Bosses say American workers fall short

A new survey finds that most think their employees lack necessary collaborative, communication and critical-thinking skills.

By Jason Notte Mar 11, 2013 7:19AM
Variety of professionals standing together © altrendo images, Stockbyte, Getty ImagesRemember when the American chief executive of tire company Titan International called his French employees "so-called workers"?

Ah, silly surrendering socialists, when will they ever learn that . . . wait, it seems American executives think U.S. labor is pretty worthless, too.

In a recent survey by the American Management Association, the nation's bosses and board members made it clear that they believe American workers lack the basic skills necessary for collaboration, communication and critical thinking. The survey suggests about 20% of workers lack even the most rudimentary creative skills, while the number of executives rating their employees as below average has jumped since 2010.

Are any of them bold enough to stop hiding behind their surveys, come out of the boardroom and say it to employees' faces? This is the business world, so of course they are.

"The emphasis over the past years has been on high-tech skills like math and science for workers, but what's missing in the discussion is the ability to communicate and make key decisions at lower levels," Ed Reilly, chief executive of the American Management Association, told CNBC.

Before employees get all worked up, however, it should be noted that the survey respondents didn't just throw some shade at their underlings and walk offstage. They clearly spelled out areas where employees can improve and explained what exactly they're looking for. Basically, they want more "human" from their human resources and for workers to stop acting like the numbers on a balance sheet they turn into at layoff time.

Executives want people who can make decisions, talk and write to their co-workers in ways that are both welcome and easily understood, work well with other people and be innovative and take action on their own when the group is getting too sluggish. When one in five of the people around you uses "I don't know, maybe" as a catch phrase, speaks in clipped phrases like a teenager, treats memos like text messages and is content to zone out once his or her ideas get rejected at a meeting, that tends to drag down performance a bit.

It's also on management to hire those involved folks who weren't exactly in demand when companies were padding the payroll numbers a decade or so ago. While teaching kids to communicate and collaborate early on helps, the survey also suggests, companies have to make an effort to not only find people with those skills but train those who lack them.

The key point is that America's private sector can add all the jobs its wants, but it's going to keep falling behind if its workforce doesn't quickly develop some critical skills.

More on moneyNOW

Mar 11, 2013 10:16AM
After 25 years working in the business environment, I've found that most managers don't want their employees to think, they want them to do exactly what they are told. The problem isn't with the employees, it is with the management that doesn't have a clue what is going on.
Mar 11, 2013 11:09AM
Wage increases haven't beat inflation in almost 35 years? I wonder why they seem unmotivated? Since 1980 CEO level salary has risen 296% and corparate profits are at an all time high. Remedy = pay your employees enough to offset rising utility, car, rent, and food prices.
Mar 11, 2013 9:28AM
Considering the financial problems in the automotive , banking , retail and general industry.  I think many CEOs should take a critical look at there performance and decision making skills. Not to mention the excessive renumeration levels they are paid for that poor performance compared to what they want the American worker to be paid.
Mar 11, 2013 9:02AM
These are the idiots who are destroying this great country absolutely nothing wrong with American Labor more like severe problems with American Management!  Crock of $hit!
Mar 11, 2013 11:10AM
I work for a big corporation and the executives do not want us to tell them what needs to be fixed or of any changes that needs to be done all they want is for us to follow blindly, then they will have someone to blame that why we call them educated idiots.
Mar 11, 2013 9:08AM
Critical thinking skills are on the wane, communication skills too.  Corporations will have to start investing more money into training if they want to continue to prosper.  Maybe the bigger companies can take some of those huge profits and start some in-house programs.  That's the way it was when I started working in the tech field...many years ago. 
Mar 11, 2013 11:00AM
The ONLY Skils that CEO's have is stealing Big Bonus's..  CEO's today do not want to train worker's, that cuts into their Bonus.  I was a Journeyman  Machine Repiarman at a Tier 1 Auto Supplier.  Managment cut our Apprentice Program.  Too costly..  Better to use thw good Old Brown Nose method to get your Skilled Workers.
Mar 11, 2013 11:10AM
 Schools are teaching kids not how to think but what to think, taking away more and more extracurricular activities and the arts. Management wants yes men and most ceo's haven't a clue what their average employees are capable of. Just another article to give ceo's excuses for why they don't want to pay a decent wage. A large pile is all this article is one very large pile.
Mar 11, 2013 11:22AM

These CEOs brought this on themselves by voting themselves these enormous salaries, offshoring the jobs and the continual use of rampant downsizing to please shareholders.


