The management of human resources in project management‐led organizations

Publication Date01 Apr 2005
AuthorIan Clark,Trevor Colling
subjectMatterHR & organizational behaviour
The management of human
resources in project
management-led organizations
Ian Clark and Trevor Colling
De Montfort University, Leicester, UK
Purpose The paper examines the operational impact of project management systems on the
management of human resources and the practical implications of this for practitioners in two
project-led engineering contractors
Design/methodology/approach – The paper achieves these objectives through semi-structured
interviews in two in-depth case studies.
Findings – The paper examines specific human resource practices, for example, staff appraisal and
efforts at work re-structuring. The paper finds that in project-led organizations, such as those in
engineering contracting, embedded sectoral characteristics such as portfolio training limit the capacity
of HR practitioners to actively change employee perceptions of their development.
Research limitations/implications – The paper reports on sector-specific research. However, the
paper does illustrate the lack of engagement between project management literatures and
personnel/HR literatures on the role of HR practitioners in project-led organizations
Practical implications – The paper draws out the impact of embedded sector effects on the
management of HRs and the effects of this on the role played by practitioners.
Originality/value – The value of this paper for the academic community is that it emphasizes a lack
of engagement between project management literatures and HR/personnel literatures when it is likely
that “project management” systems are a core managerial mechanism for the deployment of staff.
Keywords Project management,Human resource management,Organizational structures
Paper type Research paper
For some project management is a core mechanism for the organization and
deployment of human resources in most private sector organizations and is
particularly so in multinational firms and service providers (McGovern, 1998, pp. 63-8).
Here customer-specific trading units coordinate and organize the work of employees to
provide operational transparency and accountability creating systems with built-in
operational targets. Beyond the private sector project management is increasingly
prevalent in the public and voluntary sectors where charities, hospitals, schools and
universities are run on project-focused principles (see Maylor, 2002; Scase, 2001). Thus,
the research question that this paper addresses focuses on the operational impact of
project management in engineering services and the practical implications of this for
those involved in the management of human resources. The paper divides into three
parts. Part one provides a broad definition of project management and its relevance to
The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
The research is supported by the ESRC (contract numbers WF20250031and R000 238350) and
was previously supported by a grant from the Leicester Business School Research Committee.
Received July 2003
Accepted December 2003
Personnel Review
Vol. 34 No. 2, 2005
pp. 178-191
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/00483480510579411

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