Talent retention and ESG top issues for project management professionals

Simon Kaleski, Acting CEO of Australian Institute of Project Management

With over 73% of respondents claiming projects experienced staff shortages, 52% reporting delays due to sourcing key skills and 62% expecting ESG requirements to influence their projects and programs in the future, AIPM representatives are calling for greater investment in attracting new talent, fostering career development and upskilling from leaders in the profession to improve business outcomes and stay relevant within today’s market. 

AIPM’s newly released annual research report, based on a survey of the profession conducted in collaboration with KPMG Australia, on the ‘State of Project Management in Australia’ aims to help identify and elevate the key issues within the project management workforce.

What were the findings of the survey?

The fifth report instalment brings to light the increasing pressure facing project management professionals including an ageing workforce, supply chain issues, digital transformation projects and the emerging influence of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG).

The survey of project management professionals highlights trends and factors around the quality of project delivery. Topic areas in AIPM’s annual report also include:

Ageing workforce

Experienced project managers are approaching retirement with over 40% having 20+ years of experience. Firms must focus on attracting and developing emerging talent to prepare for the looming skills exodus. Yet, 42% said their firm wasn’t doing anything (or they didn’t know what they were doing) to attract and encourage emerging project professionals.

Project delivery performance

On-time project delivery has slipped in the past two years (32% of respondents compared to 42% of respondents in 2020), likely due to de-prioritisation, rise of complex projects, skills shortages, supply chain disruptions and other economic constraints.

Delivery of most projects in line with business goals is steady (50% compared to 51% in 2020), showing resilience in challenging times. Concerningly, 48% of respondents claimed stakeholder satisfaction and only 36% of projects were delivered on-budget most times.

Labour shortage

The report clearly calls for Australian organisations to deploy innovative and inclusive ways to attract people into the profession and to retain the experienced and qualified professionals already in place. 39% of respondents said team stress and burnout were increasing with a further 28% of the respondents saying their own stress and burnout were increasing.  

Several factors pointed to the under-valuing of project management as a profession. These included weakness in recruiting and appointing suitably skilled project managers and need for greater investment in continuing professional development. Many indicated that their firms did not offer a professional development path and career opportunities and about 30% indicated that their firm committed none or less than one day of professional development per year.

ESG

Australian organisations have accepted the need for action on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues, driving an increase in transformation projects. Organisations must recognise the need to put Project Management Offices at the helm to get the best ESG outcomes. Similarly, project professionals must upskill to lead these projects to success.

Respondents already understand the need for up-skilling as firms continue to incorporate ESG matters into business operations and strategy. The profession is seeing the impact: ESG specific roles are growing in demand, with hundreds of open positions in Australia alone.

Supply chain disruption

Supply chain constraints, resource scarcity and rising costs are some of the biggest disruptors facing the project profession. 44% of respondents had projects affected by supply chain disruption and 51% of the respondents faced rising costs of materials and/or staff. 

The report calls for supply chains to be reimagined to help firms build resilience and avoid material shortages and spiralling costs. Cultivating resilience through tech investment and strategic partnerships will help organisations better anticipate and respond to the unexpected.

Complex projects & digital transformation

Highlighting the need for evolution of project methods to keep pace with the complexity and agility of modern workplaces and projects, 57% believe that project complexity has increased with the use of artificial intelligence software increasing from 10-29% this year. 

AI will help to absorb more transactional project tasks and improving support for project professionals and execs. 74% of firms said its digital transformation projects are business-driven to improve customer experience, cost reduction and maintain competitive action.

AIPM is committed to continue to monitor ways of working for impacts on its certifications, members and the profession as a whole. Its certifications are aligned with best practices and ensure individuals can demonstrate their capabilities to drive project management excellence so they can meet strategic objectives for businesses in a dynamic environment.

What were AIPM’s thoughts on the findings?

Simon Kaleski, Acting CEO of Australian Institute of Project Management, said, “The broad effect of skills shortages and supply chain disruptions places immense pressure on the project management profession. These report findings raise the need for innovative and inclusive ways to bring more people into the profession and to retain and upskill the existing talent.”

“The C-suite critical leaders and decision-makers should consider attracting emerging talent, and mentoring and professional development are key focuses for their organisations. With 65% of respondents directly working on high-value projects in the past 12 months, it is crucial for the shortages not to hamper project success,” Simon Kaleski further added.