"I don't know"?  After two downsizes and one termination, I am not telling you everything I know either.  This is no longer your Daddy's workplace and Daddy no longer works for you.  You have a generation of new employees whose parents were downsized, now you got attitude.  What did you expect - minions?


My job now depends on last quarter's earnings, not on being helpful or a team player.  At some point, you will hear me say "I don't know.  Ask Bob".

Mar 11, 2013 9:58AM

What bosses and boards say about workers is largely true. However, what workers say about bosses and boards is also.


In the dance of death, everyone holds hands.

Mar 11, 2013 10:47AM
It doesnt help that the CYA mentality that is so prevalent in todays business environment is consistently reinforced by perhaps the most visible of leadership positions, our wonderful politicians, complete with their inability to make competent, and non self-serving decisions. That perception, in the eyes of many workers, extends to most of corporate management as well. If we want people to be creative thinkers and lead with solutions, then we cannot be so quick to terminate or chastise them when they take a risk in an effort to get something done. Good leadership at the top breeds good leaders. And leaders should always remember, you cant push a rope (think about it).
Mar 11, 2013 10:59AM
Its real easy for someone to sit on their dead **** and point fingers.  Employee owned companies are the future of this country, everyone working together to make everyone rich.
Mar 11, 2013 11:14AM
I guess when the have the american worker down to the level of Chinese work shops they'll rank us higher. They need to take a look at the poor level of management in this country.
Mar 11, 2013 11:04AM
If they want a person with these skills, they should offer them the money they are worth and/or the ability to focus upon moving up within the company. All too often, what they say they want and what they want are two entirely different things! It is a damned if you do and damned if you don't situation in the coporate world. We want you to be able to think what we tell you to think! Go outside that and you are without employment! Go figure!
Mar 11, 2013 11:19AM
REALLY? When you think about it, if workers fall short on job skills, the best course of action is to FIRE the bosses and re-hire all those mass-terminations from 2007-08 and restore capacity instead of keep on falsifying competence. What audacity. Younger workers who find out what your career was, want to follow you. Older former workers had their whole lives taken away and yet-- survive or even thrive. Can you PLEASE tell me what the equivalent credential is in the degree world that signifies-- TALENT? Cut the BS, get the socio-psychopaths out of our former offices and BRING YOUR MANAGEMENT DOWN TO EARTH, you Board of Director pricks.
Mar 11, 2013 11:09AM
What corporate America wants from their employees--"we are not here to think, we are here to work".
Mar 11, 2013 10:42AM

I have an uncle with all kinds of qualifications and he can`t get a job because of his

age, 60, so he started his own business and now he makes over $100,000 a year.

Mar 11, 2013 11:16AM

The dumbing down of America is a Great part of the problem..

Critical skills and thinking are not allowed in except maybe Labs..

College Grads unless uppity, have learned to fly below the Radar, not to make waves.

( do your job, collect your paycheck, go drink, go home to Mom and Dad's place.)

Management want people to just do and not think about it...

Most managers are more concerned about numbers, then the work enviroment..

exception: Maybe places like Microsoft, Apple and others, that encourage out-side-the-box and celebrations for "new releases."

Management is just as guilty as the workers, of this Scenario, of Robotic behavior.

Mar 11, 2013 11:13AM
how does the quality of CEO leadership stack up? must be awesome give the monster increase in compensation the past 30 years.
Mar 11, 2013 10:05AM
Creative skills which include thinking outside the box and acting effectively on those that add value to workers and companies alike are suppressed and often frowned upon by the college educations that many employers now insist upon. College students are trained to take tests and mostly do exactly what the professors outline, and too often with penalties for varying from strict guidelines.
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