Stop the turnover

When it comes to building a rack star talen pool, hiring doesn't mean much if organizations can't persuade people to stay

When it comes to building a rock star talent pool, hiring doesn't mean much if organizations can't persuade people to stay




Employers, take heed: As demand overtakes supply, project practitioners who aren't happy in their current positions will find plenty of opportunities to move on. Organizations must act today to ensure their talent doesn't walk out the door tomorrow.

By 2020, 15.7 million new project management jobs will be added around the globe, with an economic impact of more than US$18 trillion.

Source: Project Management Talent Gap Report, PMI

By 2020, 15.7 million new project management jobs will be added around the globe, with an economic impact of more than US$18 trillion, according to PMI's Project Management Talent Gap Report. In Brazil, that's 1.4 million project managers needed. In India, it's nearly 9 million. However, the demand for project management practitioners is not matched by the availability of talent with relevant project management skills, the report concludes.

A case in point: In 2013, 45 percent of talent managers in the oil and gas industry expected shortages of project managers over the next five years, according to human resources consulting firm Mercer.

Similarly, India's construction sector expects to require between 225,000 and 350,000 project managers by 2022, according to a 2013 KPMG report. However, the country likely will see only 120,000 new project management new project managers. Add to that startling discrepancy the fact that 54 percent of Indian workers are seriously considering leaving their jobs, according to Mercer, and organizations have plenty of incentive to keep their project practitioners satisfied.

“In most developing countries, the lack of project management resources has become a real problem,” as both companies and government entities increasingly recognize the value of project management, says Flavio Moreira, PMP, head of operations, Critical Software Brasil, São Paulo, Brazil. As a result, project managers in some areas of Brazil can ask for almost any salary, Mr. Moreira says.

Yet higher salaries aren't always the answer. “You don't want to keep people only by raising salaries, because the costs to the company become unbearable,” Mr. Moreira notes.

In addition to spending money on the turnover problem, organizations should consider these methods for attracting project practitioners—and keeping them.



Project managers thrive when they see the larger organizational strategy and understand how their initiatives affect it. “Project managers have a lot of passion for what they do. They like to feel like they're part of a greater good and can help organizations achieve their objectives,” says Scott Fass, PMP, managing director of advisory practice, PwC, a PMI Global Executive Council member in Washington, D.C., USA.

“Project managers like to feel like they're part of a greater good and can help organizations achieve their objectives,”


—Scott Fass, PMP, PwC, Washington, D.C., USA

A greater investment in the organization's strategic objectives leads to a greater sense of responsibility. Project managers at Critical Software Brasil have the power to make decisions and take action, Mr. Moreira says. When a project succeeds, they earn a performance-based bonus.

That doesn't mean indiscriminate applause, though. Project managers get rewarded when they hit project goals, but they're also responsible when they don't. “They're 100 percent accountable for results,” Mr. Moreira says. The reasons for the failure are analyzed and used to identify ways to prevent a recurrence. The analysis may highlight additional training the project manager requires.



It's in the title: Project managers manage projects—so companies that move them into operational roles when their projects conclude may experience attrition, says Jay Doherty, Richmond, Virginia, USA, a partner at Mercer and co-leader of Mercer's Workforce Sciences Institute. He notes that project managers tend to be more interested in building, rather than running, an operation. “When things settle down, they look for their next job.”

To mitigate that risk, some firms move project managers who are between assignments to other projects to keep those practitioners engaged. Management “has learned to protect this critical and scarce talent in down cycles,” Mr. Doherty says.



To ensure that project managers know they matter, organizations should ensure that project management itself matters. That starts at the top: Organizational support for project management means executive support, says Mayuresh Raut, PMP, a Bangalore, India-based chief operating officer with Doctor Eye, which provides remote diagnostics and operates emergency centers. “It shows the organization is serious about project managers.” With executive backing, project managers can more easily and successfully drive projects forward, he adds.

Executives should weave project management practices into the organization's cultural fabric. “Project management has to be institutionalized in companies,” Mr. Raut says.

