The news that U.S. job openings are at a record high is something of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it shows employers are bullish about the economy going forward. However, the pace of hiring across the nation hasn’t caught up with the number of jobs out there, suggesting HR teams are struggling to find resources that have the right skills and talents.
If your job involves managing resources, you’ll be well aware of the damage that being short on skilled staff can have on the business. A recent Manpower survey with employers asked respondents to describe the impact of talent shortages on the business:
(source: Manpower 2015)
When you don’t have employees with the right skills, your business can’t function anywhere near as well as it could. Whether it’s simply being unable to meet the needs of the market or lost potential productivity and profits, being short of skilled staff can be highly damaging.
Resource management – the skill of managing large numbers of employees on different projects and allocating the right people to the right place – is a prime example of a talented profession in the U.S. which is currently under-resourced. Far too many businesses ‘make do’ with ad hoc resource management practices, and as a consequence, must deal with many of the negative impacts described in the graph above.
Resource management is an essential skill for managing a successful business, so whether you decide to hire a specialist Resource Manager or choose to retrain an existing employee, choosing someone with the right skills is crucial.
Besides general administration skills, Resource Managers need to demonstrate real talent a number of areas. Here are the 5 key skills of an effective Resource Manager:
At base, resource management depends on the ability to plan. Resource Managers need to be able to plot a course for resource deployment, often months in advance. Typically working in conjunction with a PMO (Project Management Office), Resource Managers need to take into account costs, resource availability and deadlines as they work out the best way to deploy people to projects.
Say you run an events management business, carrying out numerous shows, conferences and networking opportunities throughout the year. Resource Managers will need to plan the best deployment of resources, making sure you have the right number of employees available for each event, never too many, nor too few.
Many people struggle with prioritization; knowing which tasks they need to complete first and deciding which matters are the most pressing is not always obvious. Imagine having to do that not only for yourself, but for tens, if not hundreds or even thousands of other people.
To be able to prioritize effectively, Resource Managers need a global overview; they need to understand the major aims of every project they are deploying resources to. They also need to understand that many of those resources are working on multiple projects at once. Therefore, managing how other people use their time at work and deciding what needs to be done first is highly complicated. A lot hangs on the decisions a Resource Manager makes.
If you have ever worked with a colleague who does not communicate effectively, you’ll certainly appreciate just how important a skill this is. While good communication skills are valuable in practically any job, they’re especially important for Resource Managers.
Since Resource Managers often work in conjunction with a PMO, as well as various stakeholders across the business, they must communicate effectively with those colleagues. The choices a Resource Manager makes can have a real impact on their colleagues’ working lives. It is therefore essential that they communicate effectively with these people, understanding their concerns while also making a compelling case for the resource allocation decisions they make.
Say you were a team leader at the events company described in point 1. You would likely be upset if someone in head office suddenly moved two of your team members elsewhere using their resource management tool. Resource Managers need to do more than simply impose change; they sometimes need to communicate with the people their work affects and explain what’s going on and why.
Resource Management is so crucial because it helps you find alternative resource allocation solutions. By finding alternatives, you can reduce the number of resources you use and deploy those you have to positions where they are more productive and where they can truly excel.
To do this, Resource Managers need to be able to see those alternatives. They need to have a flexible and creative mind, able to picture different ways of doing things.
They need to be able to ask “what if” questions: “what if we split project 2?”; “what if we moved five resources to project 7?” Resource management tools like Tempus Resource allow you to ask these questions, and automatically search for the best options for resource allocation.
Resource management is all about understanding the complex relationship between resources and projects.
For instance, in the events example described above, your Resource Manager would need to understand the impact that moving resources from one event to another will have on the rest of the business. While it might seem easy to shift Jenny and James from project 1 to project 5 due to a shortfall of resources in the latter, this will have consequences later on for project 1, and may even impact deadlines on other projects too.
Resource Managers need to understand nothing happens in a vacuum, and that changing resource allocation will impact on the company’s ability to deliver. Again, a tool like Tempus Resource helps Resource Managers here; its heat maps let you see how changing allocation will impact on the level of work other resources have to do.
Do you have a Resource Manager yet?
The Resource Manager role is becoming an increasingly important position, especially for organizations that manage numerous people and projects. Whether you employ a professional Resource Manager, or decide to retrain existing employees, ensuring they have the right skills and the right tools to do the job is key.