Manufacturing firms that turn specialists into generalists are putting key talent and innovation at risk

London, 05 February 2014: Over half (51%) of UK professionals now consider themselves to be generalists at work, rising to 56% amongst manufacturing professionals, according to new research from recruiter Michael Page. The survey of 2,000 white collar professionals found that specialist skills are being put at risk as workers now spend at least ten hours a week – or 65 days a year – on activities outside their main remit. While the drive to make employees do more with less is an understandable legacy of the economic crisis, the recruiter is warning that this could impact on business growth and see top manufacturing talent walk out the door. 
While 45% of respondents from the manufacturing sector recognised that a more generalist skill set at work is usually a result of increased seniority, there were concerns about the speed in which it is happening. Almost half (49%) of manufacturing professionals said that they spend more time on non-core activities than they expected when they first started the job. As a result, many employees are concerned about the effect that this switch in remit will have on their future career prospects. One in three manufacturing and engineering professionals said that their skill set is being diluted because they are not focusing on their core role. A quarter (24%) felt that a more generalist skill set could threaten their future job prospects and one in five (21%) are concerned that focusing on more non-core tasks will have a negative impact on their future earning potential. 
Colin Monk, managing director of Michael Page Engineering & Manufacturing, comments: “There has inevitably been some ‘professional rounding’ happening in the industry as people have had to take on more tasks, but this can’t continue for long. This sector requires high levels of technical skill and specialist knowledge. Whether you’re the person designing the product, putting it together or hiring the person that does, it takes a specific skill set and it’s important that businesses protect and nurture these skills. If they don’t, employees will inevitably feel overwhelmed and frustrated and could vote with their feet.” 
The research found that almost half (43%) of manufacturing professionals were prepared to look for a new job if they felt that their employer wasn’t doing enough to develop their specialist skill set. In fact, 45% already feel their employer isn’t doing enough in this respect. 
As well as having a clear personal impact on professionals, there are concerns that the drain on specialist skills will have an impact on business growth. A quarter (24%) of manufacturing professionals feel that an increasingly generalist remit is having a negative impact on their productivity and a third (31%) are worried that their company is not hiring enough specialists. Overall, 38% of all professionals in the survey think that the lack of specialist skills in their company is placing unnecessary pressure on them to meet customer demands. 
Monk concludes: “We’re in the midst of a manufacturing revival in the UK but this is at risk if organisations fail to invest in new and existing talent. Manufacturing and engineering firms can’t afford to be complacent about this. There is already an ever-growing skills gap in the sector so organisations need to ensure they get in the specialist skills that their business needs and then give those individuals the opportunity that they need to excel.” 
Notes to editors: 
Media contact 
Sophie Tudor, Communications Executive, PageGroup
T: 020 3077 8177
About the survey 
The ‘Specialist vs. Generalist’ survey questioned 2000 UK core office workers who are currently in 
employment and who were recruited into specialist roles. 120 people in the survey work across 
manufacturing and engineering. 
The survey questioned individuals across a number of sectors including IT, manufacturing, financial 
services, public sector, retail and pharmaceutical. Individuals were surveyed on the basis that they have 
been in employment for a minimum of five years and employed with their current organisation for at least 
one year in order to account for their changing role in the workplace. Individuals were aged 18-65 years old 
and were sampled from organisations with over 50 employees. For the purposes of the survey, 
respondents were deemed specialists or generalists at work on the basis of the amount of time they spend 
each day on their core role as follows: 
Specialist: Time and focus is spent on a single specialism 
Generalist: Role is made up of many activities 
The research was conducted by independent research house Loudhouse in July 2013