Thermoforming Report

December Thermoforming Report: Hiring Beyond Technical Abilities

by Keith Brown, President & Owner, Siena Group.

December 2023.

The topic this month is soft skills – those attributes that are critical to a well-functioning organization and team. As we were investigating and writing the article, it got way too long for this report. So, we decided it needed its own space: it is now our December blog. What you get below is part one… and the big reveal will hit later in the month. Have a great last month of 2023!

As usual, we have several great articles relevant to our industry and quite a few amazing All Stars to highlight! Check them out down below in the links on the right. We also have more extraordinary talent in the Featured Talent tab.

Hiring Beyond Technical Abilities

To be an effective team member and/or leader, every person needs more than the requisite technical skills and knowledge. Historically, technical expertise – especially in the engineering ranks, maintenance, quality, supply chain, and more – are valued above all else. The reality: Engineer, Maintenance, Quality, Supply Chain – all of us – need soft skills, too! Those team members with the right balance of soft skills, technical ability, and knowledge are much more successful –within both large and small teams.

Here is how a recent Forbes article stated it: [12/2/23, New Trend Re-Brands ‘Soft Skills’ into ‘Durable Skills’ for Career Success.]

As the crucial need for abilities such as empathy, collaboration and adaptability continue to grow, ‘soft’ no longer encompasses the heavy significance of these skills. What businesses and universities are truly looking for are ‘durable’ skills, according to experts.” “More companies are starting to see that the ticket to performance, productivity and profit is the delivery of value through “human capabilities” or soft skills to build the organization and its bottom line. They are re-framing the way we look at soft skills, especially as businesses and universities continue to prioritize them in their hiring and admissions. According to Deloitte Insights, 92% of companies surveyed reported that human capabilities or soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills in today’s business world. In a recent piece in Fortune, even Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella insists that characterizing empathy as “soft” understates its significance. He does not see empathy as a soft skill, instead saying, “It’s the hardest skill we learn.


92%! Think about that! Almost to the person, the criticality of soft skills is highly valued. Soft skills in the workplace help cultivate a harmonious environment, open the lines of communication, and lead to long-term career satisfaction.

So, how do you identify the soft skills most applicable to the diverse range of roles within your organization? And, more importantly, how do you assess these soft skills during the interview stages—before ever making an offer?

Identifying Key Skills for Different Roles

Though we all understand the ‘soft skill’ definition, for clarity, these skills live outside the technical knowledge requirements of a position. It’s the ‘people stuff’: essentially being able to better relate to team members across departments, across all levels, and with both internal and external colleagues. After all, to be successful, each of our functions must often network with our experts in other disciplines, which in turn, requires solid communication skills and the ability to cooperate amicably. Has anyone in manufacturing ever butt heads with a Quality team member? Or in maintenance as they interface (or interfere?) with engineering on a project? Navigating these challenges well requires skills that have nothing to do with numbers!

The task at hand, though daunting (especially for HR), is to work to identify the soft skills you feel are most important in your organization for each role. Doing that for an entire company is, well, daunting. The more realistic approach, when filling an open role, is to invest the time to do the work at that point and clarify the requirements of those critical soft skills that will support the success of the newly hired candidate in their particular position in the organization. In this manner, you can work on the most important/urgent job descriptions and over time work to update each role.

With that information in hand, work to assess candidates during the initial interviewing stages. Potential hires that bring the right combination of technical expertise and soft skills can help your teams efficiently deliver results while also improving partnerships and other stakeholder relationships.

There are so many skills to choose from that I’m not sure where to start.  (Has anyone edited the ‘Skills’ section of your profile on LinkedIn lately?!? The list is LONG.)  In lieu of the laundry list approach, let’s take a brief look at a few important soft skills to assess, specifically when hiring for leadership positions. [Though this list is particularly highlighted for leaders, it obviously can apply to all individual contributors out there as well!]

Soft Skills for Leaders

It doesn’t take but milliseconds for Google to generate pages of sites highlighting a variety of soft skills that those authors deem the most important for leaders. Top 5, top 7, top 9, top 11… and there is even one that is a list of 21! The list below isn’t comprehensive nor scientific – we just took a quick sampling of several articles and took the liberty of generating our own version.

  • Communication
  • Listening (yes, it IS a different skill than communication!)
  • Empathy
  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
  • Creativity
  • Adaptability
  • Delegation
Wait… There’s More!

As we started exploring our list, we realized the value of diving deeper into the significance and the practice of each skill, plus specific ways to realistically assess these skills when interviewing. So, rather than try to squeeze everything into one article, we’ve dedicated a second part of this topic to its own blog!

We’re publishing it later in the month, but if you’d like to explore it now, click here to dig deeper.

Wrapping Up

Hiring the right new employee is tough.

In my experience, finding great people who bring the right technical experience and skills is not necessarily the biggest challenge when performing a search for a client.

The tough part is working to assess those soft skills and cultural alignment along with that great technical ability.

That’s where the magic happens!

As your Thermoforming Talent Partner, we represent clients AND candidates! We’re here to help in any and every way possible! We provide hiring strategies, priority candidate searches, job searches, client & candidate introductions, interview tips, résumé facelifts, resignation strategies, and much much more. LET’S STRENGTHEN YOUR SEARCH!

Potential hires that bring the right combination of technical expertise AND soft skills can help your teams efficiently deliver results and also improve company culture. Keith Brown, Owner/President, Siena Group

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Production Manager: This strong Production Manager brings significant experience in extrusion and has led a 4-shift 24/7 operation with a team of about 200. He is a highly engaged, floor-focused leader, with strengths in safety, cross-training, and technical knowledge. Bonus: He is open to relocation possibilities!

Chief Commercial Officer: This Executive Leader of a Fortune 500 company is seeking a Chief Commercial Officer or CEO opportunity. With tremendous pedigree working with a large, global organization, he brings very high levels of business and people acumen. Bonus: He is willing to relocate anywhere, including overseas!

Technical Director: With 10 years of experience in thin-gauge, highly automated thermoforming manufacturing, this Technical Director has great experience in engineering leadership with a solid mix of early career product development and project management. Bonus: He is open to relocation!

Operations/Plant Manager: This strong, versatile, well-rounded Operations Leader brings over 20 years of experience, with more than 10 of those in thin-gauge thermoforming. He also has experience utilizing continuous improvement tools as a Site Operations Excellence Manager. Bonus: He is flexible on location, as long as it’s in the southeast.

Manufacturing Manager/Plant Manager: This strong up-from-the-ranks Operations Leader is a subject matter expert in the thermoforming process who brings more than 10 years of experience in both heavy and thin-gauge thermoforming knowledge. Bonus: He is willing to relocate almost anywhere and is fully bilingual in Spanish and English!

Even More Thermoforming Talent! We work with so many talented people in many different functions – all in thermoforming. Whether it’s an Operations Leader, Plant Manager, Supply Chain Leader, HR Leader, specialized Engineer, Quality Leader, Sales Leader, or pretty much any thermoforming role, we are here to help. If you have a need, please do not hesitate to just reach out! 

Click for more All-Stars.

At Siena Group, we are your Thermoforming Talent Partner. With more than 30 years of experience in manufacturing, hiring & recruiting talent, we bring a greater understanding of the companies we partner with and the candidates we pursue.
Let’s Strengthen Your Search!

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