a significant proportion (or most) of the company's projects. Without such a specialist, the project cannot be successful. Examples: Server Configuration and Configuration Specialist, Lead Engineer, Selection Consultant, Client Project Manager (e.g., Ad Creation Projects).

Competence is a set of knowledge, skills and personal qualities that allow you to solve a certain task (or a set of tasks). Competencies are described as a set of requirements for an employee's knowledge, skills, and qualities for a function, job title, or role in a project. If the professional skills, knowledge and personal qualities of a specialist coincide with the requirements for competence for a particular position or task, then the corresponding work, under other favorable circumstances, can be performed by such a specialist qualitatively and effectively.

Qualification (synonym - competence) - the degree of development of a specialist of certain competencies (primarily in terms of knowledge and skills). The higher the qualification, i.e. the more competent the employee, the faster and more efficiently he performs work within his competence.


High requirements for the set of competencies of key specialists

One of the features of many project-oriented companies is the increased requirements for the set of competencies of key employees. This is due, first of all, to the complexity of products (and / or services) that are created through the implementation of projects.

So a specialist who is well versed, for example, in setting up any computer applications or systems for the company's customers, is valued twice as much if he has developed business communication skills, is able to train users, work in a team and has the so-called customer focus, i.e. respect for the client and the desire to take into account his needs. All the skills and qualities given as an example are separate competencies, the presence of which, although not necessary for a specialist in setting up servers, is highly desirable.

Although this is extremely rarely achievable in practice, any company seeks to minimize its costs by hiring and retaining the minimum possible number of the most versatile specialists (meaning complex skilled labor). In design organizations, the success of this approach (especially in terms of competencies related to working with the client) is sometimes crucial.

Demand for qualifications exceeding supply

The higher the complexity and "intelligence intensity" of the product or service created by the company, the more the company depends on the qualifications of its key specialists and the effectiveness of the application of their core competencies. As an indicator of such dependence, it is possible (with some amendments) to use the indicator of the share of costs of their labor in the cost of a product or service. So, for consulting companies, this share tends to 100% (not counting overhead costs).

At the same time, there are companies that may be even more dependent than consulting companies on their key specialists, while the share of value per unit of production (at least in Russia) is relatively small. An example is aircraft manufacturers and design bureaus.

Accordingly, the higher the dependence, the higher the demand from companies are for specialists who possess complex competencies (for example, as described in the example above) at a high professional level, the higher the amount of compensation offered to them. While the supply situation can be represented on a graph with an inverse exponential relationship (see Figure 1).

Competence management and rotation of human resources of a project-oriented enterprise

The labor market in relation to professionals of each specific narrow specialization, at the same time, the worse it copes with its duties, the more specific the business and projects of employer companies. And this, in turn, is directly related to the degree of complexity of products and services. For example, consulting projects in the field of organizational development are a very complex product. With a stable and growing demand for such services, the growth of companies providing them is often limited precisely by the inability to recruit and retain a sufficient number of key specialists with complex and, often, unique competencies.

Thus, companies whose added value of products and services is based on highly skilled labor are constantly struggling to attract and retain

highly qualified specialists in key positions (and not only managerial ones). And demand always exceeds supply.

Specifics of the key specialists themselves

What are people who are carriers of rare and complex competencies? Here are a few general patterns, the confirmation of which many can find in their practice on their own.

The main motivators of such people are mostly not monetary. Achieving the result, and more often - the process of work itself, constantly raising the bar of one's own professionalism to a new level, the desire for recognition and status of the "coolest" professional, etc. Good working conditions (for example, a separate office, a powerful computer and an LCD monitor can have a very significant impact on the feeling of comfort for such a specialist). Money, of course, is a significant factor, but it is the guaranteed salary, and not bonuses for the result of the project, the desire to "do well" most often in such people does not depend directly on the reward.

The indispensability of key specialists in many situations in projects forms a certain line of behavior for many of them - the desire to preserve this indispensability in every possible way, without losing the status of "a unique specialist on whom the whole project rests". This allows them to dictate their own, not always fair, conditions, both financial and of any other nature. And the more responsible and expensive the project, the tougher such a specialist can insist on his own, actually blackmailing the company. In order to maintain the status quo, they completely refuse to document their knowledge, to teach others, to explain the reasons for one or another of their professional decisions.

