This One Question Can Solve Your Project Manager Shortage in 2020

Posted by Ben David on 1/2/20 11:15 AM
Ben David
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Every February and March, my email starts filling up with one specific kind of request.

Subject line: Need to fill project manager role. Yesterday.

Then my phone starts exploding. This has been the trend for a while now. Like just about every metro area in the country, the Twin Cities is experiencing an increasingly severe construction labor shortage. But, while most of the headlines are focused on the scarcity of skilled, hands-on laborers, the truth is, most construction companies are dealing with a prolonged, equally alarming dearth of more senior level employees.

Project Managers, Senior Project Managers, Division Managers, even leaders at the Vice President levels are extremely tough positions to fill. Given the severe talent shortage at these levels, candidates just don’t remain candidates for long. By the time most employers learn that a talented project manager is looking for a change, that project manager has already been snapped up by the company that was ready to hire.

There is a lesson to be learned there. What separates “most employers” from those fortunate few who often win the top talent? In a nutshell, it’s this: “ready to hire” does not necessarily mean “empty chair, needing to be filled.” Instead, these companies have adapted to current labor market realities by revising their hiring strategies. They know, from past experience, that if they get caught by surprise by a late winter, post-stay-bonus resignation, they face the very real possibility of lost contracts and lost revenue – to the tune of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

Until recently, many local contractors have tried to fight the battle for talent with just one weapon in their arsenal: competing on salary. To retain their employees, most contractors are paying annual merit increases that far, far exceed annual inflation or the “typical” raises of the past. But just about everyone is now competing on salary. Employers who win the battle are also using proactive, downright aggressive hiring tactics. These employers have done the math. They’d rather start recruiting in January and fill those critical management positions asap – even if that means temporarily exceeding the budgeted roles – and be ready for a productive year.

If you’re waiting for a resignation letter before you start recruiting, it’s often too late to keep your planned projects on pace. Worse, if you wait for that resignation letter, then try to save some money by doing your own recruiting, nine times out of ten, you will lose even more precious time before you get someone back in that chair.

In other words, your hiring process has started eating into your profits.

That leads me to the number one question I wish every hiring manager would start asking themselves every January:

When will you start to lose money?

Concept of time is money Eisenhower dollar coins on face of analog clockThat’s the question I ask every hiring manager with an open position. Their answer is usually 30-60 days. Within 30 days, you’re in danger of losing projects and at risk for suffering all of the other ripple effects that come with that: lost revenue, diminished profits, and reputational damage, to name just a few.

Would the costs of a temporary salary overage exceed the costs of those losses to your bottom line? It's highly unlikely.

The project manager position is a very, very tough one to fill. Great candidates have strong analytical and communication skills, along with a proven ability to master the details while never losing sight of the big picture. The top tier have all that plus extensive industry experience.

So if I could offer my clients just one piece of advice as the new year approaches, it would be to take another look at your projected project load for 2020. Now take a look at your current team of project managers. If one of them leaves, when will you start to lose money?

Right now, during the relative quiet of Minnesota winter, is an ideal time to sit down with your executive recruiter. Because we are immersed in this talent pool, we’re talking to candidates – both active and passive – every day. We know who's looking and who might be open to considering a great new opportunity. We also take the time to understand what different candidates are seeking from a job and an employer, and how those expectations align with current pay and benefit trends. And, when it's time to make a choice, we can help you sort through the real world tradeoffs between proven experience, raw talent, and potential. We'd love to work with you on building your 2020 team. Get in touch with us.



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Topics: For Employers, Project Management, Construction