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Shortage of project managers sends businesses scrambling

Sharon Florentine | March 20, 2014
When it comes to project management, many organisations find themselves understaffed and that's putting them at a competitive disadvantage, according to a study by ESI International.

Project managers are in short supply, and that will leave many organizations woefully disadvantaged as the economy rebounds, according to a recent study by project management training company ESI International.

The ESI 2013 Project Manager Salary and Development Survey, based on data from 1,800 project managers in 12 different industries across the U.S., reports that as projects continue to increase in complexity and size, many organizations find themselves both understaffed and with underdeveloped project management professionals. And that's putting them at a competitive disadvantage.

"Budget constraints, an aging base of professionals and a looming talent war all contribute to a talent crisis that should be addressed from the highest levels of the organization," says Mark Bashrum, vice president of corporate marketing and open enrollment at ESI International.

Projects Managers
"The growing needs of businesses demand a more strategic view of the staffing, development and promotion of their project managers since project execution impacts an organization's bottom line and its ability to satisfy its customers," Bashrum says.

Too Many Projects, Not Enough Experienced Managers
The problem isn't a lack of project management professionals overall, says Bashrum, but rather it's finding experienced, senior talent. Add to that the larger issues of shortsighted hiring practices, a lack of competency planning, and a reduced focus on training and development, and many companies' business objectives are at risk, according to the study.

"Finding and retaining junior project managers is not so much the problem; it is really the mid-level and senior PMs who are so difficult to find," says Bashrum.

According to the survey, 44 percent of the reported project staffing shortages are for senior-level project managers, and 48 percent of survey respondents said it was "very difficult" to find senior talent. Unfortunately, it is this group of people that organizations depend on to deliver their most strategically important projects, Bashrum says.

There are three major factors contributing to the shortage of experienced project managers, Bashrum says:

As the economy rebounds, many organizations are growing. In and of itself, growth is a good thing for businesses, but growth means more markets, more products and more systems and that means more projects for which there aren't enough PMs.

Many project managers are reaching retirement age and leaving the workforce. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), 60 percent of their members are over the age of 40. "This is a real problem because these are the people who understand the business," says Bashrum. "Over the years they have not only acquired project management skills, but also an understanding of their industry and their organization; knowledge which is not easily replaced."

Many organizations have stopped actively developing their existing project manager talent due to reductions in training budgets. "In many cases, this means they have very little in the way of 'bench strength' and do not have a qualified group of mid-level project managers ready to move up to the senior ranks as project demand increases," he says.


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