Forget Skilled Workers, Manager Shortage is Looming

July 28, 2009
Employees opting out of management track, survey shows.

Lively debate continues about whether a lack of skilled workers is hurting or will hurt U.S. manufacturing. Now a new survey suggests that it is trained and experienced managers who will be hard to come by -- and not simply across manufacturing.

According to the 10th annual World of Work survey from Randstad, a professional employment services firm, slightly more than half (52%) of employees surveyed said there were not enough qualified managers in their organization, and 45% were of the opinion that businesses were going to face a shortage of qualified managers in the future.

Interestingly, survey results suggested that people qualified to become managers were opting out, for reasons including increased stress, handling disgruntled employees, increased paperwork, and having to lay off or fire employees.

Among the arguments cited for a lack of skilled workers in manufacturing is the negative connotation associated with the manufacturing profession. Similarly, Randstad suggests that negatives associated with managerial responsibilities are outweighing the positives. "To retain managers and head off a potential shortage, organizations need to rethink how they define and communicate managerial roles," explains Eileen Habelow, Randstad senior vice president, organizational development. "Companies need to be sure they are consistently reiterating managers' valuable contributions, not only to the company, but to the broader workforce."

It may come as a surprise what employees determined would be attractive elements in a managerial position. It's not about power and authority. According to the survey 89% reported they would want to be manager if they were able to share their knowledge and experience with others, and 85% cited both being responsible for the success of an organization and being able to influence decisions as other positives. (As a side note, these elements are frequently cited as the positive benefits of having an empowered workforce versus a command-and-control workplace.) Less attractive elements were budget responsibilities and working in a high-pressure environment.

The online survey was conducted in March and April among 2,199 employees and 833 managers.

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