Project Manager Jobs: A Gaze into the Future

The World Economic Forum released The Future of Jobs Report in October 2020. In it, project manager ranked 11th in the top 20 jobs in increasing demand across all industries. That’s good news for PMs, but what are the 10 roles listed above project management jobs? What are the top 20 jobs in decline over the next five years? What are the other highlights in included in this report? And are there insights that are specific to the field of project management? Read on for the answers to these questions.

Hockey legend Wayne Gretsky is often quoted as saying, “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” For non-ice hockey fans, translate that to, “Don’t run to where the ball is, run to where the ball is heading.” To mix metaphors, the WEF Jobs Report is sort of a crystal ball to see where project manager jobs are heading over the next five years.

Highlight #1: Project Manager Jobs Recovery Underway

Unemployment rate, selected countries and regions, 1960 -2020
OECD expects unemployment to fall from 12.6% at the end of 2020 to 8.9% in 2021
Unemployment rate in the US, seasonally adjusted, 1967-2020
US unemployment forecasted do drop to below 6% in 2021 from a high of 14.7% in February 2020

I am aware that not everyone reading this is currently employed. Well, that may change in the coming months. According to the WEF crystal ball, the current trend of decreasing unemployment will continue into 2021. So if you don’t have a job today, the likelihood of you getting a job continues to increase next year. And the more educated you are, the more opportunities are available to you. However, there is a caveat here. Some industries are not recovering as fast: recreation, travel, manufacturing, and consumer goods continue to experience a prolonged slump. IT and software were the least affected by COVID-19 with fewer layoffs and fewer rehires.

Highlight #2: Shift to Remote Work to Continue Post-Pandemic

Social distancing rules meant that 44% of the workforce shifted to working remotely during COVID. The Chief Human Resource Officers surveyed by WEF aspire to expand the availability of remote work post-pandemic. Industries with the greatest potential to continue with remote work are IT, Professional Services, Finance and Insurance. Project Managers fall within the Professional Services category.

Highlight #3: COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of new technologies

The WEF crystal ball also predicted that these will be the top 10 technologies adopted by 2025. The top 5 on this list have already gained considerable momentum as part of the ongoing 4th Industrial Revolution. COVID-19 served to accelerate their adoption and the demise of older technologies.

  1. Cloud computing
  2. Big data analytics
  3. Internet of things and connected devices
  4. Encryption and cybersecurity
  5. Artificial Intelligence (including Machine Learning and Neuro-Linguistic Programming)
  6. Text, image and voice processing
  7. E-commerce and digital trade
  8. Robots, non-humanoid e.g. industrial automation, drones
  9. Augmented and virtual reality
  10. Distributed ledger technology e.g. blockchain

Highlight #4: Changes to the Workforce may impact Project Manager Jobs

The rapid adoption of new technologies will have an impact to the workforce. Translation: your project manager job may not be secure. Here are the top 5 changes to the workforce by 2025:

  1. Modify the composition of one’s value chain. This likely means that the number of workers in each department will change. Some departments will see increased headcount and others a reduction in full-time employees.
  2. Reduce current workforce due to technological integration or automation. If a robot or algorithm can do the task, it will be automated.
  3. Expand the use of contractors doing task-specialized work. This sounds like there will be fewer full-time employees as some of the tasks will be automated. And the remaining tasks could be outsourced to contractors. This is part of what the Project Management Institute calls the Projectized Economy of the future. Project managers could be hired on contract for domain specific work.
  4. Modify the locations where the organization operates. This is part of the impact of a remote workforce. Workers could be sourced from locations with lower cost of living.
  5. Expand current workforce due to technological integration or automation. This is likely for companies providing technological solutions the likes of Zoom, Amazon and Google.

Highlight #5: Share of tasks performed by humans vs. machines

Here are the top 10 tasks which will shift to from humans to machines over the next 5 years:

  1. Information and data processing
  2. Looking for and receiving job-related information
  3. Performing complex and technical activities
  4. Administering
  5. Identifying and evaluating job-related information
  6. All tasks
  7. Performing physical and manual work activities
  8. Communicating and interacting
  9. Reasoning and decision-making
  10. Coordinating, developing, managing and advising

Part 2: Insights

Insight #1: AI and automation may replace your job

Here’s the list of top 20 jobs in decreasing demand over the next five years (2020-2025). The good news is that project manager jobs is not on this list. If your job is on this list, you need to pay attention, decide on your career trajectory and take action.

