Project management: The one essential skill to cope with change and disruption

Whether it’s dealing with labour shortages or a career switch in uncertain times, project management skills help both employers and employees gain a competitive edge

As the future of work continues to evolve, project management skills are ever more essential to help organisations and individuals work smarter. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

In the last two years, the global pandemic has closed international borders, restricted work travel, disrupted supply chain processes and caused job redundancy. In addition, the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Talent Gap Report 2021, which assesses project management employment and industry activity, also highlights an ageing workforce and rising retirement rates as factors behind an ongoing economic and demographic shift worldwide. 

All these point to one thing: That change is the only constant in our foreseeable future. However, it has also given organisations a golden opportunity to reshape workflows and change the way they manage employees.

“It’s a very volatile environment now, so to shape the future we have to move beyond reacting to things that are happening,” says Mr Ben Breen, global head of construction & managing director, Asia Pacific, at PMI, a leading authority on project management. 

A more flexible, hybrid workforce

According to US research and consulting firm Gartner, Inc, 51 per cent of knowledge workers – professionals in knowledge-intensive jobs like accountants and engineers – were working remotely in 2021, an increase from just 27 per cent in 2019. 

The result of this great leap? The birth of a more flexible, hybrid workforce that is increasingly aware, and even adamant, that it is possible to complete tasks and collaborate with others from the comfort of home. 

Soft skills such as active listening and emotional intelligence are becoming increasingly important as jobs requiring social interactions are a growing part of the global economy. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

As such, more organisations and employees are interacting remotely and across different time zones more frequently than before. Even traditional sections, such as the oil and steel industries, have had to adapt their business models and management styles to become “more agile” in order to retain the right talent and ensure business continuity. 

“Collaboration, empathy and communication have become more important and so has the need for project management skills across the board,” says Mr Breen.

What’s interesting, he adds, is how most of us may not hold the official title of a project manager, but we are managing projects all the time at work because industries are becoming “projectified”.

“More start-up companies, for instance, need employees (whom we call changemakers) to manage timelines and budgets, and so, run projects,” says Mr Breen. 

To help both organisations and changemakers work smarter as the world and workplaces continually evolve, PMI’s digital tools, networking opportunities and globally recognised certifications provide a competitive edge.

The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, for example, verifies if a person has the project leadership ability and experience to work smarter and perform better. For those looking to distinguish themselves in the job market, the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) will be valuable, while the PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP) certification recognises your ability to identify and analyse project risks, mitigate threats and leverage on opportunities to enhance and protect your organisation’s needs, particularly in these challenging times. 

One of PMI’s latest certifications, Construction Professional in Built Environment Projects (CPBEP), is PMI’s first industry-specific course and includes lessons on active listening –  an increasingly in-demand soft skill, or what Mr Breen prefers to call a “power skill”. These are social behaviours and abilities that complement employees’ technical skills, allowing people to work together and perform their jobs more effectively. 

As artificial intelligence robots, machines and digital technology take over repetitive tasks, humans will need to double down on uniquely human skills such as collaborative leadership, empathy for customers and colleagues, and innovative thinking, as explained in PMI’s Pulse of the Profession 2021 report.

Professionals who are PMI-certified can also benefit from its courses and training if they become members and enjoy access to its extensive network of more than 600,000 professionals across more than 200 countries.

Upskilling as a necessary employee benefit

If human resource leaders and organisations do not provide the opportunity for employees to upskill, they will find it more difficult to attract and retain top talent, as the new generation of workers are no longer solely interested in traditional employment benefits like medical insurance, bonuses, and wellness vouchers. 

In Singapore, career progression and personal development have emerged as key motivators for an employee's decision to stay, despite increasing workloads and stress being some of the key drivers behind the recent wave of resignations.

Project management training isn't just useful in traditional job settings; it can also be valuable to those starting side hustles in the gig economy. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

“Employees now want to be better and want to learn, and more people want to upskill themselves. Companies that are more open to change are more thriving,” says Mr Breen.

He shares that employers and organisations have to embrace change as more workers work remotely. “It’s no longer about being there from 9am to 5pm but about the outcomes that your staff can achieve. Hence, it is important to keep them upskilled and happy.” 

In addition, HR leaders themselves can benefit from having project management skills to manage employment and develop talent as businesses pick up and increase hiring. 

For employees, there’s the added value of possibly earning a higher salary. According to the PMI’s Earning Power: Project Management Salary Survey conducted between March and June last year, respondents in Singapore who had the PMP certification reported 13 per cent higher median salaries than those who did not. 

It’s also worth highlighting that project management doesn’t apply only to traditional jobs; it can come in useful for those starting side hustles in the gig economy, whether it’s drafting a business plan for a home-baking enterprise or juggling multiple freelance assignments. 

“Project management is perfect as it helps entrepreneurs to develop business strategies and manage time because the more efficient you are, the better you become,” explains Mr Breen. 

The 50-year-old father of three, who started his career as a project manager himself, says: “Everything is a project, even sending your kids to school, and everything is projectified – which is why having project management skills is an evergreen.”

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