Have you told your project manager how much you appreciate them lately? You probably should, because in a few years, you might not have one at all.

Experienced project managers are in higher demand than ever. As the economy continues to recover, organizations worldwide will need to take advantage of this growth with projects that successfully support their strategic goals. But with the increasing shortage of experienced project managers, the very people companies rely on for project success will be the most difficult to find. Almost 90% of respondents to an ESI survey said it was either "very difficult" or "somewhat difficult" to find qualified project managers for hire — and it's only going to get worse.

The PM Shortage is Coming

The Project Management Institute (PMI) reports that 60% of its members are age 40 or older, and 30% of project managers are projected to leave the workforce by 2018. They'll leave a huge gap in their wake: according to PMI, the shortage of experienced project managers will reach "critical levels" as early as 2016. That’s right around the corner!

Get ready: Develop a culture of knowledge sharing and/or mentoring in your company to help junior project managers learn from their more experienced peers. And if your company is one of the almost two-thirds of businesses that hire temporary project management consultants, give your internal team the tools to capture that knowledge to guide future initiatives. PMI’s Pulse of the Profession 2014 report shows that organizations with effective knowledge sharing in place have a 70% success rate for strategic initiatives, compared to a 45% success rate for organizations without it. Find a collaboration tool that will help your project team and managers (whether internal or external) share knowledge, learn from one another, and improve their capabilities.

Ongoing Training is Essential

Your junior and mid-level project managers may be qualified PMPs with impressive education and credentials, but they may not have the extensive experience it takes to manage increasingly complex, ambitious projects. And with the landscape constantly shifting to embrace a new methodology or project management application, they need to stay on top of the latest trends. You can bet your competitors are.

Most companies haven't put enough of a focus on training and development in recent years, and although the economy is rebounding, budgets are still tight enough that devoting funds to training hasn’t been a top priority. But that’s starting to change. This ESI survey shows that companies offering training see an ROI of 501% for entry level project managers, 268% for mid-level, and 358% for senior-level.

Get ready: Start a training program now. Helping your project managers gain more experience and certifications will put your company in a better position once the shortage hits, since you’ll be able to draw on your own internal talent rather than resorting to combing the classifieds. And don't just focus on traditional project management skills like risk analysis and project planning — consider where do project managers work best in your organisation. Soft skills like communication, cultural intelligence, virtual collaboration, and servant leadership are becoming increasingly valuable and key to project success.

Projects are Becoming More Complex

As the economy improves, the number of projects companies are undertaking is growing — but on top of that, projects are also becoming increasingly complex. They involve a larger team, distributed offices and workers, external departments and partners, and multiple stakeholders. And with a significant majority of experienced project managers leaving the workforce, junior project managers won't have the experience they need to confidently navigate these projects.

Get ready: Give junior project managers a variety of smaller projects to help them expand their skill sets, learn how to work with different types of teams, and successfully complete all kinds of projects. As your company grows, you need your project managers to grow with it and be able to take on different types of work and more complicated initiatives.

If you've noticed the impending project manager shortage, what has your company done to prepare? Share your wisdom in the comments below.