How to use your PMO as a culture and engagement springboard
As the COVID-19 pandemic wound down, organizations went back to work in various ways, creating new challenges for enterprise PMO (Project Management Office) leaders. The rise of remote and hybrid work has allowed everyone more freedom but has created unforeseen challenges in the critical areas of culture and engagement.
In a recent Gallup survey, 41% of respondents highlighted these two areas as places they would actively change to improve their work lives. A recent conversation I had with an enterprise PMO leader went in the same direction:
"Our culture has totally changed in the new world of work. I still come into the office, but we don’t have the same ‘feeling’—we don’t have impromptu meetings or our happy hours. Instead, we have all these scheduled times to be ‘physically present,’ depending on the team. I don’t really have the same relationship with any of our new people across projects, and it’s harder to get a feel for how our big projects are going when we don’t know the people the same way.”
No longer just the concern of HR departments and the C-suite, culture and engagement are now top of mind for enterprise PMO leaders. They are also getting more attention from employees at all levels as organizations adapt to today’s new world of work.
As drivers of major organizational projects and initiatives, PMO leaders must take a more active approach to crafting culture and enabling engagement with their teams.
Culture isn’t just how people feel—it’s about how team members think and respond as a group. Figuring this out is difficult at the best of times, but cross-functional environments make the puzzle even more challenging.
How can PMO leaders bolster the culture of the organization with teams from across various groups while also serving as a delivery engine for the company? And how can they make delivering cross-functional projects more meaningful for individuals working on large projects?
In this article, we explore five best practices that can help you leverage the Project Management Office to optimize the employee experience and support organizational culture in a post-pandemic, hybrid-work world.
1. Build a set of project principles that align with the organization’s corporate values
Have your PMO team leaders start referencing broader organizational values in your PMO team’s project and program material.
Then tie cross-functional team behavior to these values to ensure alignment.
For example, if a core value of the organization is “transparency, no matter the situation,” highlight and commend project leaders who are open about project slippage in your scheduled review sessions.
Active encouragement in this way allows your executive team’s high-level goals to seep into the day-to-day of the program while showcasing your team’s ability to think strategically.
2. Reference the project principles regularly in terms of behavior in a cross-functional environment
Emphasizing the value of the project principles described above in relation to everyone’s daily work can help each employee drive company culture. Work with your team to understand the established principles and how their work is helping advance them.
For example, in every weekly project schedule meeting, have the PMO team flash up project principles at the start of the call. Make sure that each team member on the program understands that this program will be delivered in line with these principles and that they will be referenced every week.
3. Emphasize the importance of cross-location, in-person meetings within the senior PMO team
Many PMOs are now focused on building centers of excellence in different geographical locations, but it’s essential that they not act in an isolated way.
To ensure coordination, have senior members of your team in these locations take responsibility for engagement across geographical teams. Make sure they understand that it is their responsibility to bring project participants together.
Keep in mind that in the new world of work, many team members may not know one another, especially if they are located in different countries. Regular meetings can help position your PMO team members as regional facilitators and leaders, which can help with future initiatives.
4. Bring cross-functional project teams together regularly—just like members of your own team
In the new world of work, direct teams often meet regularly, but project teams now often meet far less often. This is a big change in the enterprise environment that can impact culture and the employee experience.
Actively discussing project goals, either on a call or in person, drives excitement and engagement. Where possible, work with senior staff members to set up a working morning meeting for all project participants at least monthly.
Advocate to have cross-functional workshops where possible, and build the agenda around a program-wide update or even by having a working session.
5. Remote work is here to stay, so work with it, not against it
COVID-19 ushered in a new era of remote and hybrid work, and these have become not just temporary trends but permanent features of the modern work environment.
According to a Pew study, over 76% of those polled work from home full-time or in a hybrid environment; only 12% of people indicated that they never work from home.
Remote work is here to stay, so managers must get more creative in their approaches.
For example, scheduling daily or even semi-weekly team calls can help bond your team members together while providing crucial insights into the progress of a project.
Set up brisk meetings with five-minute time limits for each person. One minute should be used to provide a personal insight—such as a movie the person is looking forward to, weekend plans, or anything else of personal interest—with the other four reserved for project insights.
The new world of work is having a profound impact on how people perceive their places in global organizations, especially within cross-functional project teams. It’s time for PMO leaders to extend their responsibility into this space and help to spearhead the drive to achieve culture and engagement goals—their portfolios’ results may depend on it.
Learn more about iTalent Digital’s outcome-driven PMO services on our PMO web page, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to speak with us about your project management goals.
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