Published in “Project Times” website, March 10, 2015
As the recovery takes hold and businesses become more comfortable investing money, top project managers have become scarce. In order to grow the business, improve profitability and accelerate cash flow, projects are integral. Having the ideas is “easy” in comparison to executing those ideas. Solid project management will ensure these results occur. Thus, those companies who retain top project management top will thrive and leave the rest in the dust. What can be done to ensure you are in the driver’s seat?
First, recognize that the world has flipped. During the recession, executives could ask for a broad set of skills, multiple certifications, vast experience and other superhero qualities and potentially find a project manager who fit the bill. Often, it was even possible to find someone willing to take the long term perspective on compensation. This ship has sailed!
In today’s environment, if you aren’t focused on retention, you not only will have trouble retaining top talent but it will also be challenging to locate top talent. Top talent is leaving for opportunities closer to home, for creative compensation packages, for greater flexibility – and for retirement. Thus, your priority must be on retaining talent to thrive.
The great news is that retaining top talent is not rocket science; it is actually quite simple. It is NOT easy to implement; however, it is simple. Consider a comprehensive approach to retaining top talent: 1) Focus on your top performers. 2) Address non-performers. 3) Provide passion and clarity on goals. 4) Ensure frequent communications.
- Focus on your top performers. Instead of focusing most of your energy on the issues and non-performers, focus the majority of your effort on your top talent. It sounds easy but is far from easy to implement. Yet this one simple rule can make all the difference in the world! The idea is to focus your efforts on those who drive your project and company’s results.
You must focus on your top talent with what you DO; not with what you say. Set up regular meetings to check in with your top talent. Do not reschedule for “the crisis of the day”. Stop by on a regular basis to show support and ask questions. Be visible and make sure it is a clear priority.
- Address non-performers. One of the best incentives for a top performer (assuming they are paid within reason for the role based on the market) is addressing non-performers. I typically see non-performers riding on the coattails of top performers yet no one is willing to address the issue. The problem is that the above average performers (and especially top performers) know exactly who is not performing, and it provides a constant source of frustration.
One of the best sources of motivation for a top performer is to know that the value of his/her work is understood; thus, slip-shot work will not be tolerated. A clear priority on maintaining a culture of accountability is cornerstone to success.
- Provide passion & clarity on goals: Undoubtedly, the vast majority of employees would prefer to make a difference while at work. It isn’t about just collecting a paycheck for top performers. Instead, he/she wants to know that their piece of the project directly contributes to a core company goal. Explain the company’s strategy and goals. Tie the project’s objectives to the company objectives. Clearly communicate the value of the project manager (and each team member) to these objectives. Demonstrate passion and excitement for these results and confidence in the team. Suddenly, focus and results will accelerate!
- Ensure frequent communications. Although this sounds like suggesting motherhood and apple pie, it is often overlooked, and, unfortunately, it is not nearly as easy as it sounds. My most successful clients are those who spend the majority of their time communicating.
Set up a communications strategy upfront. What makes sense for this particular project and project team? How often do critical path milestones occur? How often should communications occur to make sure bottlenecks are being addressed rapidly? How should communications occur? In person? Over the phone? Via a webinar? In emails?
For example, I’ve been working with a client on an ERP implementation. We had to change the day of the week for our communication updates in order to make sure the critical participants were available. We also had to change our mode of communication because the sharing of files was creating frustration for people working remotely and traveling. Both of these were easy fixes but greatly enhanced the effectiveness of the communications. Be willing to be flexible. Determine what works for the particular team and circumstances and modify your behavior instead of expecting others to cater to you.
My best clients support and deliver many millions of dollars of revenue growth and increased profitability through projects. Thus, what could be more important than retaining your top project management talent? Follow these four simple strategies, and results will follow.