Project managers are accustomed to change and thrive on challenge, so how can you keep your permanent PMs engaged when the projects become routine?

Project managers like change; it’s the currency they deal with on a daily basis, alongside being regularly challenged. These are two facets within project management that attract good people into the profession in the first place.

However, not all companies have an on-going slate of projects that offer variety or even projects that present a challenge, which can leave project managers feeling disengaged and prone to seek opportunities elsewhere. The result is an unwanted turnover of staff.

So how can you ensure your PMs remain both engaged and keen to stay with your business?

Permanent vs Outsourced

The industry average, from our assessment, seems to indicate that permanent PMs make-up around 60% of a project workforce with an additional 40% of resources coming via engaging project management consultancies or contractors to flex up and down as the demand dictates.

Businesses generally should always aim to have a percentage of their project managers as permanent employees within their workforce. Delivery IP can be retained more readily within the project cohort and it can help project managers build longstanding relationships with sponsors and stakeholders to the mutual benefit of all.

Given that most project managers thrive on change and new challenges, how can businesses ensure these PMs stay engaged during slow periods of transformation and not lose them to either competitors or more flexible working arrangements, such as contract roles?

There are some key steps business can make to ensure that PMs stay on board.

Invest in Them

Ask most PMs and they will tell you that they like to expand their skill base. It makes them better at what they do and opens up new options for them in future engagements. Take the opportunity during the lulls in the business of delivery to uplift your project manager’s capability by sending them to relevant or bespoke courses that are interesting to them.

Alternately, the 70:20:10 ratio of learning is a good approach (whereby the 20% represents learning via collaboration): enable your team to seek out peer-to-peer networks that they can join in conversation with like-minded peers. It’s an opportunity to learn in a collaborative way from PMs undertaking similar roles.

Change their seats, change the view

There’s an old ice-breaker technique that at events or training, you move people around to facilitate engagement. A similar principle works for project managers who may have a flair for a certain type of project, business domain or even certain stakeholders within the business.

Do not let a PM become pigeon-holed and only delivering in one type of project area. Instead, seek to move them around once they reach a level of comfort. This will challenge your project managers to develop their skills in other areas as well as broaden the general ability of the whole team and ensure that everyone is more versatile and interchangeable.

Second Them to the Business

Solid business insights can be invaluable when delivering projects and during slow periods of project delivery activity, see if it’s possible to second your project managers to work within the business for a time.

The benefits for the project manager can be immense – not just in learning new skills but by giving them first-hand experience of how the underlying business works.

Most project managers have had other professional lives before coming into the profession so they are more adaptable than they may first appear.

Make Them Mentors

Acknowledge their skill set and provide your senior project managers, in particular, with the opportunity to mentor the less experienced project managers. This will increase their level of engagement within the group and also provide a useful distraction when they are not being fully challenged.

And Finally…

Pay your project managers well. They know what market rate is, or at least the ones you don’t wish to lose will. They are less likely to seek greener pastures if the company is recognising them adequately via their pay packet.

Whilst the above list is not exhaustive, it is a good guide to some of the options to consider to keep your permanent project managers engaged during slow periods within the business. It can also just be used a good general practice even during busy times.

Keeping a cohort of skilled individuals who know the delivery DNA of an organisation together is always a challenge but well worth the effort, particularly when the busy times come back around as they inevitably do.

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To speak to our team about how we can help your business deliver better projects, please contact us.

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Quay Consulting
Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team ...