What will project managers of the future need to prepare for?

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More work is now organised around core processes and projects. Project management is evolving into a critical personal asset to ensure the work is done right and on time. These activities must be accomplished quickly, effectively, and efficiently. As COVID-19 changes the world we work in, it’s important to think about the future of work, and workers.

Some believe that approximately 70 per cent of the work in the future will be project based, a significant increase over today’s percentage. Most consulting, engineering, and medicine are already 100 per cent project based. When customer expectations are sky high and competition is deadly, the conventional wisdom is that project teams differentiate winners from losers.

Many of the skills a project professional needs in the future are those that have always been necessary, such as communication, leadership and technical knowledge. But additional skills to focus on including emotional intelligence and behavioural psychology are vital. Why? The project workforce is changing. It is the gig economy; where companies will hire foreign, remote, skilled workers in the future to help fill the gap.

What is a gig economy?

A gig economy involves a workforce comprising of direct hires, freelancer consultants, and contractor workers that usually want to work remotely. As remote working becomes the norm during the pandemic, more people may want to continue working from home when the crisis is over anyway, hiring freelancers will become more common.

Many also do not want to work full time and millennials have been leading this trend. There are pros and cons to a gig economy where workers are flexible which means they can be more enthusiastic and motivated about their work, but they aren’t in the office from nine to five, may struggle to find work and currently somegig workers are facing serious challenges due to the unprecedented pandemic.

Key pros of a gig economy could include:

  • Finding talented people. If there is a talent shortage within the profession, companies can search for gig talent nation and worldwide, and can hire more senior talent on a part time basis.
  • Enthusiasm and motivation. Gig workers are often selective about the organisations they work with, and the type of work they do, so they tend to go for the jobs that keep them happy and passionate.
  • Cost. Gig workers usually do their own training on subjects in their area of expertise.

Key cons of a gig economy might include:

  • Limited access to sensitive company data. This can limit the amount and type of work they can do as they are not full-time employees under the same regulations.
  • Integration. It can be difficult to integrate freelancers and gig workers into the direct hire workforce and how they receive benefits, if at all.
  • Company training. How would this be managed? Often it can be difficult to train freelancers formally on company policies and procedures. 

Given this workplace trend, how are project managers affected?

The project managers of the future must learn to manage a diverse team. As the gig economy grows and remote working is a favourable choice, the future of the workplace might include a team that will have cultural and language interpretation differences. Geographically, team members will come from domestic and foreign sources, and remote working may be the only option. So, as project professionals we need to improve and refine our communication skills to be clear and effective for the team, management and customers.

The logistics of communicating with a gig team will most likely be a video conferencing system as well as emails and phone calls. Based on my experience, 30 per cent of the video conference call is spent on the mechanics of it. 70 per cent is based on content discussions so project professionals need to hone these skills. It can become a highly efficient way to communicate since face to face meetings will become minimal.

Project managers who possess self-awareness are usually excellent at relationship management or emotional intelligence. As a result, they have the capability to build an effective team based on teamwork, collaboration, inspirational leadership, and leading from the front. This ultimately contributes to project success.

Often we find it difficult to motivate people to complete the project on time, cost, scope and quality. Within project management managing people, behaviour, and emotions are not always stressed upon. But this situation will improve in the future, and has already begun as project managers learn to motivate and lead a diverse remote teams.


Project managers will need to hone their skills and knowledge required to manage and lead a successful project team in the future. They will also need ‘soft skills’ comprising emotional intelligence and behavioural psychology. Additionally, excellent communications, listening, understanding, and leadership skills. Why? The new workforce or gig economy will be geographically and culturally diverse. As a result, a future project manager will face many new challenges to lead the project team to success.

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Image: Dervish45/Shutterstock.com

John Ayers

Posted by John Ayers on 8th Apr 2020

About the Author

Currently John is an author, writer and consultant. He authored a book entitled ‘Project Risk Management. He has written numerous risk papers and articles. He writes a risk column for CERM. 

John earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering and MS in Engineering Management from Northeastern University. He has extensive experience with commercial and DOD companies. He is a member of PMI (Project Management Institute). John has managed numerous large high technical development programs worth in excessive of $100M. He has extensive subcontract management experience domestically and foreign.  John has held a number of positions over his career including: Director of Programs; Director of Operations; Program Manager; Project Engineer; Engineering Manager; and Design Engineer.  He has experience with: design; manufacturing; test; integration; subcontract management; contracts; project management; risk management; and quality control.  John is a certified six sigma specialist, and certified to level 2 EVM (earned value management).https://projectriskmanagement.info/

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