Manufacturing Skills Gap or Management Skills Gap?

Posted on November 7, 2011  Comments (3)

I stumble across articles discussing the problem of manufacturers having difficulty finding workers with the skills they need (in the USA largely, but elsewhere too) somewhat regularly. While it is true that companies have this problem, I think looking at the problem in that way might not be the most insightful view. Is the problem just that potential workers don’t having the right skills or the result of a long term management skills gap?

To me, the current manufacturing skills gap results directly from short term thinking and disrespect for workers practiced by those with management skills shortages over the last few decades. Those leading the manufacturing firms have shown they will flee the USA with the latest change in the wind, chasing short term bonuses and faulty spreadsheet thinking. Expecting people to spend lots of time and money to develop skills that would be valuable for the long term at manufacturing firms given this management skills shortage feels like putting the blame in the wrong place to me.

Why should workers tie their futures to short term thinking managers practicing disrespect for people? Especially when those managers seem to just find ways to blame everyone else for their problems. As once again they do in blaming potential workers for their hiring problem. The actions taken based on the collective management skill shortage in the manufacturing industry over the last few decades has contributed greatly to the current state.

If managers had all been managing like Toyota managers for the last 30 years I don’t think the manufacturing skill gap would be significant. The management skill gap is more important than the manufacturing skill gap in my opinion. To some extent the manufacturing skill gap could still exist, market are in a constant state of flux, so gaps appear. But if their wasn’t such a large management skill gap it would be a minor issue, I believe.

That still leaves companies today having to deal with the current marketplace to try and find skilled workers. But I think instead of seeing the problem as solely a supplier issue (our suppliers can’t provide us what we need) manufacturing firms would be better served to look at their past, and current, management skills gap and fix that problem. They have control over that problem. And fixing that will provide a much more solid long term management base to cope and prosper in the marketplace.

Another management issue may well be the hiring process itself. As I have written about many times, the recruitment process is highly inefficient and ineffective. When you see workers as long term partners the exact skills they have today are much less significant than their ability to meet the organizations needs over the long term. In general, information technology recruiting has the worst case of focusing on silly skills that are really not important to hiring the right people, but this also can affect manufacturing hiring.

Related: IT Talent Shortage, or Management Failure?Dee Hock on HiringManufacturing Jobs Increasing for First Time Since 1998 in the USA (Sept 2010)Building a Great Workforcemanufacturing jobs have been declining globally (including China) for 2 decadesImproving the Recruitment Process

3 Responses to “Manufacturing Skills Gap or Management Skills Gap?”

  1. M. Dillon
    November 8th, 2011 @ 6:01 pm

    Thanks for throwing some light on Management skills gap. Companies need to have an inbuilt management advancement. Yes, we need to pick the right people in the hiring process, but latter we need to have a proper system to give training and opportunities to advance their management skills. This would be the best approach for the growth of the companies and the employees.

  2. Walter Burton
    November 12th, 2011 @ 7:04 pm

    This is a great article. Having worked in both manufacturing management and training and development I have seen first hand what short sighted leadership has done to decrease the development of its workforce.

    The MBA types have the mantra of maximize profits which often leads to cutting heads at the first down turn in sales. All to often the need to make short term profits means people are reduced during slow times rather than trained in new processes, equipement, or technologies.

    To often we don’t give our people the credit or help to train peers. We would rather spend money on “experts” who come in a anoint the people with knowledge and then leave.

  3. Article Roundup « Beyond Lean
    November 30th, 2011 @ 7:02 am

    [...] Manufacturing Skills Gap or Management Skills Gap by John Hunter – If the people don’t have the manufacturing skills they need is that their fault?  Or do we have a gap in our management skills? [...]

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