Indeed, many experienced project managers will forgo higher salaries elsewhere to remain with a firm that has an established project management structure, says Mr. Doherty. An infrastructure of estimators, project engineers and other project practitioners means fewer headaches for the project managers. Without those resources, “it's often too hard to deliver these big projects. We have seen, in industries like oil and gas and mining, large capital projects put on hold because of the risks associated with insufficient experienced workers,” Mr. Doherty adds.

“[Executive support] shows the organization is serious about project managers.”

—Mayuresh Raut, PMP, Doctor Eye, Bangalore, India

Mr. Moreira says his firm tries to make sure that its project management practices are “the best available,” so project managers can be confident that they're learning and staying ahead of their peers. Project managers also can focus on their projects, rather than administrative details. For instance, a web-based tool allows other employees, provided they have the appropriate clearance, to access the project schedules, costs, pending actions and other information. “The project managers do not have to spend time filling in reports or asking their teams to provide information.”



Integrating project management into the organizational culture will make a difference to project practitioners, but so will other qualities of that culture. Whether it's a small corporation that provides professionals the opportunity to work in new areas or a large one with room for advancement, those cultural attributes should be touted to prospective and current employees.

Mavenir Systems, a telecommunications supplier, is “smaller, more nimble and less bureaucratic” than many of its competitors, says Pedro Rocha, PMP, a Barcelona, Spain-based program manager with the 600-employee company. As a result, project managers can shape their roles to their preferences, Mr. Rocha notes.

SFE Produksjon lets candidates know of its corporate social responsibility program, especially its focus on green, renewable energy. “Many potential applicants view the positive public image of the company as a favorable trait when considering applying for a position,” says Oyvind Huus, PMP, head of project management, SFE Produksjon, Sandane, Norway.



Organizations should resist the temptation to focus solely on people in their professional prime. Hiring managers can find and hold on to talent by tapping into both ends of the age spectrum.

SFE Produksjon's project management office intends to recruit from the organization's popular summer internship program. Conversely, some companies look for potential candidates among retirees, Mr. Doherty says. They can bring both experience and eagerness: Almost half of U.S. workers over the age of 50 plan to delay retirement, primarily due to financial considerations.


Project managers might feel the itch to leave a company in order to move up the career ladder. Organizations can hold on to those antsy employees by enabling them to advance their careers right where they are.


“It's really important to give [project managers] the opportunity to do different things.”

—Victor Alonso Lion, PMP, Madrid, Spain

In a 2013 employee survey at SFE Produksjon, which builds and operates hydroelectric power plants in Norway, 87 percent of the company's project practitioners ranked opportunities for professional development as important or very important, says Mr. Huus.

SFE “has a strong focus on knowledge and skills development,” Mr. Huus says. Project managers can take advantage of seminars, job rotation and other educational opportunities. Recently, the company engaged a seasoned project practitioner to conduct a one-day seminar on the lessons he acquired managing large hydroelectric power projects.

At Critical Software Brasil, the steps project practitioners must take to climb from assistant to project manager to senior project manager “are clearly defined in terms of responsibility and paths and what it takes to get from one role to another,” Mr. Moreira says.

Project managers at insurer AIG K.K. “are in a position to articulate where they want their careers to go,” says Murray Duke, PMP, project director, Tokyo, Japan—although he adds that they need to take the initiative to turn the opportunity into reality. As a global company, AIG offers project managers “immensely diverse types of projects” where they can develop and demonstrate their talents and skills. “The right project manager on the right project is in a position to catch the eye of senior decision-makers and really rocket his or her career upwards,” Mr. Duke adds.

Before an organization can take full advantage of its people's skills and interests, it needs to know what they are. Some project managers tend to thrive on a diversity of assignments. “They are afraid of doing the same thing all the time,” says Victor Alonso Lion, PMP, who runs a small project management consultancy in Madrid, Spain. “It's really important to give them the opportunity to do different things.”

High-performing organizations—those that complete at least 80 percent of their projects on time and budget and within scope—are significantly more likely to provide a defined project management career path, training or competency development, according to the 2014 PMI Pulse of the Profession® report. “Companies that are willing to invest even a small amount in a project management organization will find the value of the investment goes a long way,” Mr. Duke says.

Likewise, organizations need to invest in their project practitioners if they want to hold on to them, PM





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