There’s a big debate in the project portfolio and resource management world on using the word “resource” to refer to employees. Many users of the word explain it’s just a practical term for planning while others feel like it’s slightly dehumanizing. Both sides of the argument have valid points. We’re not here to tell you whether you should use the word “resource” or not (although for more guidance you can check out our blog post). However, “resource” is more than a word. It can also be a mindset held not only by resource managers and upper management but also by people at every level in your organization. Here’s how the “people as a resource” mindset can plague your organization and what you can do to empower employees.
Problems with the “People as a Resource” Mindset
You can use the word “resource” to refer to employees and not have a “people as a resource” mindset in your organization, but this does take some special attention. When people know they’re sometimes referred to as a “resource” it can really take the wind out their sails. The term can be demotivating, and organizations really suffer when workers are demotivated. Even worse, workers can begin to think of themselves not as valuable assets to their company, but just as commodities. Maybe this doesn’t sound like a big problem, but the difference between being a person and a resource in the mind of an employee can be huge. For example, here are few things that people do:
- People look to spot issues early and resolve them quickly before they escalate and jeopardize projects
- People propose innovative ideas that could open your business to new opportunities
- People advocate for their assigned projects or the organization’s goals and priorities
Successful organizations rely on dedicated, motivated and passionate people. When employees are passionate and empowered, they can help your organization grow, overcome obstacles and adapt to changing demands. But without these motivated people, organizations are on their own. Whether your organization uses the word “resource” or not, here’s how you can empower employees and create a “people as an asset” mindset.
Get the Right Person for the Job
It’s important to remember that every person in your organization is unique. Even if two people have the same titles and specialized skills, understanding what specific strengths they have is important. If you have many people in your organization, you’re not going to know the strengths of every person and that’s okay. You can also look at the strengths of specific teams and departments. You’re not just remembering specific strengths for the fun of it (although you can if you want). Use these strengths to make better staffing decisions. Imagine you have a regulatory or compliance project. There are many people whom you could staff to this project, but you can reduce the risk of the project by staffing people who have past experience with regulatory issues. These people might be more familiar with common obstacles so they can avoid them, which saves time and money. When you can make at least some staffing decisions just a little more personal, it doesn’t just help finish projects, it also makes people feel good. They know they were selected because of something unique. This recognition helps to empower employees in your organization.
Give People a Voice
One way that people can be made to feel like a resource instead of a valued employee is when their voice isn’t heard. People in your organization are experts at what they do or at the very least, have valuable insight into the day-to-day operations of projects that someone more removed doesn’t have. When people voice concerns about projects, teams or anything else, it often comes from their expertise or insight. A project manager might know that a project is understaffed because a similar project in the past was also understaffed. If this project manager shared this concern and more people were assigned to the project, the project manager would know that decision-makers or upper management are listening to their concerns.
Let Employees Solve Problems
It’s extremely common for problems to arise even in the most meticulously planned projects. However, many problems are small (or at least start small). The people closest to these problems are usually the best and most qualified people to solve them. While most organizations have decision-makers in the form of a committee, group or even individual, not all problems need to be escalated up the chain of command. It's in our nature to have a desire to solve problems, so if we’re the best ones to solve a problem and we want to solve it, let us do it! Giving people the space to solve problems keeps things running smoothly, will minimize delays and lets people feel good about overcoming challenges even if they’re small.
Empower Your Organization with the Right Tools
Managing project portfolios and capacity can be complicated. Add on top of this the desire to empower employees in your organization and you might feel like you have too much on your plate. Meisterplan makes things simple with powerful project portfolio and resource management that lets you focus on your organization’s most valuable asset – people! To see how you can use Meisterplan for efficient resource management check out our 5-minute product tour.