Saturday, March 22, 2008

How to keep Project Managers

As I noted in my post on the 08Mar2008 there is a new breed of project manager out there that is mainly made up of Gen Y and Gen X individuals who are looking for more in a company. Long gone are the days of an employee being dedicated to one employer for their entire career. So what can we do to try to keep them for as long as possible? This new breed of Project Manager is looking for: mentoring, training, a good work environment, different types of projects, flexible schedules and appropriate salaries.

Mentoring – The managers and leaders of the PMO are responsible for having a system in place to help their project managers build their skills, point out where they are lacking so they can continue to grow with their company. Examples of this include sitting in on meetings the PM is conducting and critiquing them. Also, auditing their projects to determine if they are complying with your PMO policies, procedures and methodologies. If we do not point out and correct their flaws their projects and your company may be at risk.

Training – Whether your PMO has an internal trainer or you send your staff off-site to receive training it is key to keep your staff fresh and current with Project Management methodologies and trends. Within my own PMO I have Executive buy-in on a yearly budget which includes training classes and events I would like to send my staff to. I also keep an eye open for websites with PM related articles and Pod Casts which I send to them the first week of every month (they now anticipate this and some of my project managers stop by my office after reviewing the article to discuss it with me).

Once you have mentoring and training in place you need to have a career development plan for your staff. By setting bench marks for staff you give them a goal to focus on to move to the next level (possible job titles may be: Project Coordinator -> Associate Project Manager -> Project Manager –> Senior Project Manager -> Manager in the PMO -> Portfolio Manager).

Good Work Environment - Who doesn’t want this? This is an important key to attracting and retaining great staff. If your company has a high turn over rate do you know why? To determine if your company has a toxic work environment you can conduct an anonymous survey (link to and conduct exit interviews with staff that are moving on. Another option is to bring in a consultant to develop a report based on staff interviews. With these 2 key elements you can determine where your company needs to improve.

Project Mix-up: Project Managers want the opportunity to manage different types of projects. This helps to challenge them instead of taking on the same type of project over and over again.  An example of this is to give your staff process improvement projects. 

Flexible Work Schedules – Many companies are adopting these practices as technology changes the way we communicate and as our projects spread outside our company’s time zone. This change is more prevalent in industry then it is in academia which is still heavily focused on the butt in the seat time.

Do your employees have a good work life balance? We give our staff vacation time to spend time with their families and to allow them to just let their hair down. If it is a requirement that your staff must have access to email and cell phones at all times, you must give them the tools to keep in touch with their teams. I’ve worked with companies before where the project managers are required to keep in touch at all times, yet they did not provide the right tools (laptop, high speed internet, cell phone/blackberry) to do this. This, again, is part of the work environment. That is, if you give your staff the tools they need to do their jobs they reduce the risk of falling behind on their projects (big benefit at a low cost).

Appropriate Salaries - If your company does not stay competitive with companies within the region how can you expect to attract quality employees and retain them? At the same time you cannot throw money at your staff and expect them to be happy if you do not have any of the items outlined above in place.

As Project Management continues to infiltrate more and more companies creating more and more PM related jobs, it is key for companies to have a plan for their staff (PMO or not). If they don’t, their new hires will spend time looking out the window for the next big fish to bite so they can move on.


  1. Nice post! You have good points to focus and control any project manager.
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  2. Hi Ryan,

    Enjoyed this post very much! Especially the mentoring component. Too often people forget the value of a good mentoring program. By any chance do you or have you considered adding a collaboration site for all your project managers that may be a location to download podcasts, articles, etc?

    Great post!


  3. Gina,

    We do have a training section within our PMO's SharePoint site with links to possible training opportunities, but we have not gone as far to add a section for good blog/podcast links (typically I email the PMs with them).

    Looks like a great idea, that I should add to my PMO!

  4. Hello Ryan,
    All of the elements on your list are the priorities for my jobhunt. Some companies just don't get it. Even if I can get only 70%, that would be great. Thanks for the post, I thought it was excellent. Most places are completely missing mentoring and training when it matters the most.


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