At first glance, does the phrase Essential Skills conjure up thoughts of basic technical skills?
It shouldn’t. In Manitoba, our experience is increasingly about the non-technical skills – oral communication, working with others and thinking. These in turn are the foundation for the leadership, communication and team dynamics competencies that position workforces to meet the increasing demands of the global economy.
Let me share the experience of one Manitoba manufacturer – Acrylon Plastics in Winkler. Their challenge: helping lead hands promoted from the shop floor to provide more effective leadership to their shift teams.
The operation runs many shifts over a 6-day production week, with lead hands responsible for the shift with very little supervision. Production levels across the shifts were inconsistent.
The lead hands were run ragged dealing with co-workers who “were told” what to do and didn’t respond.
Investing in two half-day training sessions a week over a two month period, these lead hands learned the intricacies of problem-solving, delegation, motivation and leadership. They sharpened their skills in seeking information and resolving conflicts, supervision, task-planning and decision-making.
The clear and immediate benefit was consistent and increased production levels. Among the other ongoing benefits is increased enthusiasm of the lead hands for their work which results in their commitment to stay with the job.
Acrylon operations manager Ron Funk matter-of-factly says “This isn’t the workplace of 20 years ago: dictatorial styles of telling people what to do and if they don’t like it they can leave are past.”
The challenge is now to help all levels of staff problem-solve and stay motivated in pursuit of the business imperatives.
These goals are essential to their success: so are the skills they’ll need.