The Roles of the People Manager and the Project Manager in Contemporary Organizations

The Difference between a People Manager and a Project Manager

In recent times, there has been a trend in multinational companies to have a people manager apart from the project manager for employees in teams and units. This division of responsibilities between the people manager and the project manager has been necessitated because of the importance being given to employee enabling and employee empowering strategies. The key aspect here is that the people manager is responsible for the personal and professional development of the employee and the project manager is responsible for work and project related activities. Further, the appointment of a people manager distinct from the project manager is being done because of the need felt by the organizations to develop the employees in a more rounded manner and to let them actualize their potential. For instance, while the project manager looks after the project deliverables and associated work related aspects, the people manager concentrates on the personal development of skills, soft attributes, and how far the employee is fulfilled in his or her current role. The post of people manager is akin to the HR manager who is responsible for the unit but differs in the respects of having a functional individual be the people manager who can understand the functional and operational aspects as well as contribute to the personality development of the employee.

How the Different Roles work in Practice

In many multinational organizations like Fidelity and IBM, the people manager is designated from the pool of project managers and is usually responsible for two or three project teams. The additional responsibilities vested in the people manager run concurrent to their core responsibilities of looking after their own teams’ project deliverables. The idea here is to have an independent individual separate and distinct from the project manager to introduce objectivity and to provide an unbiased perspective to the employee and his or her needs for personal development and actualization. Further, some multinationals have also experimented with having a people manager who does not have any project related responsibilities so that the person can fully focus and concentrate on the people side of project management. The key aspect here is that the people manager would conduct one-one meetings with the employees to find out if they have any issues with the project teams and their role in it and to elicit feedback from them about how the organization and the project managers are letting them fulfill their potential. At appraisal time, it is usually the case that the review would be conducted by both the project manager and the people manager. Of course, the inputs of the project manager are more important as they pertain to the core reason for the organization’s existence namely that of project deliverables but the people manager has a significant role to play in determining the personal development and the progress made by the employee towards his or her personal development goals as set forth at the start of the review period.

The Emergence of SHRM and the Need for People Enabling and People Empowerment

The reason why many organizations are keen to have the post of a people manager is mainly because of the need felt by the organizations to treat people as key assets and sources of competitive advantage as opposed to treating them as yet another factor of production. This shift in emphasis or paradigm shift is known as the strategic human resource management perspective wherein employees are considered the chief asset and sources of sustainable advantage to the organizations. When compared to the earlier paradigms where employees were treated as yet another factor of production and the intervening paradigm where employees were considered important but not to the level that is being witnessed in the SHRM view. The reason for this is the rise in the services sector wherein technology and financial services firms have taken center stage in the economy and where people make the difference between success and failure. This is the key aspect of multinationals having a people manager distinct from a project manager.


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Human Resource Management