Professionals whose qualifications are high in a narrow professional field or areas (especially technical ones) are often people with low motivation to communicate and undeveloped communication and social skills. Being people who are passionate about their specialty, they most often experience discomfort when they have to solve work tasks together with someone other than their immediate colleagues "in the shop", not to mention customers.


Due to the above-described features of highly qualified key specialists and the requirements for their competencies in projects, project-oriented companies face difficulties in managing such specialists, especially in a multi-project management situation. Let's consider the main problems.

A sharp increase in the "scarcity" of key specialists in a multi-project

The more organizations carry out the same type of projects, the more employees with the same type of qualifications to work on these projects it needs. As we discussed above, it is extremely rare for an organization to be able to quickly hire as many key specialists as necessary for all open source projects. Companies are trying to compensate for such a deficit with already known methods of resource equalization in multi-project management. however, this gives rise to the next of the problems under consideration.

Difficulties with equalizing human resources – key specialists – in multi-projects

By prioritizing projects and leveling resources, companies are forced to apply the same measures to key specialists as to other resources – to transfer from project to project and give tasks for parallel execution (including simultaneously in several different projects). At the same time, each specialist, in accordance with the intervals for revising plans, redefines the procedure for solving the tasks assigned to him, depending on the priorities of projects and the progress of their implementation.

As we considered above, the more complex the task performed, the higher the requirements for the set of competencies of the specialist who solves it, and the integration of such a specialist "into the task". These factors sometimes do not allow you to transfer such a task to another specialist at all. And in most cases, it is also extremely undesirable to separate the specialist from solving the problem, and suspend it. That is, the workload of a specialist close to 100% is often predetermined for the entire time of solving the problem. Examples are pre-project survey, server configuration, the implementation phase of a system in one department, etc.

In the case of a "forced" transfer of a key specialist to another project, his productivity may drop significantly due to the need to abandon an unfinished business, the difficulty of getting acquainted with a new task in detail, entering another project team, violating expectations, a high degree of uncertainty and general demotivation associated with the listed reasons.

The method of resource critical path partially provides an answer to the question of how to plan and take into account irreplaceable resources, including key specialists. However, the very problem of their scarcity and lack of flexibility remains unresolved.

High costs for the maintenance of key specialists

As discussed in Section 2, key specialists are highly qualified, with a wide range of competencies are expensive. In addition, in the event of their unexpected departure, and this happens often, the organization incurs significant costs of lost profits due to the violation of plans and non-implementation of projects with their participation. Investments in additional training of such specialists are often not returned for the same reason.

In addition, with the departure of key specialists, the company very often loses their knowledge and experience, which were not encoded in any form, being only in the head of their carrier.


This report proposes a solution to the problems associated with the management of key specialists and the rotation of human resources in projects at the system level – i.e. at the level of changes in the overall management system of a project-oriented company. The authors of the report are convinced that no local measures can radically improve the situation, while making changes to several management subsystems at once (incentive system, training system, corporate-wide business planning, multi-project management, knowledge management, and finally, corporate culture) can bear fruit by significantly increasing the efficiency of human resource management in multi-projects.

The key to solving the problems discussed above lies in management technologies that would allow:

  • Provide replacements for key specialists in projects where possible, leaving them on projects and works when it is really needed – i.e., minimizing situations in which the key specialist is a critical resource in the project.
  • Ensure that the company accumulates, preserves and uses the knowledge and experience possessed by key specialists in the knowledge base.
  • To ensure a constantly working mechanism for the transfer of knowledge and experience to young promising specialists both directly from key specialists and from the knowledge base.
  • The proposed approach is based on the concept of Competence Centers created around the competencies most in demand in the company's projects and their carriers - key specialists.

Below is the concept of functioning of the competence management system of a project-oriented organization based on the Competence Centers. The sequencing of such an approach is a separate issue and is not addressed in the present report.

