Why Should I Look for “Soft Skills” in My Next Manufacturing Hire?

Technical skills have always been the focus when hiring manufacturing clients. Interpret that as you will, but the fact is – manufacturing is dangerous, intricate work and unskilled hands are hazards. Innovations in manufacturing are likewise made by keen, observatory brains and an ability to enlist technical and physical awareness as an ally to equations, CAD drafting, welding, supply chain factory articulation, and engineering. Without technicality, manufacturing cannot be.

So, why the big stink about “soft skills?” Isn’t that just a bunch of Kumbaya that recruiters use to weed out candidates? Are soft skills really important in an industry where proficiencies are so specific?

Well, yes and no.

The infamous “skills shortage”

It came to be, around a year ago, that a soft skills ‘shortage’ was widely identified in our country. It was speculated that manufacturing teams were less able to resolve interpersonal conflicts, less adept in communication and work flow designation, less savvy in management. While we’re not sure we buy that assessment in full, as a recruitment company we decided to be sure that every candidate we represented had soft skills, and that every company we represented knew how to identify and appreciate them. Shortage or no shortage, soft skills are important in every industry – manufacturing included.

“Soft skills are critical, particularly for candidates in a manufacturing or industrial position,” says John Bengal, director of search for The Reserves Network. “Often times, technical skills will become the primary focus in a talent search. In reality, strong soft skills can aid in the development of a candidate’s technical skills long-term. On the flipside, if they’re lacking in key soft skills it can hinder their ability to showcase the other skill sets that initially make them an attractive candidate.”

What we found was that many manufacturing companies and plants weren’t aware of which soft skills they should be expecting in their new hires nor were candidates aware of which ones to boast in a resume. Here’s looking at you:

Soft skills to look for in your next manufacturing hire:

Timeliness. We include this soft skill knowing it may be obvious to most. In manufacturing, timeliness doesn’t only speak to a person’s prompt nature in arriving to work, but also his or her ability to meet deadlines, finish projects quickly, think on his or her feet, and react reflexively. As trouble brews in the world of machinery and production – as it inevitably will – being nimble is crucial.

Communication. Often, mechanical powerhouses are painted as isolationists – hermits working long hours on their craft without collaboration. We reject this notion entirely and assert its inaccuracy. It is important not to coddle this bias because it breeds in our engineers and manufacturing leaders the idea that there are no teams, only individuals working toward a common goal. Manufacturers, however, should know that, just like in all machines, all parts make up the sum. A candidate should possess the ability to work out problems, handle conflicts, and drive action with verbosity.

Adaptability. Production regulations and processes change, fast! Our tech-hungry world turns and suddenly the machines on which we have been trained are obsolete and replaced with new. We innovate so often that the processes and even the mathematics behind our daily activities can be “upgraded” before we’ve grown used to the last version. If a manufacturing candidate is flexible, he or she is immune to this challenge.

Enthusiasm. Not all of us get up every morning enticed by the idea of complex equations, mechanical shutdowns, workflow and logistics debacles and the potential for an industrial disaster – but others of us are truly passionate about the field. Recruiting for your open manufacturing position and expecting all of the candidates to be dry, calculated, and uninspired is all wrong. You can – and should – hire savvy manufacturing employees who are passionate about what they do.

For more guidance or to be connected with top manufacturing talent, become a client of The Reserves Network, an expert recruitment agency that specializes in manufacturing and light industrial staffing.

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