Breaking down the P5 Standard for Sustainability in Project Management: Employment and Staffing

The GPM P5 Standard for Sustainability in Project Management is a valuable resource for project managers and organizations. The P5 Standard focuses on understanding and managing the potential impacts of your project on the environment, society, and economy. Although its practices are clear and straightforward, we often receive requests for additional context. Therefore, we’re launching a 49-part series aimed at dissecting each element of the standard, providing practical explanations one element at a time.

#1 Employment and Staffing

When we talk about employment and staffing in the P5 standard, we outline practices you need to do to support your team from a sustainability standpoint. That includes everyone from the top dogs, like the project steering committee, right down to every member of the project team, including contractors. You’ve got to figure out what skills you need for your project, find the right people, manage their work and time, give them any training they need, and ensure they’re getting paid fairly.

Example #1, Staffing Your Project

Imagine you’re running a project to build a sustainable housing development. You’d need to consider what skills you need on your team. You might need architects who know their way around sustainable design, construction workers who are pros at using eco-friendly building materials, and project managers who are clued up on sustainability standards and practice.

Maybe these people are already in your organization, or maybe you need to look outside. When you’re hiring, it’s important to let people know that your project is all about sustainability and what kind of skills and experience you’re looking for.

Once you’ve established your team, you need to manage them. This means making sure everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing and when, checking in regularly to see how they’re going, and giving them feedback and tips to help them do their best.

Training is also a big deal in the P5 standard. In our example, you might need to teach your team about the specific sustainable building techniques you’re going to use, or about the P5 standard itself so everyone’s on the same page about your sustainability goals, how to measure impacts and develop a sustainability management plan to track interventions.

Last but not least, you need to make sure everyone’s getting paid fairly. This is not only good for keeping your team happy and motivated, but it also fits with the P5 standard’s focus on fair labor practices.

Example #2, Hiring and Staffing as a Project Deliverable

Imagine you are leading a project to overhaul an organization’s brand image and part of this project is to update employment practices for the organization.  During your assessment you uncover three practices and need to change them.

  1. Hiring Based on Bias: This practice involves making hiring decisions based on personal biases or preferences rather than an applicant’s qualifications or skills. This could manifest as favoring candidates from certain universities, backgrounds, or those who share similar interests or experiences, which can lead to a lack of diversity and inclusivity in the workplace.

  2. Neglecting Employee Development: Failing to invest in employee development and growth is another unsustainable hiring practice. Organizations that don’t provide opportunities for skill development or career advancement are likely to face high turnover rates, as employees may feel undervalued and unfulfilled.

  3. Inadequate Compensation: Offering below-market salaries or inadequate benefits packages is a short-sighted and unsustainable practice. While it might save costs in the short term, it can lead to high employee turnover, low morale, and difficulty attracting and retaining top talent in the long term.

What should you do?

In the P5 standard it states: “Employment and staffing is the process of obtaining the personnel needed to carry out the project. It includes identifying the skills required for successful completion of the project, recruiting potential individuals (internally or externally), managing their time and performance, training them when needed, and compensating them accordingly.”

In Practice, the project team should:

  • Invest in training and development programs for project team members to improve their skills and increase their job security.
  • Encourage flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting and part-time work.
  • Implement fair pay/livable wages and benefits policies to attract and retain high-quality workers.
  • Foster a positive and inclusive workplace culture that values and respects all team members.
  • Diversify its workforce by recruiting from underrepresented groups.

Given that there are three practices that are unsustainable, the next step would be to score the impact each and determine next steps. 

We use a simple likert scale to measure impact.   3 is Neutral, Neither good or bad.  4 is positive and, 5 very positive.  On the other end of the spectrum, 2 is negative, and 1, is very bad.  You might ask “what is the difference between 2 an 1?”  2 could mean a practice where an employee gets treated unfairly and 1 could be where they are put in danger.  Sustainability is largely subjective and so it is important that the scale be  adapted to the organization or even the project.

How would you assess the three examples? Are they 1’s or 2’s? What would you do about it?

