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1-in-5 IT Project Managers Wants to Quit (And How to Stop Them)

Show them they have a future and provide the right kinds of development

Man Leaving Walking Out of the DoorTwenty percent of IT project managers are thinking about quitting their jobs, and it’s not just the low performers. About 21% of the best project managers – those that are often classed as “entrepreneurial” – are also thinking about moving on to greener pastures.

A lot of this discontent stems from dissatisfaction with career opportunities. In fact, CEB data show that nearly 30% of project managers are dissatisfied with their future career opportunities and 25% are dissatisfied with their current development opportunities.

To make matters worse, one quarter of project managers feel that merit is not the basis for career advancement. This dissatisfaction among project managers has grave consequences for the IT project management office (PMO) — plummeting staff morale, loss of productivity, and delayed or failed projects.

Three Ways to Keep Them

To retain and engage their project managers, PMOs should:

  1. Create aspiration profiles: Helping individuals achieve their career aspirations and meet their development needs is a challenging task. Together with their staff, direct managers should create “aspiration profiles” to document project managers’ goals and facilitate targeted career development discussions.

    These kinds of discussions help PMO leaders and direct managers to match staff profiles with available opportunities, boosting engagement while fulfilling both operational needs and individual career interests.

  2. Provide “experience-based” learning: PMOs should focus less on formal classroom learning to develop their project managers, as experience-based learning is three times as effective at improving their performance.

    PMOs should provide development experiences that generate entrepreneurial skills that teach them about team leadership, working with line managers and other stakeholders, and help them acquire business knowledge.

    This type of development should be available to all project managers and be easy to take up. It should also be something that benefits the company, and not just a meaningless training exercise. Exposing project managers to a wide variety of experiences will help skill development and, in turn, career advancement.

  3. Update the performance evaluation process: PMOs typically use project budget, schedule, and methodology compliance to measure the performance of project managers. But PMOs should supplement these traditional measures with the project manager’s demonstration of entrepreneurial skills, such as judgment and team leadership.

    This will help team members grow into their next roles without compromising business priorities.


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