Urgent: Talent Managers Needed

Last Updated Jun 17, 2008 2:36 PM EDT

The fight for qualified project professionals is becoming dog-eat-dog. It's driving up costs and driving away loyalty, says Greg Balestrero, the chief executive of the Project Management Institute (PMI), a global organisation for project managers.

A PMI/Economist Intelligence Unit survey on talent management found:

  • Over 95 per cent agreed that their organisational success hinges on finding people with the right skills.
  • Only 12 per cent believe their companies are any good at finding these skilled people.
  • 72 per cent say business performance has suffered as a result of skills gaps.
Yet less than half of them are directing the company to invest in skilled labour -- that means built-in career paths, talent management, the kind of model you'd see in GE or in corporate universities such as those run by Motorola or Huawei.

Three things get in the way of talent management:

  1. Lack of management directives
  2. Lack of time
  3. Other priorities
"All it says is that talent management isn't a priority," says Balestrero. "The companies that have higher returns are those which invest more in talent management. So it seems to be counter-intuitive."

The problem? "Rapid growth yields urgency, and urgency leads people to chase the job not the career." He explains what's going on -- and how it affects managers worldwide.
Where's the pressure coming from?
Countries with high GDP growth need to find the most talented people to manage this growth.
China, India, to some extent Pakistan, and the countries in the Persian Gulf, are all witnessing what I'd call scheduled compression on major change initiatives. They start out with a schedule on an activity and, a third of the way through, compress it by 25 per cent. Even if it costs them double, they know they'll get the money back.

Environmental issues are adding to the sense of urgency: the combination of heavy demand and limited resources are ramping up project speeds and costs. Add to this the trend to ever-shorter product lifecycles in technology and you're left with companies scrambling to hire the best they can.

How is it affecting skilled workers?
Talent management makes you think that this is some sort of intellectual pursuit. But it's ruthless. It's a rigorous attack -- if I can get your people by paying them 30 per cent more, I'll pay them.

It's unfortunate, because it proliferates this 'free agent nation' that started with the lay-offs of the early 1990s -- what we used to call the 401K, the portable retirement plan.

Everything has become about taking care of yourself first. Qualified project managers have globally recognised credentials and will be asking themselves, 'what's in it for me? Is it about the money or do I have a career to look forward to?'

The question is: what's the next generation going to look like, the kids who are now eight years old?

Is this sustainable?
The cost of churn is such that it will soon become cheaper to develop careers.

CEOs don't spend enough time evaluating what they need to fulfill a strategy. You have to be obsessed with connecting strategy and results -- delivering projects on time, on yield and with transparency.

Talent managers have to identify strategies and figure out how to convert these into action. What are the core competencies you need? Where do you get these people?

Is the war for talent hotting up? Let us know what you think.