Failure to effectively plan the workforce means Government agencies have to take ‘pot luck’ in who they get to run important projects.
Peter Gershon (2008) in his review of Government use of IT services recommended a whole of Government IT Workforce Plan.
“Options for dealing with identified skills issues, including recruitment, training, and development in areas of skills shortages. With the combination of a common career structure and a workforce plan, it should become much easier to plan to smooth peaks and troughs of demand for ICT skills in individual agencies” (pg 70).
Why workforce planning?
‘Workforce planning’ is about making sure there are people available with the required experience and specialist knowledge and skills to be able to deliver project outcomes.
Issues like the skills shortage, baby boomer retirements, developing nations’ ravenous hunger for IT skills, the sustainability movement, terrorism and global warming threats are causing an evolution of project management that will only get bigger.
Developing your project management workforce is more critical right now than usual. There is less surplus cash and the Rudd Government has promised significant increases in infrastructure spending and delivery of Government services ‘by project’.
If we can’t find enough PMs to fit our current needs, how will we cope with a huge expansion?
The right approach to project workforce planning
It is important for organisations to plan ahead for expected projects, work out what will be needed to achieve outcomes and then plan recruitment, training and development on an ongoing basis.
Up-and-coming project managers need diverse development opportunities to learn real skills. Part of the workforce plan should be to set up opportunities for them to experience different kinds of projects after training.
Keeping PMs after recruitment
A reliable recruitment process is certainly the place to start – ensuring that people have the right attitude and aptitude to take on project roles.
But it’s not just about getting enough PMs in the first place. Part of workforce planning is working out how the organisation is going to keep them.
Without opportunities to learn and grow, people get disillusioned and leave for greener pastures. The Government needs to put practices in place that present the APS as a viable option for aspiring PMs.
Making a Start on Workforce Planning
For a robust workforce plan that delivers outstanding project management talent for an organisation, Transformed recommends:
- Better integration of projects with programme management and organisational strategic planning
- Diligent recruitment process that attract and select the right prospects
- Improved transition planning to move PMs between projects for experience
- Introduction of career paths and planning for PMs – from attraction through to succession planning
- Focus on holistically skilling up PMs – including important ‘people skills’
- Designing greater flexibility into project manager roles
- Providing support at an organisational level for PMs in development
- Creating sufficient opportunities for development of a broad range of skills
- Improving engagement of projects and PMs with the broader organisation
‘Review of the Australian Government’s Use of Information and Communication Technology’, Sir Peter Gershon, Aug 2008, Department of Finance and Deregulation – The Australian Government Information Management Office www.finance.gov.au/publications (viewed 18 Nov 08).
About Michael Young
Michael Young is the Managing Director of Transformed and the ACT Chapter President of the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM).