What makes a great manufacturing leader?

What makes a great manufacturing leader?
Many see the Fourth Industrial Revolution as the way forward for manufacturing – with orgainsations leveraging digital technologies and data to drive greater efficiency, innovation and productivity growth. But getting there will require a new leadership mindset – one that is focused not just on creating the technology of the future, but also on developing the workforce to match.

According to ManpowerGroup research, more than 90% of employers expect their organisation to be impacted by digitisation in the next two years. And, taking a longer-term view, about 65% of the jobs Gen Z will complete don’t even exist yet.

With this in mind, manufacturers all face the same basic question: how do you keep the business running smoothly with one hand, while preparing for a different and unclear future with the other? As they steer into unchartered waters, manufacturing leaders will need to drive innovation, disrupt and blaze a trail towards new ways of working, while managing short-term goals and more traditional priorities. In short, they need to achieve today’s targets, while preparing for tomorrow.

Viewing manufacturing through a digital lens

To manage this period of change, manufacturing leaders need the ability to see both the long and short-term ‘big picture’, so they can lead the transformative collaboration between people, machines and data. They need to leverage networks, communities and employees, while demonstrating a high degree of empathy, cross-communication, and managing well defined feedback loops. They need agility, to foster diverse, creative ideas about products and services, and the teams to make this happen. And they need the ability to experiment and execute new processes, while managing the significant risks these innovations may carry.

Most importantly, manufacturing leaders need to match the requirements of their business with their workforce. Digitisation will impact manufacturers at all levels – not only changing skill and role requirements, but how work is organised too. This means organisations will need to rethink how they leverage talent within their organisation, so they can get to the point where they’re operating as a ‘naturally digital’ manufacturer.

The best manufacturing leaders are now looking at every aspect of their organisation through a digital lens. They’re considering how digitisation will affect each area of their business in two, five, or ten years’ time, and aligning their workforce strategies accordingly. They’re identifying and delving into emerging skill requirements, and figuring out how to rapidly upskill their current employees to meet these requirements. This means they can increase the resilience of their people and organisation, by investing in the skills they will need in the future – not just today.

Responsive, responsible leadership: The time is now

Despite the many benefits of harnessing digitisation, many manufacturers simply aren’t prepared to successfully move through this digital shift.

During this period of transformation; responsive, responsible leadership is critical. Changes in the world of work are accelerating at a pace and scale never seen before. So leaders need to be ready to steer their organisations through this ongoing period change. And that’s where Manpower can help. We partner with manufacturing organisations of all types and sizes – aligning their business and workforce strategies, and ensuring they’re prepared for the future of work.


To find out more about our expertise in manufacturing recruitment and workforce planning, visit manpower.co.uk/manufacturing or email us at manufacturing@manpower.co.uk