So many organisations have absolutely no clue how to hire good planners. The agencies they often have on their AVL are none the wiser. That’s because not many individuals involved know what planning really is and that makes understanding the criteria by which planners should be evaluated unclear.
If you’re interested in finding out more about what Construction Planning is about, taking your recruitment game on the construction market to the next level and more importantly if you’re interested in the 5 tips I’d give recruiters and hiring managers looking for planning professionals, please keep reading.
In the last week I’ve had three types of interactions with recruiters via Linkedin:
- Those who tried to speak to the hiring manager and called me directly
- Those who posted their calls for candidates on their feed
- Those who were trying to gauge if I’m looking to move on
Only a few knew what they were doing. Then the majority had two things in common. They fundamentally misunderstood the role they were hiring for and believed that ability to operate Primavera P6 was the Holy Grail of planning. They didn’t understand the gradation from Assistant/Junior Planner, through Planner, Senior Planner, Planning Manager/Project Controls Manager, didn’t understand the right skillset a planner should possess and were not able to filter their candidates against client’s requirements. They exposed themselves to risk of putting forward candidates that would inevitably waste their interviewer’s time. Now, what do you think the prospects of a long-lasting relationships are if the candidates put forward by the recruiters are constantly nowhere near the target set by the client? Not very optimistic I would say. Yet here we are, the same calls, the same patter, the same mistakes, day after day, simply because on this particular market, the demand far exceeds supply so there is no need for due diligence. Fact. Haven’t you guys watched Mad Men?
So here’s my offer.
I have the planning knowledge & the experience. I know what your clients are looking for because I am also your client. I want to help you understand the planning role further so you can shortlist your candidates more effectively.
What is planning all about?
Before we get to the 5 tips I’d give recruiters and hiring managers looking for planning professionals, let’s try to understand the scope of work for planners across the lifecycle of any given project..
- Planning – Working out how to deliver the project. In the planning stage the planner will facilitate drafting the overall strategy for the project, the methodology for the project, breakdown structures for managing the project, key dependencies, will contribute to project risk and opportunities register and issues log and will assist with identification of interfaces. The more experience, the more different projects, the better the planner.
- Scheduling – Forming thoughts of project team into a coherent schedule in designated scheduling software package and deciding how the plan is going to be presented and communicated to relevant stakeholders. Entering the plan into scheduling software and creating all visuals. Progressing that plan to reflect current situation of the project.
- Monitoring, Control and Performance Reporting – The Where, What and How of a project. Where are we and where are we headed, how can we get there, how much does it cost, how can we improve it, how are we doing at this point in time, how are we doing compared to last month, what are the projections of our performance for the next 4 weeks and so on. This is done using a combination of planning software, other reporting tools and planning and controls methods.
Some planners are also proficient in Risk Management, Change Management, Delay Analysis (sometimes referred to as Forensic Planning) and various forms of contracts and contractual frameworks.
Now that we know the basics of what the planners you place will do with their time, be it in pre-construction, throughout construction or looking into claims here are the…
5 tips for recruiters and hiring managers looking for planning professionals
There are different types of planners
Just like you wouldn’t hire a rapper to sing an opera, you shouldn’t assume that a pre-construction planner can run a construction plan or that a construction planner can do odd bits of delay analysis for your client. Always know what the job is so that you can find the right candidate. If you need a construction planner but some time along the way you realise you need someone who specialises in delay analysis and is capable of bolting up your Extension of Time claim, it may be better for your long-term goals to spend extra and hire the right person for the job for a couple of months, rather than risk having the job done not following the protocol by the wrong person at a cost of their day-to-day duties.
Never discredit planning candidates based on lack of engineering degree
Especially for construction/delivery roles. Planning is not a science, it’s more of an art. Planners don’t have to be engineers. They have engineers on the team to support them. Just like they have the project manager, design managers and commercial managers and whole plethora of other project resources to work with and get advice from. Planners are facilitators with wide range of technical capabilities. Interpersonal skills or analytical skills are far more important that being able to estimate reinforcement in foundations.
Never assume that an individual who attends a P6 course can plan
Why? Because it takes 2 days to complete the course. There is no test at the end. You sit through equivalent of two long days at work in a classroom and get a certificate. If you can use a smartphone and a toaster, you can get through that course. Does having a certificate from Oracle make you a planner or a scheduler? Does it mean you have adequate project management and controls knowledge, that you can identify indicators of approaching failure in the programme or that you know how to apply best planning practice principles in real-life scenarios? Should it guarantee £400-£600+ a day? Certainly no. It gives you an introduction into the tool that you are likely to use in your career but it does not teach how to plan.
Scheduling software is just a tool, like a pencil. You can use a pencil to write a poem or you can use it to stab yourself in the eye. It’s all down to the individual how they use it. Please do not look for P6 trained individuals (first priority) with construction experience (second priority). What you should be looking for is construction planners who can also run schedules in P6 (if this is your client’s software of choice).
Remember, it takes years on site and a number of right project to become a planner. It only takes 2 days to sit through a P6 course.
Primavera P6 is not the only scheduling software out there
P6 certainly has a large share of the construction market. There are however other players. I’ve used Asta Power Project, tested Safran and Phoenix and a few other ones. I regularly use MS Project for some purposes in parallel with P6. Then from MSP I export the schedule if I want to play around with some ideas on my Mac or iPad which means I have to import the raw file into Merlin, because none of the other popular packages are supported by iOS.
Most planners know how to operate more than one type of software and most of these packages are similar. Remember, it takes years to become a planner. It takes days to get used to particular type of software. If you’ve found a great planner who doesn’t tick the software box, explain to your client why you think they would be a better fit than a P6 jockey.
Now last but not the least.
The grand finale.
The mind blowing piece of information.
The filter that no spreadsheet can provide you with.
Not all good planners are schedulers but all good schedulers are planners
Many people believe the above two terms are synonyms and many people think they can place either one of them in either of those two roles. Here’s a little secret – knowing one discipline does not automatically make you proficient in another. Interestingly in order to be a good scheduler, you need to be a planner but you can be a planner and have no interest in becoming a scheduler. What’s the difference? A planner has a wealth of construction knowledge and is able to build a complex construction plan using the wall, a roll of paper and a pencil (planning). He knows the ins and outs of the project. He understands site constraints, best practice and construction methodologies, what equipment and resources are required and how to sequence works in most efficient way. He understands the contractual requirements. However, he won’t always be interested in entering all that information into scheduling software (scheduling).
Planning experience is more valuable on the market than scheduling experience because the number of schedulers outweighs the number of planners tenfold. Good planners are a scarce resource. This is what the real demand is for and this is the kind of people companies want to pay top £ for.
There are companies that try to push schedulers with no site experience into planning roles just like there are 99 reasons why it’s not a good idea but it’s a topic for another article so bear with me and make sure to follow me if you’re interested to find out more!
Back to the point.
If you apply the above knowledge when shortlisting your candidates I guarantee you will improve your conversion rate. Just look at the market. If you know good planners looking for opportunities, you have my and my clients’ business.
This brings us into the realms of probabilistic planning, business strategies, risk management, and others, that we will explore in future parts of this guide.
Director | Project and Forensic Services
We are a London based, independent construction consultancy specialising in Project Services with Dispute Resolution Reachback. We act as interim managers but are open to longer commissions.
Our offer includes Planning Management, Commercial Management, Risk Management, Claims Management, Dispute Services, NEC Advice and Training.