  1. Data Entry Clerks
  2. Administrative and Executive Secretaries
  3. Accounting, Bookkeeping and Payroll Clerks
  4. Accountants and Auditors
  5. Assembly and Factory Workers
  6. Business Services and Administration Managers
  7. Client Information and Customer Service Workers
  8. General and Operations Managers
  9. Mechanics and Machinery Repairers
  10. Material-Recording and Stock-Keeping Clerks
  11. Financial Analysts
  12. Postal Service Clerks
  13. Sales Rep, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Technology and Scientific Products
  14. Relationship Managers
  15. Bank Tellers and Related Clerks
  16. Door-To-Door Sales, News and Street Vendors
  17. Electronics and Telecom Installers and Repairers
  18. Human Resources Specialists
  19. Training and Development Specialists
  20. Construction Labourers

Whether or not your job is in decline, here’s what we can all learn from the list of jobs in decreasing demand:

  1. After businesses complete their digital transformation projects, in-person and human-mediated activities shift to online self-service transactions:
    • data entry will be performed by clients and users online,
    • information will be disseminated online
    • shift towards customer self-service and the use of AI based chatbots like Alexa
    • fewer physical letters and trend towards electronic communications continues
    • selling and buying done online
    • banking done online
    • client relationship management is automated and done online
    • on-demand online training replaces in-person training
  2. Repetitive, operational work will be automated
    • Administrative and secretarial work
    • Accounting and bookkeeping work
    • Standard reporting
  3. Brainwork will be augmented by Machine Learning and AI
    • Financial analysis and audit work
    • General and operational management
    • Initial selection and vetting of job candidates done by AI
  4. Physical work replaced by robots
    • Impacting assembly and factory workers
    • Construction done by robots
  5. IoT infrastructure will be in place within the next five years

Insight #2: PMs to focus on projects that enable the trend towards digitization

WEF’s Future of Jobs report listed these top jobs in increasing demand over the next five years (2020-2025):

  1. Data Analysts and Scientists
  2. AI and Machine Learning Specialists
  3. Big Data Specialists
  4. Digital Marketing and Strategy Specialists
  5. Process Automation Specialists
  6. Business Development Professionals
  7. Digital Transformation Specialists
  8. Information Security Analysts
  9. Software and Application Developers
  10. Internet of Things Specialists
  11. Project Managers

What types of projects will project managers be focused on in the coming years? Take a look at the jobs in bold. They indicate the what’s going to be new and in demand in the future. To get us there, we will need PMs to run:

  • Digital transformation projects
  • Robotic Process Automation projects
  • Big Data, AI and Machine Learning projects
  • Internet-of-Things projects

Insight #3: Three skills gaps for project managers to exploit

Perceived barriers to the adoption of new technologies
Source: Future of Jobs Survey 2020, World Economic Forum

Among the skills gaps listed above, there are three that project managers can exploit in order to advance their careers:

  • Skills gaps among organization’s leadership
  • Lack of interest among leadership
  • Insufficient understanding of opportunities

PMs can exploit these barriers by demonstrating leadership in these areas. This will propel you into future leadership opportunities. If you are currently employed, develop your self-management skills such as mindfulness, meditation, gratitude and kindness. If you are seeking employment, emphasize emerging skills e.g. Cloud Computing, Data and AI.

Insight #4: Project manager jobs will require new skills.

A 2017 WEF report suggests that the half-life of professional skills is 5 years. That means that in five years, half of what you know now will be obsolete. In the 2020 Future of Jobs report, WEF highlights that 40% of workers, including those in project manager jobs, will require reskilling of six months or less. What new skills do you need to master?

WEF published these top 15 skills for 2025. I have highlighted 12 that are pertinent for project managers. The good news is that there skills don’t need an investment of years and a college degree. You can learn these skills in weeks or months via online courses. What’s most important is to start applying these skills at work and in life, to transform them into habits so they become second-nature to you.

Top 15 skills for 2025. The Top 12 broad skills for project managers to master are in bold.

  1. Analytical thinking and innovation
  2. Active learning and learning strategies
  3. Complex problem-solving
  4. Critical thinking and analysis
  5. Creativity, originality and initiative
  6. Leadership and social influence
  7. Technology use, monitoring and control
  8. Technology design and programming
  9. Resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility
  10. Reasoning, problem-solving and ideation
  11. Emotional intelligence
  12. Troubleshooting and user experience
  13. Service orientation
  14. Systems analysis and evaluation
  15. Persuasion and negotiation

Insight #5: Pivot from Project Manager Jobs to Product Development

In addition to broad skills, WEF also published a list of the top cross-cutting, specialized skills of the future. What’s missing here? Yes, project management is not on this list. Although project manager jobs is a role in increasing demand, project management is not a skill that is in demand. You should start hearing warning bells now. This tells me that you need to move from general project management to specialized project management. So I have highlighted some skills that I think are relevant and easier for project managers to pick up.

  1. Product Marketing
  2. Digital Marketing
  3. Software Development Life Cycle
  4. Business Management
  5. Advertising
  6. Human Computer Interaction
  7. Development Tools
  8. Data Storage Technologies
  9. Computer Networking
  10. Web Development
  11. Management Consulting
  12. Entrepreneurship
  13. Artificial Intelligence
  14. Data Science
  15. Retail Sales
  16. Technical Support
  17. Social Media
  18. Graphic Design
  19. Information Management

The WEF also published a list of current jobs that will need to transition into Jobs of the Future. Program and Project Management is listed as a job type that will become less relevant. While there are many paths to choose from, most will take the journey to Product Development.

Most project manager jobs to transition to product development
Transitions into Jobs of the Future (Figure 25, WEF Future of Jobs 2020)


Rapid change is underway as part of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Although project manager jobs will be in increasing demand, project management is a skill that’s in decline. You need to reskill and upskill in the next five years. You may also need to chart a roadmap for a career transition. If you are ready to invest in yourself and take your career to the next level, schedule a strategy session with me.