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Michael Page Research: Want to move up the career ladder as a technical professional? You’ll have to be multidisciplinary!

  • The role of technical manager is increasingly moving over to the commercial side of the business
  • 91% of technical professionals surveyed said their work is becoming increasingly multidisciplinary, requiring non-technical skills
  • 44% of respondents would consider an interim role, but only 13% had actually made this move

Amsterdam, November 10,  2015 - A severe shortage of technical personnel is gathering momentum in the Netherlands. Moreover, not only is demand for technical staff on the rise, the expectations placed on managers in the technical sector are also increasing.

These are key findings in research conducted among Dutch technical professionals by Michael Page. “If you want to progress to a higher management role in the technical sector, you have to be multidisciplinary,” says Mischa Voogt, Managing Director of Michael Page. “Due to greater automation and a focus on cost-cutting and increasing efficiency, you have to be able to see beyond the boundaries of your own field.”

A combination of skills

Analysis from the Research Centre for Education and Employment (ROA) shows that 30,000 extra technical staff per year will be required to meet growing demand. However, despite a variety of initiatives to encourage students to to embark on a technical career, there is a fundamental shortage of people graduating from technical courses.

Michael Page, which focuses on recruiting for specialist technical and management roles in the food, oil & gas, chemical, production and high-tech sector, concludes that lack of professionals who can combine the technical side with management skills and business knowledge is particularly significant.

“People with a background in technical education often progress within a specialism. They prefer to focus on innovation, rather than becoming involved in the technical, organisational or corporate implications of this innovation further down the line. That’s the power of innovation, but at the same time it’s a pitfall management should beware of,” says Voogt. “That is why companies and organisations are increasingly asking us to find candidates with good management skills and a process-based mindset.”

This changing demand is reflected in the research: a massive 91% of technical professionals surveyed said their work is becoming increasingly multidisciplinary. Nearly all respondents view this development as a positive one.

The opportunities for an interim management role

Thanks in part to these developments, the interim market now offers ample opportunities for people who possess these qualities, particularly in operational and project management. Although 44% of respondents would consider an interim role, just 13% are currently actively engaged in interim employment.

Despite the greater earning potential as an interim professional compared with permanent employment, 62% of respondents cite the inherent insecurity and unpredictability of the interim market as the reason for this low figure. Moreover, technical staff indicate that they prefer to stay with an organisation for a longer period in order to take complex projects through to completion and achieve long-term goals.

“If you’re considering going interim, be sure to assess the size of the market for your expertise in advance, because in the end substantial knowledge will always be a decisive factor,” Voogt warns. “You will need to find assignments by building a network and being prepared to ‘sell’ your qualities. As a result, commercial skills are also very important.

Interim assignments in operational or project management often arise because a process stalls and permanent employees, clients or suppliers can no longer make it work. Hence, you have to be able to communicate well within different fields and at different levels, both inside and outside the organisation you’re primarily working for.”

About the research

A total of 105 respondents working in project management, research & development, process engineering, continuous improvement, plant management, maintenance, production management and quality, from sectors such as manufacturing, oil, gas & energy, food & pharma, automotive, building technologies and the chemical industry, gave their opinion. The survey was conducted in August 2015.