3 Ways To Earn Respect As A Global Resource Manager
With the global economy becoming more project-oriented1, the trend for remote working on the increase2, and ongoing consolidation in major project-based industries such as Engineering and Construction3, there’s a good chance you’re now managing resources in foreign countries or in multiple remote locations. And there’s an even better chance it’s causing you headaches.
If you’ve suddenly found yourself in charge of people in different lands, you may have new surprises every week, discovering not only that holidays aren’t the same, but that skills aren’t either. And this isn’t just limited to global companies. Even if you’re speaking the same native language, and share cultural references, you can be caught out when your familiar company jargon isn’t understood by your new colleague in a different state or from a newly acquired practice. It can be a major cause of frustration.
And the frustration isn’t necessarily limited to you as a resource manager. Your project management colleagues have to deal with this too. And the resources themselves. The good news is: this situation also offers opportunities.
In our previous post, on how to stop scrambling for resources, we listed the “Top Ten Resource Management Challenges”. While most are linked to capacity planning, there are three that relate to availability of the right people. The first, (number two on the list) is “Resource risks are not assessed.” While it is in fact difficult to assess risk4, greater mobility within your resource pool can offset it. The second is “Not enough appropriately skilled resources”, which may be due to a lack of effective skill evaluation as much as to a lack of actual resources. Finally, the fourth greatest resource management challenge is “Resource use is not optimized”. While this can mostly be corrected through efficient capacity planning, it’s also about being aware of the full capabilities of your resources. Do you see the opportunities?
With the right approach and the right tools, you can turn this frustration into major respect for your resource management capabilities. We recommend the following:
1. Start by standardizing skills
Stellar resource management implies knowing exactly how your people can help. Of course, this begins with academic and professional qualifications. But it can be hard to compare them internationally, sometimes even nationally. Qualifications of the same name vary, in terms of level of competency, but also in terms of what skills are included.
This makes understanding difficult, and that limits the availability of appropriately skilled resources, as well as their mobility. To overcome this, you can agree on proficiency levels to try to provide common understanding, but qualifications aren’t the only skills consultants have. Additional obstacles to moving resources around can be lack of language skills or cultural competency to work in certain places. Or it could be that some people just aren’t willing to travel there. Proficiency levels in your tool won’t take into account these differences.
Ideally, you’ll want to be able to record these kinds of soft skills and preferences systematically – not just as notes in your database that no-one reads – and filter for them in searches. And you’ll want to be able to ensure you request this information systematically too, because if you don’t ask, you may never know. Often, you discover by fortunate accident, over a post-lunch coffee or round the water-cooler, that Jeff speaks fluent Mandarin or Maria has super-advanced Excel programming skills. Such revelations can prove very useful. Maybe you can even think of situations where a project manager lamented not having those capabilities available. Unfortunately, when you manage resources remotely, your chances of getting to know people personally and uncovering those skills are reduced to a couple of times a year if at all, so a system that captures that information for you can go a long way towards improving the skill-appropriateness and, therefore, mobility of your workforce.
Software that enables you to create a fully customized skills library can be a great start. You can widen your definition to include general business competencies like “business analysis”, or “global market strategy”, or specifics like “product-line knowledge”, or experience in particular verticals, such as “healthcare”, “government”, “educational institutions”. You can even include geographical zones where people are willing to travel or have the cultural competency to operate in – basically anything that can make a resource a good or bad match for a job.
But it’s easy for things to get out of hand. One client I helped recently had ended up with hundreds of different skills, many of which appeared to be similar but slightly different expressions of the same thing. Resource and project managers couldn’t say what the difference was between them, and the search function wasn’t smart enough to pull up similar expressions. If you were looking for someone with “advanced Excel”, Pete with “high spreadsheet proficiency” wouldn’t show, for example.
Opt for software that guides you in defining a set of skills on which everyone agrees; with proficiency levels everyone agrees on. Your organization will then have a standardized vocabulary for discussing skills – which will give you the added bonus of reducing jargon – and your resource pool will become significantly wider.
2. Help project managers tap into the wider pool
To offset resource risks, project managers will benefit from a wider pool, but you may need to help them think about alternative resources to the ones they’re used to. As a global or multi-location resource manager, you can see certain resources in a newly acquired company that would be very valuable in another region because they have skills that are in short supply there. You could call the attention of project managers in that region to those resources but, if their need is not immediate, the information might be forgotten. You could also choose to flag the resources and cross your fingers the PMs will look at them when the time comes.
However, if you could see in advance exactly when and where these skills would be needed, you could work proactively with your project managers to use resources optimally. Investing in software that puts all projects in one system, both those that are confirmed and those that are still under negotiation, will give you that visibility.
3. Get holidays under control
Now you’ve widened the resource pool and got your PMs on board with making the most of new skillsets, perhaps better suited to certain projects, you don’t want to have a wrench thrown in the works with unexpected availability issues.
Public holidays of course vary from country to country, and there can even be differences between regions within the same nation. If your current tool doesn’t allow you to manage these variations at all, you could encounter problems. Maybe your project managers will be lucky and a colleague will remind them, as they schedule work, that availability is limited that week due to local holidays. Maybe they’ll think to look up the notes you conscientiously added to your main resource database. Or maybe they’ll have to deal with an irate Bob complaining they scheduled him to work on a holiday or, worse, an irate customer complaining Mary didn’t turn up for work, or that the deliverable will be late because 40 hours of work were booked on a 32-hour week.
Some software tools incorporate public holidays but only specific to a particular country and only nationally observed ones. They may have the ability to add in certain holidays, such as company founder’s day or others specific to your organization, but they can’t handle multiple variations at the same time. This is something to look out for. You could maybe get creative and add in all possible variations, specifying applicability, (à la Google Calendar), but you run the risk of your colleagues pegging you as just adding noise rather than being helpful.
If you’re looking to invest in software, or renew the tools you have, we recommend seeking out a platform that enables you to set holidays by site. With this function, you can take into account country variations, like US Christmas, Canadian Christmas, and Ramadan; regional variations like Rosa Parks Day in Missouri or Family Day in some Canadian provinces; even locally agreed holidays such as whether to have Black Friday off or observe Easter on Friday or Monday. With available hours better managed, you can avoid unpleasant surprises.
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