Once you understand the severity, you can develop a remediation plan and add it as an intervention in your sustainability management plan or (SMP). Once you have changed the practices, you can rescore it and demonstrate growth in social sustainability practices!

Three examples of organizations that get it right.

  1. Ecosia: Ecosia is a search engine that is dedicated to sustainability and environmental conservation. As part of their commitment, they prioritize sustainable staffing practices. Ecosia ensures that their hiring processes are transparent and unbiased, promoting diversity and equal opportunities. They also encourage work-life balance and provide a supportive work environment for their employees.
  2. Ben & Jerry’s: Ben & Jerry’s, an ice cream company, is well-known for its social and environmental activism. They prioritize sustainable hiring practices by promoting fair labor standards and paying fair wages to their employees. Ben & Jerry’s values diversity and inclusivity in their workforce and actively supports community engagement and sustainability initiatives.
  3. Interface, Inc.: While Interface is primarily focused on sustainability in their products, they also demonstrate a commitment to sustainable staffing. The company strives to create a positive work environment for their employees, emphasizing employee well-being, professional development, and work-life balance. Interface fosters a culture of sustainability within the organization, ensuring that their commitment extends to their workforce.

These organizations showcase their dedication to sustainable staffing by implementing fair and transparent hiring practices, promoting diversity and inclusion, and prioritizing employee well-being and work-life balance.

Overall, good employment and staffing practices can lead to some great outcomes. Think more job security, better economic growth, happier and more motivated workers, less turnover, and lower labor costs. Plus, it also lines up with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, specifically the one about promoting decent work for all by 2030.

How you handle employment and staffing is a really important part of the P5 standard. It can make a big difference to the success of your project and to wider sustainability goals. By thinking carefully about what skills you need, finding the right people, managing them well, providing training, and paying fairly, you can create a positive and productive project environment.

Dr. Joel Carboni

Dr. Joel Carboni is a highly respected expert in sustainable project management. He is a graduate of Ball State University and holds a Ph.D. in Sustainable Development and Environment. He has over 25 years of experience in project management, including government, finance, consulting, manufacturing, and education. He is a frequent speaker at conferences and events related to project management and sustainability and has worked in more than 50 countries. In addition to serving as President Emeritus of the International Project Management Association (IPMA) in the United States and being a member of the Global advisory board, Dr. Carboni is also the founder of GPM (Green Project Management) and a visiting professor at Skema Business School. He is also the GPM representative to the United Nations Global Compact, where he was a founding signatory of the Business for Peace Initiative and the Anti-Corruption call to action and a contributor to the development of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs). Dr. Carboni is the creator of the PRiSM™ project delivery methodology and the P5 Standard for Sustainability in Project Management and has written training programs on Green and Sustainable Project Management that are offered in more than 145 countries through professional training providers, business associations, and universities. He is the lead author of the book "Sustainable Project Management."

One thought to “Breaking down the P5 Standard for Sustainability in Project Management: Employment and Staffing”

  1. I just finished reading your thought-provoking article about the breaking P5 standard in sustainability project management employment and staffing, and I must say, you’ve tackled a crucial aspect of project management that often doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Your insights into how sustainability considerations impact project staffing and employment are truly enlightening.

    Your breakdown of the P5 standard and its significance in sustainability project management was both comprehensive and informative. It’s evident that you have a deep understanding of the subject matter, and your ability to simplify complex concepts for your readers is commendable. The way you explained the five dimensions of sustainability and their implications on project teams made it easy for me to grasp the bigger picture.

    The real-world examples you provided further solidified the importance of integrating sustainability practices into project management. From considering diverse skill sets to emphasizing ethical and environmental aspects, your article highlighted the need for a holistic approach to project staffing. I also appreciated your exploration of potential challenges and solutions in implementing the P5 standard, which adds a practical touch to the theoretical framework.

    Thank you for shedding light on this critical aspect of project management that often flies under the radar. Your article has broadened my perspective and reinforced the idea that sustainability isn’t just a standalone initiative, but an integral part of successful project execution. I look forward to reading more of your insightful content in the future!

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