What does a strong talent management practice look like in project management?

TalentI have devoted the last 25 years of a roughly 40-year career largely involved in the professional development of project and program managers. I’ve worked with some of the world’s largest organizations from all ten sectors of the S&P 500, as well as large government agencies in the U.S. and a handful of government agencies elsewhere in the world. I’ve also had the opportunity to consult to medium and small companies as well.

All of the organizations with whom I’ve worked have had their unique perspective on talent management practices in project management. However, through the years I’ve observed certain key characteristics of the strongest programs that were implemented by organizations willing to make the necessary, and serious, investment, of improving enterprise-wide project performance.

These include:

  • Defined career paths with associated experience, skills, and competency requirements
  • A formal, structured, professional development program that includes training, mentoring and coaching, and stretch assignments
  • Frequent and regular performance reviews and assessments
  • Strong alignment between the organization’s strategic goals, portfolio management, and project staff
  • An organization (such as a PMO) who “owns” the talent management practice and works on it daily
  • Sustained executive commitment to all of the above

Admittedly, medium and smaller companies and government agencies do not have the financial or personnel resources required to put into place all of the above. These efforts are costly, take time to mature, and require experienced personnel in a variety of roles to make happen. That didn’t stop many of them, however, from implementing certain initiatives to improve project outcomes.

However, the organizations that did the “Full Monty,” as it were, viewed these efforts as investments that would payoff in the end, especially as it related to employee engagement. And, according to PMI’s Whitepaper Building High-Performance Project Talent, “employees with the strongest commitment to their organizations gave 57% more effort and were 87% less likely to resign than employees who were disengaged.”   Replacing a specialized position such as a project manager can cost anywhere from 25-250% of the position’s salary.

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Employee engagement, of course, is only one benefit of a robust talent management practice. Better project outcomes, more satisfied customers and shareholders, improved market position, and other benefits accrue from such a practice as well.

If you work for an organization that’s struggling with project performance, you may want to assess your talent management practice as it relates to project management. While implementing the elements above is no guarantee of success, you’ll certainly experience greater success than that which your current approach is producing.

ps: The inspiration for this blog came from the report Rally The Talent To Win: Transforming Strategy into Reality (An Economist Intelligence Unit research program sponsored by PMI) which you can download from my website here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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