Top management skills every manufacturing leader needs in 2022

January 4, 2022

With a new year underway, there also comes a flood of new opportunities. In the manufacturing industry, 2022 represents a chance to evolve. For a sector rocked by recent disruption, it's increasingly important that change be embraced with open arms – especially by management.

After all, a workforce is only as good as the managers that lead them. Amid a rapidly changing world, it's critical that leaders develop the necessary skills to guide their teams to productivity. Let's take a look at the top skills every manufacturer will need in 2022 and beyond.

Lateral thinking
Regardless of industry, the most successful leaders are lateral thinkers. In other words, a good manager is adaptable and flexible – capable of making rational adjustments with speed and consistency.

More importantly, lateral thinking is about more than just reacting to circumstance. Rather, this skill is about connecting the dots between many factors in search of the best proactive solutions.

Disruption durability
The best leaders in 2022 will know exactly when and how they need to start automating. They'll identify the areas of weakness within their organization and the best-fit solution. Put simply, being able to optimize the manufacturing process is an invaluable asset.

Consequently, you'll be able to improve manufacturing efficiency while also mitigating the impact of supply chain or workforce disruption. With cloud-based solutions, artificial intelligence or robotics, manufacturing leaders can also support their employees with cutting edge technology – providing a much needed relief from certain grueling operations.

Empathetic communication
It's not enough to simply communicate with your workforce – managers need to empathize, too. According to Forbes, empathy is what enables connection to both a person and their situation. What's more, making a sustained effort to connect and relate to your workers and their respective lives is a hallmark of positive company culture.

In turn, your workforce is far more likely to feel engaged or passionate about their work. The result? A more efficient and productive operation.

Better yet, this is a highly effective burnout elimination strategy. Leaders should take steps to not just speak with each individual employee, but to actually listen, too. Everybody wants to feel heard, especially by their boss. Practicing empathy won't just make employees happier, it'll also improve productivity and retention.

Strategic education
One of the biggest challenges facing the manufacturing industry is an increasingly dire shortage of skilled labor. In fact, according to research from Deloitte, there could be as many as 2.1 million vacant manufacturing jobs in America by 2030 – a staggering $1 trillion cost to the U.S. economy in that year alone. This shortage, not to mention the Great Resignation and aging workforce, represents a significant obstacle that demands resolution.

For these reasons, it's imperative that managers become skilled strategic educators. In other words, manufacturing leaders need to be able to organize, strategize and implement training programs, cross-training, mentorship opportunities and other educational experiences. Some enterprise-grade companies are even developing full-fledged learning academies. The future of manufacturing depends on successful knowledge transfer. Skilled managers will help the industry achieve this existential goal.