Addressing a Different Type of Talent Shortage: The Soft Skills Gap


A massive talent shortage is posing a great challenge for manufacturers as they seek to hire workers with the experience and technical knowledge needed to fill open positions in their facilities. But now, a lack of soft skills, or interpersonal skills, among candidates is making it even more difficult to find the kind of worker that will help their companies succeed in the long run. And while this gap in skills may not receive as much attention and coverage as the technical talent shortage, it is equally as critical in nature – if not more.

Many believe soft skills don’t matter as much in a manufacturing career, as technical knowledge is the main focus of most work in the industry. However, it is clear that ‘soft’ skills such as time management, organization, communication and leadership are essential when it comes to being a successful and well-rounded manufacturing employee.

To understand the importance of these soft skills, read on to see how different skills can be applied in a manufacturing setting to foster collaboration and support improvements in productivity, delivery and employee morale.

  • Problem solving. The ability to think critically about problems to identify root causes and counter-measures is a necessity in all careers, including manufacturing. In fact, 77% of employers say they favor candidates who can think critically. This is a skill that is regularly used in manufacturing, both with conflict resolution between workers and with troubleshooting issues in production. For example, workers need problem solving skills in order to determine why a machine broke down, why orders are consistently missing deadlines or where a defect occurred and why. To keep production functioning and improving, workers will benefit from being able to analyze problems and provide effective solutions. 
  • Leadership. Regardless of their position or level within the organization, all manufacturing employees will be empowered with leadership skills. Making conscious efforts to support inclusion, teamwork and motivation among co-workers will result in more collaboration and stronger relationships within the team. This, in turn, will support continuous improvement initiatives in the facility as teams will work better together to brainstorm innovative ways to improve operations. Taking the time to develop such leadership and interpersonal skills – whether it comes naturally or must be learned – will provide greater results to the organization and open doors for more leadership roles in the future. 
  • Communication. Lack of effective communication skills can be largely detrimental to a worker’s success – and the success of the organization. No matter how technically talented an employee might be, performance can be hindered if they do not have the communication skills needed for everyday interactions at work. Misunderstandings can occur when dealing with customers, or, worse yet, when explaining procedures for operating machinery to other workers. With strong communication skills, this risk is minimized. 
  • Adaptability. Perhaps the most important soft skill in manufacturing is adaptability. In this industry, it is essential that workers are able to think on their feet and modify plans to adapt to disruptions or changes in production. This is especially true with the rise of Industry 4.0, as workers must stay up to date on the latest process improvements and be able to quickly adjust to any new practices or equipment.

When looking to hire or promote workers, consider choosing the candidate with the strongest soft skills. While technical skills will fill immediate gaps in operations, soft skills will help both employers and employees find success for years to come.  


Kucinski_K2-web.jpgKara Kucinski, Marketing Specialist
In her role as Marketing Specialist at The Center, Kara is excited and ready to help build The Center’s brand and create interesting and informative content for all platforms. Kara’s primary objective is to help put a face on the organization to explain what we do and why we do it best.



Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Categories: Leadership/Culture, Workforce