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Hold on to your project manager stars

By Dennis Sheehan, MAPM, MCMI Senior Training Consultant at ILX Group | 10 July 2015

Competition for the best project management talent is hotting up. With over a third of organisations planning to hire project managers in the next year, hanging on to the best people will be a challenge. It is particularly difficult to reward and promote project managers as there is no clearly defined career path for the profession so some companies are building their own “career lifecycle” for project managers – encompassing recruitment, development and retention.

An easy win is to make sure you are giving project managers a variety of projects to maintain their interest and develop their skills. Give project managers projects that match their skills and interests and they are more likely to stick around than those faced with the same type of project for the fifteenth time. Project managers also want to keep their accreditations up to date and welcome training that will help them keep up with Best Practice and the latest ideas. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can let project management talent slip through your fingers as it is always possible to buy in external expertise. Consultants have their place for a one-off specialist role that would be too much of a stretch for in-house people. But an over-dependency on consultants soon blinds an organisation to the possibilities of developing internal talent.

If someone does leave, an organisation should not instantly think of replacing him or her. If recruitment becomes about firefighting and filling gaps “whack-a-mole” style, it is time to start thinking strategically. If a top-level project manager leaves, it may make sense to recruit at a lower level, then train juniors to get a deep understanding of the organisation. Or if a tranche of middle managers walk away, perhaps it is time to put budget into a charismatic star performer who can lead by example.It is no longer possible to go to the job market with a wish list of skills and experience and expect to find them all in one candidate. One top tip is that if a candidate seems to have good soft skills but lacks an element of technical expertise they can be trained up in that more easily than developing people skills.

Successful companies are those attracting the best people, according to Bersin by Deloitte’s Predictions for 2015: “These organisations understand that people are not ‘talent’, they are people – with their own personal needs and aspirations . . .companies have to rethink their coaching and development strategies, their career mobility strategies, and how they develop and select leaders.” Get recruitment and development right and retention will be that much easier in the global contest for the best project managers.

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