business innovation - Project Management
business innovation - Project Management
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Let’s start with a question: Do we still need project managers? Well, the answer is a big, unequivocal yes. For many reasons that are all equally important, but first, let’s take a look at this intriguing data that will set the stage for the rest of this article:

  • Through 2027, the project management-oriented labour force is expected to grow by 33%, or nearly 22 million new jobs.
  • By 2027, employers will need nearly 88 million individuals in project management-oriented roles. 
  • And finally, China and India will represent more than 75% of the total project management-oriented employment.

And, guess what, the sector is growing. 

According to the PMI Report published in 2021, project management is a growing career. Some 61% of companies are committed to providing some kind of project management training. Some 47% of companies also claim to have defined specific career paths for project managers. 

This study about the Talent Gap reveals that around 25 million new project management professionals will be needed by 2030. The message for those entering a professional future would seem to be clear: those who govern change rather than undergo it are the winners of present and future professional challenges.

The Impact of Automation and Digitisation: Challenges and Opportunities Ahead

Not a day goes by without someone sounding the alarm about the potential job losses due to digitisation and automation.

Data – we are told – are impressive:

  • 85 million jobs will disappear by 2026 as a result of digitisation. 
  • The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that up to 30% per cent of global working hours could be automated by 2030. 
  • Goldman Sachs also estimates that around two-thirds of current jobs will be exposed to some degree of automation: this could lead to 300 million workers worldwide being replaced by artificial intelligence systems.
  • According to Distrelec, in Italy, the impact of automation could affect around 2 million jobs, the highest number in Europe, after Germany and France. 

Some sectors and related occupations, we are also told, would be more at risk than others. The sectors that will be most affected, according to analysts, will be administration and law, banking and finance. The occupations most affected by the impact of automation would thus be office workers, researchers and engineers, construction workers, and legal and social workers.

Please wait before you worry. There is enormous potential behind the transformative and disruptive forces of automation and digitisation.

Jobs are not going to vanish; they are going to transform. Sectors that require green skills (from specialists in sustainability to experts in renewable energy sources) and digital skills (from Artificial Intelligence specialists to fintech engineers and digital transformation specialists) are expected to grow in line with public investments aimed at incentivising companies to invest in those areas.

Amidst the many uncertainties accompanying these transformations, both present and future workers have only one certainty: to invest in themselves continuously. The first and by far most important of all professional projects that workers in the 2020s and beyond will have to manage concerns themselves.

For Project management, this means primarily bringing together personal organisation, knowledge and skills, especially the new ones, which we now call “transversal”. Here are some of them: 

  • the ability to collect and analyse streams of data from different sources; 
  • awareness to manage discordant information in a timely manner, filtering out the reliable from the false; 
  • imagination and strategic creativity, to be wielded through communication via all major media channels, both traditional and digital; 
  • and, above all, the ability to create consensus and trust on controversial (and rapidly changing) issues, interacting with different voices and actors.

The project manager of the near future is a mix of all these skills, which is why they will become a valuable asset for any company.

The Human Element in Project Management: The Role of Empathy and Managerial Skills

You may be wondering: is that all? Will (more) training and (more) skills make me a successful project manager?

Not so fast. We already said that among the key ingredients of project management, there are organisational skills (the capacity to help a team organise and carry out the work within the project perimeter while keeping the focus on timing and cost monitoring) and knowledge skills (the capacity to ensure that all best practices in the field are always implemented).

According to the “Pulse of Professions 2020 study conducted by PMI, the core skills are:

One talent is missing, and it is rare to find. It is called empathy. It involves an ability to perceive others’ feelings, to imagine why someone might be feeling a certain way, and to have concern for their welfare. Helen Riess, a researcher who devoted her career to the study of empathy, has written that the world would benefit from a true “empathy revolution”.

