In February 2019 we conducted a survey to better understand both the technical and soft skills that project managers believe are important in their role.
While probably not an exhaustive list, we included the following skills and simply asked for each one to be given a level of importance – ranging from “Slightly Important” to “Very Important”.
- Scope Management
- Resource Management
- Risk & Issue Management
- Task Management
- Budgeting & Forecasting
- Quality Management
- Project Planning (WBS/PERT/CPM/etc.)
- Change Management
- Cost Control
- Project Performance & Measurement
- Vendor Management
- Contract Management
- Business Case Preparation
- Meeting Management
- Decision Making
- Trust Building
- Problem Solving
- Active Listening
- Team Building
- Conflict Management
- Political & Cultural Awareness
Our focus was on getting the views of project management professionals, specifically people who are in the role of either project manager or program manager and who use both the technical and soft skills in their everyday role.
We also look at how long they had been in a project management role as this would give us an idea of whether the importance placed on any skill changed, the more experienced you became.
Results - Technical Skills
It was no surprise to see that all technical skills were deemed to be important, with at least 88% of responses rating each of them with a positive level of importance. 100% of people think that Risk Management is an important skill to possess (91% said it was Fairly or Very Important).
Scope and Resource Management also got support from 100% of respondents, however only 88% said that these were fairly or very important.
The ability to Manage Meetings and Scheduling rounded out the top “5”.
Surprisingly, the skills judged least important were Business Case Preparation and Project Planning (88%). I say surprisingly because when asked to name their top 5 Most Important skills, Project Planning topped the list with 71% of people including it in their top 5.
The others that scored highly in the 5 Most Important technical skills were:
- Budgeting & Forecasting (62%)
- Risk and Issue Management (62%)
- Scope Management (62%)
- Resource Management (47%)
Results - Soft Skills
It is clear that most people understand the importance of soft skills to effective project management. Of the 13 listed skills, 7 were given unanimous (100%) support as being important to some extent.
Decision Making received the most votes for being Fairly Important or Very Important (97%), however Communication was actually seen as a more important skill to possess with 85% of responses giving it the top selection of Very Important (compared to 76% each for Trust Building and Leadership and 73% for Decision Making and Problem Solving).
When asked to list their top 5 Most Important soft skills, 82% of people included Communication which was a clear favourite ahead of Problem Solving (67%), Decision Making (64%), Leadership (55.%) and Team Building (47%).
Only 11% of people included Political and Cultural Awareness as being an important skill for project managers to have.
Included in the survey were some questions around the preferred methods of skills training. For both Technical Skills and Soft Skills the options provided were:
- Formal Classroom Training
- Self-paced Online Learning
- One-on-One Personalised Training
- Experience based/Learning on the Job
Experience based/Learning on the Job was a clear favourite for improving technical skills with nearly half the responses (46%) favouring it. The more experienced the project manager, the more in favour of this method of training. Formal Classroom Training was the next preferred option for developing technical skills with 22% of responses.
When we look at soft skills there was a shift with One-On-One Personalised Training preferred by nearly half the respondents (45%) and Learning on the Job next favoured with 38%. One major difference is that One-On-One Training was the preference of project managers with less experience.
What Does It Mean?
Interpreting what these results mean for you is an individual thing.
As a program or project manager you may wish to work out where your individual strengths lie and possibly seek some additional training or coaching in the areas you wish to improve on. As someone who hires project managers into their team, these results may help you better understand the type of person you should look to recruit.
Either way, don’t forget to download the infographic version of these results from the button on the right.
We would love to hear your thoughts on these results so please feel free to comment below.