The proposed concept of Competence Centres includes organizational tools, procedures and technologies to address these challenges. The interaction of the main processes and participants is depicted in Fig. 2.

Competence management and rotation of human resources of a project-oriented enterprise

Management of competencies of key specialists: assessment, transfer and development; formation of a resource pool of specialists

Let's describe the logic of the repetitive process.

1. When planning projects at the stage of assigning human resources to work, the need for human resources is formulated, expressed in the description of the competencies necessary in the project.

This action is carried out on the basis of the Competency Database, which is the central link of the entire system and is managed by the personnel management service. The creation of the Competence Database will be an individual "know-how" for each company, at the same time, there are basic principles for describing and accounting for competencies, based on the Competency Model that has existed for more than 10 years. Each competence, individual for each company, can be described according to the following principle (see Table 1).

At the same time, for each competency, several levels of "maturity" of the employee can be distinguished, each of which is characterized by the requirement that the employee has certain positions in the description of a particular competency.

Assessment of an employee's compliance with certain competencies is determined during a regular assessment. The use of certain evaluation procedures is strictly individual for each company, but here there are some general rules, for example, the assessment of knowledge is carried out with the help of professional tests, in the compilation of which, as a rule, both third-party experts and heads of the relevant departments take part, the assessment of Skills is carried out, most often, by methods of observation at the workplace, taking into account the opinion of the manager and the objective results of the employee's work (performance appraisal). Personality traits are assessed through psychological tests and interviews. And so on.

From the point of view of managing specific projects, then they carry out the planning of human resources, based on the formulated requirements for competencies, based on the available employees (according to the same Database and plans of other projects).

2. Based on the results of the implementation of projects (both final and intermediate), when comparing with the data of regular assessment of employees, competencies that are lacking in the company are revealed. In other words, situations are identified and analyzed in which an employee with a certain set of skills and knowledge was needed in the project, but it was not objectively possible to allocate such an employee to the project. At the same time, it is very important to analyze the causes of the shortage of specialists (for example, an error in planning passes, which is called "according to another article").

Employees who are highly qualified in the areas identified in this way are usually key specialists.

3. Competencies, which the company regularly lacks, form the basis of the Competence Centers. At the same time, what is important, Competence Centers are created not on the basis of a description of competence, as such, but around specific employees who have a specific competence (or, more likely, their recruitment), developed most strongly – i.e. around the most competent and sought-after employees – key specialists.

The competence center thus includes:

  • Description (link to the competency database fragment) of competencies that are critical for the company's projects (indicating which ones).
  • Actually, a key specialist, or several specialists who are the "carriers" of these competencies.
  • Individual "dossiers" for each such key specialist related to a particular Competence Center, including:
  • information about the employee
  • description of its core competencies
  • individual motivation system
  • evaluation results
  • development plans
  • download plans (project assignments)
  • plan for participation in staff training and development of curricula and materials
  • Links to a knowledge base that contains descriptions and results of projects and individual works involving a specific specialist.

4. In cooperation with the personnel management service and the immediate supervisor, the employee belonging to the competence center solves the following tasks:

conducting training seminars and trainings for young specialists of the company who, based on the results of the assessment, have the potential and motivation to develop in a specific professional direction

supervision and on-the-job training by mentoring the most promising young professionals
participation in projects not only as a performer in his professional field, but also as a supervisor (or curator) of other specialists who were trained by him within the company, including monitoring the results of their work and professional advice

creation, together with training specialists, of methodological materials and manuals on the features of the application of professional knowledge and technologies in the company's projects
documenting and placing in the knowledge base the results of projects, as well as individual phases and works, and describing the approaches used and the decisions taken - both their own and mentee specialists.

5. As a result of the above steps, the organization has the opportunity to smooth out the "bottlenecks" in the required competencies by transferring part of the knowledge and skills from key specialists to other promising employees. At the same time, the problem of complex competencies is largely solved, since training alternates with work under the guidance (or with consulting support) of a key specialist included in the Competence Center. Accordingly, complex knowledge and skills that cannot be taught in traditional ways (for example, in a seminar) are transferred in the process of joint work.