Empathy skills are crucial to project management and have tangible benefits in the business world: 

  • A Catalyst research found that non-empathetic leadership can cause irreversible damage to the quality of work. Consider this: only 13% of workers with unempathetic leaders say they often succeed in being innovative at work.
  • The Harvard Business Review found that among the world’s leading companies, those that base their approach on empathy outperform their “non-empathisers” by 20%.

What do we need to nurture talented, motivated and empathic project managers? The business environment is very important to understand its deep implications on managerial skills and business success. 

The ability to attract and retain the best talents available on the market is primarily a managerial challenge for any company. Every business firm, whether large or small, needs to create an attractive and rewarding professional offering for those who work in it or would like to do so.

This was not always the case. Ready to travel back in time? We go back to the second half of the 1980s. A company that aims to thrive in the market needs two basic elements: machinery (assets) and manpower. The market at the time rewards market capitalisation, that is, the price investors would be willing to pay to buy shares in that company. 

Let us leap forward now. We are in the 1990s. Both indicators have lost prominence:

  • Physical assets are perceived by companies as a burden that slows down business performance. Do you own an Apple smartphone? You may want to know that the company that markets it does not own any of the factories where it was manufactured.
  • The workforce remains crucial, of course. But digital technologies have irreversibly changed the way people work, their production times, contractual forms and skills. If you ordered lunch today through an app on your phone, got around by calling an Uber and maybe slept in an Airbnb accommodation, well you should be aware that none of the people who “worked for you” are employees of the companies you contacted.

What does this mean for managerial skills? Mainly two things. Firstly, project management runs horizontally and no longer vertically (top-down). Second, that the company and its management are part of a networked system in which each node depends on the others. Successful business ideas can only be generated if there is a horizontal, networked base from which they gain strength.

This also explains why project managers have excellent opportunities for professional and salary advancement are also quite attractive. For example: 

  • in Italy, the average salary of a project manager is €51,500 gross per year (about €2,500 net per month) and includes base salary plus bonuses. With increasing years of experience, however, the salary rises significantly. Is above €66,000 gross per year after 10 years of experience, up to over €80,000 gross per year after 20 years of experience. 

  • In Spain, the average pay for a Project Manager ranges between €43,000 to €48,000 per year. In Denmark, the average salary for a Project Manager is DKK 96,000 per month, whereas in Austria may be up to €66,097 per year. Finally, in Ireland, a Project Manager may be expected to be paid €70,000 annually or €35.90 per hour
  • Let’s have a look outside of Europe. In the US, a Project Coordinator can earn $58,976, an Assistant Project Manager $50,680 and a Senior Project Manager $164,777. In India, the average salary as a Project Manager is INR 1,960,000 per year. In China, the average salary as a Project Manager is ¥65,000 per month.

One last point worth mentioning. Some claim that empathy is an inborn talent. But, in fact, empathy can be taught and learned. In 2020, we interviewed Anna Cappi, a leadership and development expert and former faculty member for the Project Management Program at Talent Garden Copenhagen. Through a network of professionals of different backgrounds and professional seniority, you can generate a virtuous exchange of knowledge and (both hard and soft) skills, including how to empathise in human relations.

Wrapping It Up

We opened this article by asking whether the figure of the project manager still makes sense in today’s professional landscape. We switched from the formation of skills, managerial and otherwise, to business transformation.

We said that in a professional landscape that evolves more fast-paced than before (and one that does so in a hardly predictable manner), skills-training and updating have become the “invisible boundary” separating those capable of strategically managing complex, long-term projects from those from the unskilled or low-skilled workforce.

There is no doubt that the best interpreter (and agent) of these transformations is already today – and will increasingly be in the future – the project manager. 

And you: are you up to this challenge? 

Whether you are a young professional taking your first steps in the job market or a seasoned professional who already has a solid career behind him/herself, you would be wise to consider a training or upskilling course in project management. There are many good reasons for this, but one is the most important: to lead (rather than be driven by) changes.

Article updated on: 06 October 2023
Talent Garden
Written by
Talent Garden, Digital Skills Academy

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