Five Highlights of the 2020 PMI Job Report

The Project Management Institute’s (PMI) membership magazine – PM Network – has just released the January issue with a report – 2020 Jobs Report – available for project management practitioners to take a look at (currently only available for members)

In the report there are some key industry sectors to keep an eye on as opportunities grow – as well as the impact of new technologies as we go deeper into the age of ‘digital disruption’.

The report also highlights the potential downturn heading our way and how that will impact us, as well as looking at the things we can be doing – to upskill and reskill when we face an uncertain future.

There is much to uncover in the report so here are just five areas covered and what that might mean for project management practitioners.

  1. Sectors to Watch

The report pulls out four industry sectors that deserve special mention as potential opportunity areas for jobs – these include telecoms and 5G; financial services technology (fintech); renewable energy and healthcare.

There are a couple of insights to pull from this. It’s potentially a great opportunity for project practitioners currently working in these sectors but what about others? Sure, there will always be sectors rising and falling when it comes to investment and therefore projects but in 2020 organisations are still hiring what they’ve always hired and job advertisements for these sectors will most likely have “must have telecoms experience” or equivalent.

What we’ve learnt over the years since the recession of 2008 is that there will, yet again, be a perceived skills shortlist in these rising sectors for project managers, yet there will some great talent in the marketplace getting overlooked. Will it be any different this time?

  1. AI Technologies

“74% of financial services organisations have already implemented, are trialling or plan to implement artificial intelligence, bots or machine learning” a big number! A report from PwC, “85% of CEOs believe that AI will significantly change the way they do business in the next 5 years.”

There’s two things here – AI in the solution of a project, delivered to a customer and AI being used by the project itself, to automate processes for example. It’s still early days for many of us, we’re still in a period of trying to understand what AI really means. One thing is clear though, if AI is going to figure highly in the workplace in the very near future, the business strategy and resulting plans need to be in place before any real adoption can start. Does your business have an AI-related business strategy?

PMO Flashmob – the networking and learning group – has spent the last year trying to understand the impacts of AI on projects – specifically the management of projects. During 2020, the focus is specifically on understanding automation and advanced analytics. There’s still a long way to go to understanding how it will work in reality and at the moment it’s generally the more curious that are taking the first steps in experimentation. Interested in finding out more? Sign up and stay informed.

The other insight was drawn from the financial services technology sector part of the report where the report states that startups are flooding the market and “behind those teams is an army of project managers who are geared toward scalability, growth, and automation”. Much is made about the digital disruption in the financial services sector today, innovation is key and technology companies are poised to offer solutions. What is interesting about this is, what does a fintech project manager look like? What are the key skills for a role in this environment? How does that differ from any number of project managers today? And crucially are the fintech project managers more likely to be using the advanced technologies of AI in their own projects as well as providing AI as a solution to their customers?

  1. Leadership

There’s nothing really new featured in the report around leadership – yes we have to be better with stakeholders and yes leading teams is important, yadda yadda. One area which is highlighted is empathy. I think most project managers today are well aware of emotional intelligence, with empathy being one of the key parts. I think the leadership and management practices being talked about from other institutions is much more advanced than just looking at one facet like empathy.

Take for example the Quarterly Insights Report from McKinsey, released at the end of 2019 it features a very interesting conversation with leaders of something called the, ‘Consortium for Advancing Adult Learning & Development (CAALD)’ which features business leaders and academics talking about the reskilling era and how leaders are implicated by this. The reskilling era is being born out of digital disruption, advanced workplace technologies and so on.

In the conversation they talk about how the biggest disruption to change is changing people’s habits. In project management we all know that change management is hard work and here they talk about the leader being aware of things like a growth mindset; psychological safety; ‘having agency’; the design of work and the workplace; unlearning and leaders being honest, positive, authentic and open. These are all different ways of looking at how teams are managed; stakeholders are communicated with and employees are motivated to perform.

When we see other leadership institutions about the future, we can see that just highlighting empathy as a key focus area for project managers in 2020 seems lacking.

  1. Lessons from the Last Recession

The report highlights that there is an economical storm brewing, and a turbulent year ahead. I think many of us in the UK already feel like things have been stagnant and there’s been a lack of confidence when it comes to investment from businesses – with thanks to Brexit.

The report shared lessons from the last recession as a reminder and as a pointer for the project manager’s careers in 2020. These included:

  1. Becoming indispensable to the business – standing out and going above and beyond
  2. Prioritising learning – not becoming obsolete and taking professional development into your own hands.
  3. Gaining new skills to use in another industry – agile skills were highlighted here
  4. Building professional networks that help open new doors
  5. Virtual working and being able to manage teams remotely.

There were two lessons from the 2008 recession that Arras People were acutely aware of.

The first was around the training and professional development side. When there were a lot more Project Managers in the marketplace for employers to choose from, one of the things many organisations did was shortlist based on the certifications they had. It wasn’t ideal but they were getting so many applications for roles that this was the quickest way for them to get to a shortlist.

The second was that many project managers didn’t have a network to fall back on, they hadn’t taken the time throughout their careers to build and maintain it. It’s like anything, we’re all busy, taking time out to grab a coffee or attend a meetup just didn’t happen. What we saw was people were gaining new opportunities via their networks during this time – not the job boards or employer websites. When times are tough, people do want to help and that’s why the network was so important to people during 2009-10.

  1. The Salary Patterns

There’s a figure in the report based on PMI’s Earning Power: Project Management Salary Survey 2019, which turns heads. There was a 22% salary increase reported by holders of the PMI’s PMP compared to those without. There are two ways of looking at that number. First, it shows the power of having a certification in your career of choice. Incidentally, why wouldn’t you have some kind of certification in your career of choice?

The second, well, the salary survey is from PMI and therefore aren’t the people who take the survey likely to be PMP certified, the last survey publicly available, in 2018, that figure was 82%.

The report also shows the countries with the highest median salaries for project managers. Perhaps no surprises to see Switzerland and the US at the top of the pile. What is not shared here is the context – the cost of living; employment policies and culture that all affect salary levels. Perhaps in 2021 we might start to see which countries provide the best career opportunity for project managers including standard of living; professional development; work/life balance and so on, rather than needing a high salary just to live in one of the most advanced countries in the world.

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