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Straight Talk on Project Management

Upskilling

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Upskilling your IT Project Team – The future is adaptive

You’ll be aware that the IT Project talent market is a challenging one.

The traditional model of having a fully populated IT Project team is, for many, a thing of the past. Teams are more fluid and adaptable, actually, as one CIO put it to me, successful teams are becoming adaptive!

That adaptable/adaptive distinction fascinated me.

Adaptive means having a tendency to adjust, it’s second nature. It means developing the traits that enhance the probability of survival in evolving environments, it’s in your DNA, when I Googled “adaptive”, the most returned image was a chameleon! It’s not that you can adapt, you just do, cars that come with adaptive cruise adjust speed in relation to the vehicle ahead, for instance. 

Adaptive IT project teams have responded to talent challenges (where traditional resourcing, ie hiring someone, is not viable) in a number of ways, the two I’ve found most interesting are:

1 – Project Talent Resourced ‘as a Service’ (what we’ll call the Stoneseed way)

2 – Upskilling from Within (HR led learning and development)     

After a few interesting conversations with HR leaders about resourcing of IT Projects, I’m left with a feeling that, for the latter, to paraphrase Bob Dylan … “The Times They Are A-Changin’ … again”.

PM SKILLS ARE A SOLID L & D INVESTMENT

Despite ongoing economic instability and businesses cutting costs, project management skills are a solid L & D (learning and development) investment, according to Coursera and The Burning Glass Institute’s Skills Compass Report 2023. While the cost to develop PM skills, such as ours, is high, the return on the investment lasts as long as the person works for your firm or organisation.

As a measure of the pace of change in the general workplace, reportedly 37% of an average job’s skills have been replaced in the past five years alone. Jobs are becoming extinct! The Burning Glass Institute’s Matt Sigelman, wrote in a blog, “Such a breathtaking pace of change makes it very difficult to determine which skills to invest in or how different training options will pay off.”

So, it’s great news for project managers that we are bucking this trend. Project Management skills are becoming more valuable to the market!

Post-lockdown especially, a number of companies started upskilling existing employees with project management “power skills” to help deal with talent gaps and competency shortages – on the face of it this seemed like a shrewd investment!

The world is changing, the ways we work, even where we work from, is constantly evolving. Project management skills have become more critical in today’s business landscape. Project managers’ ability to plan, organise and manage complex projects while liaising with multiple stakeholders, problem solving and decision-making is unique, add in the capacity to flex to remote working and it’s a potent range of skills! Ours are truly transferable skills that can be put to use in many different sectors and industries, which is why Project Management is one of the fastest-growing careers and why upskilling your ‘obsolete rock stars’ for project management – seemed like a no brainer!

I was surprised then, to hear that some firms have begun to slow down learning and development programmes to upskill their current talent with Project Management superpowers.

L & D BUDGET PRESSURES

A handful of HR Managers and Leaders have told me that L&D budgets are shrinking for 2023/2024 and every penny spent is being scrutinised like never before.

A survey last year (2022) found, over half of HR leaders (54%) believed that their business leadership often viewed L&D as a cost and not an investment.

Leaders of learning programmes are under unprecedented pressure to demonstrate return on investment (ROI) (welcome to the club – right project teams!!!?). Intuitively, it’s obvious that upskilling your team with project management skills is an investment that will pay-off and payback the whole length of a person’s career – backing that up, with skills data to prove it though, is harder to do.

Previously, after a project management skills gap was identified, and HR advised there was a dearth of Project Management talent in the market (because we’re all so fabulous and in demand), gaps would be filled by L & D programmes – apprenticeship schemes would be launched, partnerships with universities would be brokered, mentoring initiatives would get set up, etc, etc.

More recently, the boards of these companies are increasingly saying, “Great!! What about ROI? Show us your working!”

This is where these HR leaders have been calling me, to ask for some great project management industry perspective to make the case for them. Now, we’re 800 words into a blog and I haven’t evangelised about Project Management as a Service (PMaaS), seasoned readers know what’s coming.

NEVER ENDING TRAINING

Actually, drilling down deeper with the HR leaders, yes, the cuts to L & D expenditure are an issue but that’s a symptom rather than a cause. In each of these cases, the initial investment of training a staff member to be a Project Manager or a Business Analyst is sound … the problem is that for PMs and BAs (etc) – training never ends.

Project management is a profession that requires constant learning and repeated upskilling. Project professionals have to keep pace with new trends, new technologies, new methodologies, and countless other changes. Project managers are expected to be up to date on all relevant issues affecting project delivery.

You show me a project manager who’s stopped learning their trade and I’ll show you a retired PM. Although, I don’t know about you, I suspect I’ll probably still be hitting up CIO.com and the PMI for years after I call it a day – it really gets in your blood doesn’t it?!

As the saying goes, “one swallow does not a summer make”, so a few HR leaders telling me their L & D budget for upskilling Project Managers is being reduced cannot be interpreted as a trend, but if more companies follow suit, it’s worth reflecting that there’s more than one way to resource IT projects!   

RESOURCING aaS

Since its launch, Stoneseed’s Project Management as a Service (your one stop for project human resources) has proved an invaluable service for project leaders, businesses and organisations faced with a project skills or resource shortage of any kind, and size and any duration.

Project Managers are increasingly turning to hybrid project management methodologies to meet their organisations’ unique and evolving needs. Again, this is creating a very nuanced training environment for HR leaders upskilling their workforce to fill gaps. Agile methods give teams the ability to be nimbler and adapt more quickly when changes occur and for reason Agile seems to be the go-to approach for upskilled talent.

The reactive nature of many post Covid IT Projects though, lends itself to an even more hybrid approach that allows teams to respond rapidly to changing project landscapes. A totally customisable approach, allowing teams to tailor their approach to their unique business needs and specific project demands is therefore the best approach – but it takes experience to know what methodology to deploy and when.

Stoneseed’s PMaaS takes all this hassle away. Even though they’re working on your project, it’s our responsibility, not yours, to keep the project talent up to speed with the latest trends and best practice.

And as for ROI, we’ve got your back here too, Stoneseed’s innovative commercial model delivers a very compelling case to take to the board.   

So, in conclusion, let’s …

  1. Celebrate the healthy position the project management profession finds itself in (we rock)
  2. Celebrate the HR leaders who have brought their existing talent into our fabulous profession (you rock)
  3. Remind ourselves that whatever block, gap, shortage, lack, opportunity, scarcity or challenge you face – PMaaS is the answer (Stoneseed rocks!).

 

 

Sources

https://www.stoneseed.co.uk/

The Skills Compass Report 2023 | Coursera For Business

As skills become obsolete at a ‘breathtaking’ pace, risk and project management remain solid L&D investments | HR Dive

Training and Development in the Workplace: Research & Statistics 2022 (talentlms.com)