Manufacturing companies want to see more ‘human’ leaders, with many now valuing a forward-thinking outlook over technical skills and qualifications.
This is according to a survey by manufacturers’ organisation Make UK and automation specialist Rockwell, which finds 67% of manufacturers feel there is a shortage of management and leadership skills in their organisation.
The 232 businesses surveyed agreed that having good leaders in place is very important for hiring the right staff, generating sales, improving productivity and creating new opportunities to expand and grow.
Eight in 10 manufacturers agreed with the statement “effective leaders are critical to adopting new technologies
or green practices”.
Eighty-five per cent now see people skills as critical for their management populations. More than half (52%) are placing less of a premium on technical skills, while 19% are less interested in professional qualifications.
Verity Davidge, director of policy at Make UK, said: “Given the challenges companies are facing, the increasing complexity of modern manufacturing and the demands of employees and investors, management and leadership skills have never been more important for manufacturers.
“As a result, companies are moving away from relying on just the technical skills to get the job done or, rewarding length of service, and towards those employees who make better humans. Motivation, ambition and communication skills, together with the ability to act as a ‘North Star’ to employees, are now seen as far more import attributes in leaders and managers of the next generation.”
The leadership and management qualities respondents see as most important to achieving business goals are:
- having a clear ambition and vision (56%)
- maintaining high levels of staff motivation and productivity (48%)
- willingness to change without compromising the traditional integrity of the business (38%)
- openness to change and organising staff to be productive quickly (38%)
- awareness of external factors and the ability to respond quickly to change (36%)
However, the research finds that manufacturers could be “missing a trick” by not engaging in employee wellbeing improvements. Less than one in five think that being an effective leader requires an ability to engage with workers to ensure their wellbeing, suggesting many were missing out on the productivity benefits of a healthy and engaged workforce.
Asked about how they are building management competencies, 43% are using external consultants, 21% are using apprenticeships, 21% are using university degrees, and 20% are making use of government-funded Help to Grow Management courses.
One in 10 have no budget at all for developing leaders, while the same proportion are spending less than 10% of their training budget on management development.
Phil Hadfield, UK managing director for Rockwell Automation, acknowledged that skills gaps would continue to be one of the major challenges for manufacturers, so investment in technology was needed.
A recent Make UK and Infor survey found that almost half of business have made concrete plans to invest in automation, artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing or other forms of digital technologies over the next year. Another 20% of firms plan to do so the following year, if not next year.
“We are already seeing this challenge met with the more widespread use of innovations such as augmented reality, virtual reality, independent cart technology and artificial intelligence to turn raw data in to contextualised ‘real time’ information to enable digital workers,” said Hadfield.
“Digital technology will be key in helping UK manufacturers address workforce challenges head on, meet their KPIs and remain competitive in the global marketplace. I’m excited for the future as I see this inflection point as a real opportunity for UK manufacturing.”