The Project Management Institute defines nine knowledge areas associated with good project management, including human resource management. Project human resource management includes all of the processes that a project manager uses to assemble, develop and manage the project team. On the other hand, actually leading a project team typically involves motivating, inspiring and collaborating with the team. Project managers need skills and knowledge in both areas to effectively complete successful projects.


Strategic human resource management enables a business to ensure it has the right personnel to accomplish its strategic goals. This includes recruiting, hiring and developing the best employees for the job. HR professionals provide career development opportunities for employees and ensure that trained personnel are available to take over roles when older employees retire, take on new work or leave the company. Project managers assign resources to key positions to ensure job tasks get completed in a timely manner. Leading a project involves explaining the strategic direction to the team and getting buy-in from sponsors and stakeholders.


Human resource management professionals analyze the work done by the company. They define a hierarchy of jobs. For each job, they describe the tasks that must be completed at each level, usually novice, expert and master. They list the skills and knowledge needed to perform at each level. Project leaders then use this information when they lead a team. For example, depending on the complexity of a project task, they assign work to an expert employee, train a less experienced employee or make a request to outsource the work to a low-cost supplier.


Human Resource management professionals typically offer formal training courses, workshops and seminars to employees. These programs ensure that employees get the career development resources they need to improve their professional skills. For example, they offer courses in time management, business acumen, communication skills and presenting effectively. Project managers leading large teams, on the other hand, train personnel to perform specific tasks, such as performing quality assurance testing on a particular product.


To ensure that an employee gets paid for the work that gets done, HR professionals manage the company's compensation function. They set criteria for performance reviews, ensure equity, and adhere to local, state and federal regulations. They also manage benefits programs, such as health insurance and retirement options. Leading a project, however, the project manager doesn’t typically worry about issuing paychecks or managing a 401K portfolio. Leading a project team involves handling daily operations. Project leaders may recommend that team members receive promotions and bonuses, but they don’t typically administer the payments.