Thus, the problem of the complexity of transferring key specialists to another project (rotation in the process of resource equalization in multi-project management) is also solved. In the event of such an unexpected need, the project, in which an unexpected need arose, receives an intern, who is guaranteed the support of his "supervisor" - a key specialist who conducted basic training, his curator.

The logic of the processes that allow such a system of managing the competencies of key specialists to function constantly, adjusting the company's actions in relation to employees with actually or potentially necessary competencies, in accordance with the needs of projects, is shown in Fig. 3.

At the same time, the functioning of such a system contradicts the factor described in the first part of this report – the specifics of the key specialists themselves, who in general are not interested in sharing information, knowledge and experience within the company.

The resolution of this contradiction, according to the authors, lies solely in the peculiarities of building a motivation system in the company. Let's note the most important points that need to be taken into account.

Competence management and rotation of human resources of a project-oriented enterprise

Changes in the incentive system

For each key specialist, an individual incentive system should be developed and systematically implemented, in the creation of which the immediate supervisor of the key specialist must take part. Such an individual motivation program should be constantly reviewed taking into account many factors, including the company's plans, the needs of the employee, the state of the labor market, etc.
The incentive system for each key specialist should provide for remuneration (moral and / or material - determined individually) for documenting knowledge and training others. Thus, the payment for an hour of seminar for their colleagues cannot be lower than the payment for an hour of work "in the specialty", but should probably be even higher. 


There should also be additional compensation for the maintenance of "interns", including, for example, bonuses for the positive performance of interns on other projects to which they were sent plannedly or during the resource equalization process.

The corporate-wide incentive system and corporate culture of the company should provide for the attractiveness of the status of "key specialist" both from the material and from the point of view of prestige. This will ensure the desire of young specialists to develop within the company and participate in internship and training programs in the Competence Centers of key specialists.
Requirements for the company and its management system, imposed by the concept of competence centers
No control system exists in a vacuum. Accordingly, the key competency management system imposes certain requirements on other systems and elements of the organization. Let us consider briefly the most important conditions and prerequisites for the success of the described approach.

The degree of project-oriented and specifics of the business.

If the projects are small, low-budget, short-term, low-priority or typical, such a model will be economically inefficient. In addition, in the case where the labor market contains a sufficient supply of specialists who are key to the projects of a particular organization, it will also be impractical to apply such a model.

Maturity of multi-project management.

According to some expert estimates, only organizations that have reached a stable third level of maturity in project management (in accordance with the concept of maturity of PMI OFMZ) have the opportunity to significantly save on the use of the key competencies management model. In any case, the organization should regularly equalize resources in a multi-project, as well as be able to assess the economic impact of decisions on the rapid redeployment of resources. In this case, we can talk about the economic basis for determining the feasibility of introducing a key competency management system.

Availability of a knowledge base on completed and ongoing projects.

This factor is also directly related to the level of maturity of the company in the field of project management. Without a system for collecting, storing and analyzing information about the results of projects, their participants, decisions made and their consequences, technologies used, etc. it will be impossible both to objectively assess the results of the work of individual employees, and to identify and assess the degree of criticality of key competencies.

Maturity of the personnel management system.

Although the authors of the report consider the use of the competency model in the basis of building an organization's personnel management system to be optional, this can significantly reduce the cost of creating and maintaining a key competencies management system through the use of the general basics of these corporate competencies. In addition, the personnel assessment system in this case corresponds to the needs of managing key competencies and does not require changes.

In the event that the company decides to implement a key competency management system in multi-project management, the preliminary establishment of a regular personnel assessment system in close connection with the incentive system (as described above) is inevitable. And such major changes always have a strong impact on corporate culture, which is a serious destabilizing factor.

The company should also debug the system of in-house training, in the absence of which it is extremely difficult and costly to organize training of promising specialists at a qualitative level by internal forces. The same applies to the system of career planning and development of employees, which provides the possibility of choice and certainty of the future for employees who link their development with the company. This, in turn, imposes certain requirements on the company's strategy in the field of personnel management, in which the focus on long-term relationships with key employees is a priority – 1.

No comments:

Post a Comment