Is it “National Clear Your Desk Week” or something?
My social media timelines are full of IT project management friends and acquaintances announcing new positions.
On LinkedIn resumés are being refreshed and updated, meanwhile Instagram and Facebook are full of photos of leaving dos (I’m even in some of them) and leaving gifts and “Good Luck” cards! And cardboard box makers must be rubbing their hands together with the amount of pot plants and “You Don’t Have to Be Mad To Work Here, But It Helps” signs that are on the move!
At Stoneseed, we provide IT Project resources via an on-demand model. Sometimes they’re long term and sometimes short, sometimes proactive (planned and booked way ahead) and other times reactive (it’s your PM that’s posting photos of flowers, balloons and Moonpig cards and you need a replacement now); sometimes it’s a full team and end to end PMO and other times just a single project manager or business analyst.
Now well into our second decade, we have got pretty good at spotting trends! Some are easier to spot – when your phone’s predictive text fills out the word “Congrats” every time you thumb in a “C”, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to join the dots!
The IT project talent gap that has been biting CIOs and HR leaders for the last few years has further tightened its vice-like jaw – top talent is moving on and it’s not getting easier to replace them! It has probably never been more important to retain staff, or at least have a cunning “as-a-Service” plan up your sleeve – oh and probably invest in cardboard to profit from all those boxes and greetings cards!!
OK the cardboard tip may not be the most lucrative but, based on recent talent conversations, these three most definitely are!
TOP 3 WAYS TO RETAIN IT PROJECT TALENT AND HOW TO REMAIN EFFECTIVE WHEN YOU CAN’T
1 – OFFER A COMPETITIVE SALARY
During a negotiation, a friend was told that his pay offer was commensurate with what the company believed his market value was, even though he’d been offered more than twice the proposed salary increase elsewhere! Needless to say, he did not sign a new contract. This was just short of a decade ago, I know that this manager has since retired and I hope he is the last of a breed dwindling into extinction, but it’s a reminder that the hiring or retaining company doesn’t always get to set what the market value of talent is – less so when there is a talent gap.
I remember sharing insights from APM’s Salary and Market Trends Survey back in 2021 that prompted a CIO to almost spit out his tea. Two years ago, the average salary of a project professional was £47.5k, and almost half (49% earned over £50k a year). Naturally then, offering a high salary is a great way to attract the best candidates, but for many (the tea spurting CIO among them), this is not an option. Alternative financial inducements are worth consideration, for instance: performance-related bonus schemes; above average paid holiday allowances (the birthday bonus holiday – a paid day off on your birthday is a great example I heard of recently); or pension contributions that exceed those offered by competitors; etc. Being creative with the perks you offer can distinguish you from rivals and help you attract, recruit and retain the top talent.
If talent driven salary expectations exceed your budgets, you might also consider resourcing your projects with talent via a flexible on demand model like Stoneseed’s Project Management as a Service (PMaaS).
2 – CREATE A CLEAR CAREER MAP
When more than 1 in 8 (82%) of employees say that they would quit their current job due to no clear path for career progression, creating such a map is a no-brainer. Hiring talent is no longer a one-and-done process, to retain top talent you have to give them a reason to stick around!
Fewer than half (48%) of employees feel that they have an advancement path with their current employer and according to the 2023 State Of Performance Enablement Research Report from Betterworks, even fewer (46%) don’t believe that their employer supports their career ambitions and aspirations.
A friend, who is a Director of People compares it to a relationship – after the flowers and the first date, you need to feel there’s a mutual commitment, that the relationship is “going somewhere”. In career terms, showing interest in and actively facilitating where your talent is heading can really cement your relationship with them and help attract and retain ambitious talent.
“It’s funny,” my HR friend told me, “For years I’d been asking candidates ‘where do you see yourself in five years?’ Then one day, a candidate flipped it and asked ‘where does the company see me?’ I didn’t have what I considered an acceptable answer, and so our greater focus on talent career paths was born. Our retention levels have measurably improved.”
