Hiring, training, and letting go of project leads

Issue 1 of 5: The cold, hard facts

This is the first instalment of our mini-series on Training vs letting go of project leads.

Issue 1: The cold, hard facts
Issue 2: When to hire
Issue 3: When to train
Issue 4: When not to train
Issue 5: When to let them go

Let’s dig in:

Here’s a question: when should you hire project leads, when should you train them, and when should you give up on them all together? I’ve got a five-pronged hammer of tips for you. Yes, we just invented five-prong hammers and they’re terrific. However, before I let loose over the next five weeks, we have to set the record straight on a few items. Please hold.

Fact one
There’s a major skills and hiring gap for project leads

I get (on average) about seven requests a week from individuals and companies—the first half asking for a project management job from folks who lack the requisite skills. The other half asking for a mythical creature known as an available senior digital project lead. Or even more mythical, the senior who will take a $50K salary. Yep. We’ve got a skills gap, people. And we have a salary gap. This problem is real and it’s growing.

Fact two
It’s cheaper to hire and train mid-levels than to hire senior talent

We don’t recruit. We are an education company. We close the skills gap and partner with switched-on digital agencies, departments, and studios to close the salary gap—partners who are ready for this weird future in front of us (because it’s going to get so much weirder). We train digital PMs on the job and expect employers to pay because the return they get in better processes, happier teams, stronger client relationships, and increased profits is even greater than the increased salaries and career opportunities the apprentice will also get. That, and it costs anywhere from 20–50% of a senior PM’s salary to replace them. Plus, apprentices probably have $37K in student loans they’re paying off and don’t need the added debt in places where household debt is almost $2 for every dollar earned.

Fact three
You underappreciate your project leads

Digital project leads (or digital producers if you prefer) are freaking amazing. Never in my life have I encountered more resilient humans working their tails off who consistently get crapped on day after day by their managers, teammates, clients, and unhealthy set-up-to-fail projects (showers of crap from all sides). We get to train these amazing humans and be there for them every day—and we run a meetup where we pour out our collective PM guts, so, trust me, this sad truth is also a fact we hear daily. Project leads: I commend you. You are champs! Companies: better start treating them right.

Fact four
Project leads are the best investment you can make

Digital project leads are your BEST possible chance at improving your revenue, smoothing out your cash flow, strengthening your team culture, and improving your processes. They are the stretchy tendons that connect your people and projects together. They do the thankless work that ultimately keeps the lights on—kinda like you do, owners! They sweat over the details so you can steer the ship. And yes, it’s a team effort, but PMs don’t have egos, so chances are, you haven’t noticed the work they’ve put in this week, month, or year because they gave the credit to the team. I think it’s time to let them know they’ve been doing a fantastic job. Seriously, tell them. Every day is International PM Day. You heard me right.

Fact five
Companies have inordinate expectations of project leads

We’ve noticed an interesting pattern. Companies who expect the most out of their project leads are also at a loss for how to support them internally. Training isn’t a replacement for better two-way communication and proper professional development planning. It’s a foundational element. If you struggle with behaviours or reactive patterns from your project leads, think about the negative patterns your procurement, sales, and creative departments are reinforcing before for reaching out for a Louder Than Ten magic bullet. We can only help if your company is willing to let go of bad habits and make continuous improvement a regular part of your balanced breakfast.

So now you have the cold, hard facts.

Up next

Keep your peepers on your inbox. Next week we’ll be covering when to hire new project leads.

Get the word, bird

Our newsletter arrives as the crow flies.
Straight to your inbox, once in a while. No fluff.

We don’t spam or sell your info.