The best way to develop young project managers

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Wednesday 15 July is World Youth Skills Day; an opportunity to reflect not only on how we as a profession are nurturing the talent pipeline, but also on perceptions of young people as a whole.

At a time when budgets are under scrutiny, it’s natural that any investment in the skills and abilities of employees will gravitate to areas that will generate the greatest returns. Anecdotally, I still hear a lot of more senior professionals express views of young people as ‘job hoppers’ who will move elsewhere after a year or two and take their skills with them.

However, the evidence paints a different picture. Earlier this year, The Economist reported that labour-market data showed younger workers remain more wedded to their current jobs than they were before the recession triggered by the 2008 financial crisis.

If younger employees are likely to be in it for the long-haul, then investing in their development cannot be seen as a box-ticking exercise. It’s essential.

But what exactly are the skills that employers should seek to develop among young project professionals? Every workplace – and project – will have unique requirements, but a good place to start would be to ask younger project professionals what they think are the most important skills.

We recently did just that, undertaking a poll of project professionals of all ages. Answers from those in the 16-24-year-old bracket are shown below (with figures rounded to the nearest one per cent):

In your opinion, what hard skill do you feel is most important for project professionals?

Financial management   15 %
Contract management and procurement   15 %
Health and safety   15 %
Planning support   13 %
Risk management   12 %
Digital skills (e.g. transformation, Internet of Things etc)   10 %
Language skills     9 %
Scheduling     9 %
There is no hard skill that I feel is most important for project professionals     3 %

 

 

 

 

 

In your opinion, what soft skill do you feel is most important for project professionals?

Team leadership/development   31 %
Teamwork   24 %
Time management   18 %
Communication   15 %
Adaptability/Flexibility     7 %
Conflict resolution     3 %
Advisory support     1 %
There is no soft skill that I feel is most important for project professionals     1 %

 

 

 

 

So what does this mean for training? What it doesn’t mean is that employers should prioritise the needs of its youngest employees above other peoples. Training programmes should, after all, meet the needs of the business first and foremost.

But what should be taken into account is the potential for up-and-coming project managers to stay with the same employer for several years. Such individuals can become an organisation’s greatest asset if they remain engaged and committed. The best way to achieve this is by demonstrating awareness and understanding of their ambitions and needs.

Employers should take the time to speak to junior members of the workforce, to understand how they want to progress within your business and how this can benefit both parties. That way, when organisations come to plan learning and development, they’ll be able to apply a truly tailored approach that’s right for them.

At a time when an increasing amount of learning is taking place remotely, employers shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that there is still great potential for mentoring and reverse mentoring, so that the more senior members of the workforce can gain new insights themselves, while still being able to support those who are at the start of their career journeys.

APM has a number of resources to help develop careers in project management, including advice on qualifications and training, and employer-designed apprenticeship schemes. Find out more.

 

Image: NDAB Creativity/Shutterstock

Caspar Bartington

Posted by Caspar Bartington on 14th Jul 2020

About the Author

Caspar Bartington is APM's Head of Volunteer and Education Engagement. He has more than 15 years’ experience in business development, marketing and engagement in the UK, along with roles servicing Africa and Asia. Caspar's roles have sat within awarding and professional bodies across a range of sectors, most recently financial services.

Caspar leads on APM's education outreach activity, including two Ambassador Networks, as well as APM's Diversity & Inclusion strategy.

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