Great ways to turn “engagement into marriage” include offering training, facilitating talent’s pursuit of PM qualifications and/or achieving chartered status. Of course, this will also increase their future employability and make them more attractive to hirers looking to poach the best talent (for every career ladder there’s a snake!) – but in many cases by investing in people you also make huge down payments on their loyalty. Talent progressing in their career have more purpose, more confidence and are more motivated to bring their ‘A-game’ and are less likely to leave.
Well trained talent does sometimes get lured away despite your investment in them. Also, these are uncertain times, one CIO confided this week that he didn’t even know if his organisation would exist in its current form a year from now, let alone five, against this backdrop it can be hard to conceive a competitive and authentic career plan for talent.
If you are finding that you are losing out to organisations offering longer term career progression than you can, or losing talent you invested in to higher paying competitors, remember that Stoneseed’s PMaaS and Business Analysis as a Service (BAaaS) can help with any short- or long-term project resource gaps.
3 – GREAT EXPECTATIONS AND HIGH IMPACT – MAKE ENGAGEMENTS ENGAGING!
According to Gallup’s 2023 State of the Global Workplace Report, nearly 6 out of 10 employees are quiet quitting – psychologically disengaged from work while physically still present or logged remotely into their computer. They don’t know why their work matters and don’t feel a bond with coworkers, manager or their organisation. Over half of employees are job seeking (either actively or passively).
Anecdotally, talent joining Stoneseed’s PMaaS team from permanent, in-house positions often tell us that they’re in search of more fulfilment, and there are two key causes they felt this was lacking in their previous role – lack of clear expectations and uncertainty around the impact and value of their work.
This talent testimony was backed up by a brilliant CIO.com article back in May 2023 that tapped into the insights of former CIO and staffing expert Ellen Shepard. In “12 reasons good employees leave — and how to prevent it” we were told that organisations with onboarding programmes that “outline what new hires are expected to achieve in the first six months, and that have managers who subsequently work with employees to together set new goals, tend to have better retention rates.”
Agreed and understood expectations are vital and so is an individual’s comprehension of the impact of their work towards enterprise goals. In the same CIO post, Anna Gajda, vice president of people and enablement at LeanIX, a German maker of technology management software, says it’s among of the top reasons workers give for leaving their jobs.
“Does the work I’m doing drive the company? How does my work improve a product? How well do I understand whether my work is helping solve problems? And how much freedom do I have as an engineer to solve issues?” are questions that talent might ask according to Anna Gajda. I think it’s important that managers have answers to these questions and more importantly strategies to back them up.
Gajda says LeanIX has “systems” that let employees know how their work helps meet enterprise goals, and leaders articulate objectives and request that engineers create quarterly key results to achieve so they can see that they’re hitting their goals. This is all backed up with monthly “all-hands meetings” to showcase successes and “biweekly retrospectives to discuss progress, new products and features delivered, and the individuals who made all that happen”.
Transparency, good governance and processes, relevant metrics and KPIs, and effective links between your business strategy and project delivery all allow for greater visibility of an individual’s impact (both for the individual and the enterprise). Sound familiar?
As I typed the last paragraph, three letters sprang to mind – PMO!
It would be interesting to ask project talent seeking clearer expectations and greater awareness of their impact to rate the effectiveness of their Project Management Office (PMO). To quote our website, “At the heart of every successful project team lies a Project Management Office (PMO), ensuring well defined processes and governance, planning, forecasting, project resourcing, the foundations for success. Your PMO is that invaluable link between your business strategy and project delivery.”
Stoneseed offer a complete Project Management Office (PMO) range of services from provision of single resources to a team of PMO experts; or a full PMO service package via a Managed Service. If you have a PMO you wish to refine and improve, we also offer PMO Consultancy.
So, there we go!
The key takeaway from this – retain your talent if you can, have a decent Project Management as a Service provider on speed dial if you can’t! AND remember that your PMaaS resource partner might be able to help with systems and processes that will help you retain them as well!
Oh, and forget gold … these days … all the wise money is going into cardboard.