The War for Project Management Talent?

“Talent Management” as a HRM led initiative was born out of a 1998 McKinsey publication, ‘The War for Talent’ which first highlighted that organisations would be battling it out to employ talented senior executives in the years to come due to an increasing ‘competitive knowledge based world’ and the subsequent impacts on both recruitment and retention. An updated report in 2001 – commissioned after the focus placed on ‘talent’ created a flurry of activity in corporate HR departments – had surveyed 13000 managers in the US and warned that the ‘war for talent’ would persist for at least two decades.

So what is Talent Management?

Interestingly the McKinsey papers never really defined ‘talent’ so what are talented managers and executives? In the book that followed the publications it was mentioned in the preface as, “talent is the sum of a person’s abilities… intrinsic gifts, skills, knowledge, experience, intelligence, judgement, attitude, character and drive” or in the case of managerial talent, “you just know when you see it”

Although the original report* has not been updated since the early part of the last decade, it left its mark with organisations that knew that people are ultimately their greatest asset.

War on TalentIt might seem strange to be talking about a lack of talented managers being available right now and although the economy has been through a tough time of late, the report also highlighted that in 2000-2001 when the economy last slowed there continued to be a demand for top managerial talent too – although at a slower rate. We might not be in the throes of war just now but it has been evident in the project management field over the last few years.

Within the report it talked about some of the challenges that organisations will be facing in the coming years. The challenge of the baby-boomer generation reaching retirement, with natural successors being thin on the ground. The change in attitudes and views of the working population at a managerial level now – their expectations around “developmental, financial and psychological rewards they’ll get from work are way up”. This coupled with less loyalty – moving jobs is much easier to do with technology enhancements like networking, job boards etc.

In our case, it is project management and project manager talent that we are specifically interested in and as the McKinsey reports suggests, many organisations are not prepared when it comes to managing the challenges that the ‘war’ and talent management will bring. The ultimate successful outcome is about ensuring your organisation is attractive to great talented people – and stops talented people from leaving when they feel underdeveloped, undervalued and underpaid.

But that also raises questions about those people who are not classed as ‘talented’, the average Joe who just performs well in their job, day in and day out?

296x500PMBRArras People’s Project Management Benchmark Report has also consistently shown over the years that the current project management landscape is top-heavy with the older baby boomer generations and not enough younger talent coming in at the bottom level.

PMI have also entered the discussion with their own talent management related reports:

 72% of senior management believe talent management will become increasingly important over the next three years, yet only 41% believe their company currently has an understood and accepted approach for managing talent strategically

PMI also released a fascinating number about the future need of project managers, predicting:

[tweetshare tweet=”15.7 million new project management roles globally between 2010 – 2020 – predicted by PMI” username=”projectmgmt”]

Here’s the original report from PMI about that.

Our question is – what does talent management really mean for project management?

In the McKinsey report there are five elements that make up a Successful Talent Formula. In our series of articles we will look at each specifically in relation to project management.

In the next article we’ll look at the first – instilling a talent mindset.

*Although the original report has not been updated, McKinsey have released discussions around the war for talent specifically for the digital age.

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