Firstly, it is widely accepted that there is a gap in the market in terms of technical industry specific skills and leadership experience, and the reason for this includes historical factors such as the apprenticeship cut in the 1980s. Businesses are now devoting time to shorten this gap and bring the next generation through into the pipeline with new apprenticeships and dedicated graduate schemes, but have immediate concerns where they need the technical skills in the here and now. The real challenge for businesses is to develop their talent pool for the future whilst addressing the immediate needs of the business, ensuring a pipeline of future talent for the future of their industry. It is certainly a work in progress, but something that is crucial in lessening the considerable skills gap.
Businesses often require the best managers out on the market and I have recently found that that although customers do need the technical skills, they will sacrifice some of their specialist requirements if they are good leaders and motivators of people. This then links back to the original question, ‘what does a good manager look like?’
The best managers I believe know their strengths and limitations, and can demonstrate what they believe is important for their role, without prompt. They talk about empowerment and leadership, rather than managing or delegating as well as being able to demonstrate the industry/technical experience. They also ask questions in return, delve into the role in greater depth and have a thirst for a greater understanding of the customer and their needs. It is not just a ‘new move’ but more of a learning experience, a career development where they are contemplating in advance what new skills and managerial experience they can bring to the business. When all of this comes together, I know I have a good manager on my hands.
The question I ask, is how do you develop your own talent pool and what do you look for in your managerial hires?
We asked Impact Futures, a not-for-profit organisation focusing on building future leaders through design thinking skills their thoughts.
“We are working hard to identify how to give graduates, particularly in the engineering and manufacturing sectors, the business and influencing skills they need to operate effectively in today’s commercial environment.
What we are finding through working with universities, is that degree programmes focus on some practical business skills but do not necessarily develop the ‘softer skills’ that are often only grounded in experience.
We are currently piloting the design thinking process, a customer-focused problem solving approach, as a tool to not only design customer-centric products and services, but also bring together graduates with the commercial sector to build the relationship management skills they need to be work-ready.
Businesses need to recognise that graduates don’t necessarily have these skills already, but that in working closely with the education sector and sharing their experiences, that they can help to develop the relationship skills that create effective technical managers.
They would also benefit from sharing some of their resource –people – to support universities and apprentice programmes in educating around the reality of working in a commercial manufacturing environment, to ensure graduates have a real-world view of what is required and if it is indeed for them.”
So it seems the buck doesn’t stop with businesses. It is important that we all work together – manufacturing organisations, the education sector and service suppliers - to build the manufacturing leaders of the future and work with the ones in the current marketplace to realise their potential as people managers.
Impact Futures (www.impactfutures.cc) are a not for profit organisation working with local universities and entry level talent to develop ready-for-work skills including influencing, customer-focused problem solving and cross-functional thinking.