While it's hard to boil down precisely what makes for a "good" manager, there are certain skills and qualities that anyone aiming for a career in management should possess. In the 1970s, social psychologist Robert L. Katz identified three basic skill sets required for effective management: technical, human and conceptual. Of these three, a manager's technical skills list will include the most concrete, measurable and specific skills.1
What Are Technical Skills?
Technical skills are those that involve the use of company or industry-specific methods and processes, formal problem-solving techniques, technology systems and machinery, and other tools. They involve specialized knowledge of some kind and must be taught—such as in a business administration program or a vocational school—as opposed to more general "soft skills" that can be acquired over time. Technical skills typically involve performing a predetermined sequence of steps or carrying out some specific, physical action.1
Importance of Technical Skills for Managers
Keep in mind that all three of the above skill types overlap and combine to create effective management—but the type and level of management position will dictate the degree to which one uses technical skills in his or her day-to-day responsibilities. A line manager at a plant or an on-site construction manager, for instance, will utilize technical skills directly on a daily basis. An upper-level administrator like a CEO or project manager, on the other hand, still needs technical skills in order to remain familiar with the work being done by their employees, but may not put these skills into action on a daily basis.1
Technical Skills List
Because they are so specific to the task(s) at hand, technical skills will vary significantly by industry and position. Below is a list of common technical skills that may be required across a number of industries, specifically within administrative and middle management positions.1,2
- Office Skills – While it may seem obvious in our current technology-driven world, it's essential for managers to have basic proficiency with office software like Microsoft Office, Adobe, Google Docs, and any relevant industry-specific programs.
- Computer and Digital Literacy – While not all jobs require management to have a working knowledge of programming or website maintenance, it's good to know some of the basics. This could include a general understanding of web design and SEO, or it could involve training in HTML and CSS.
- Technical Writing – Managers may have to communicate goals and instructions to employees, create training materials, document important processes, generate product and service descriptions and relay department and project statuses to upper management. All of this requires clear and concise professional writing skills.
- Information Technology – Because IT is such a significant part of so many companies' operations today, it can provide a leg up to have a working knowledge of IT basics (even if your business has a dedicated IT department).
- Project Management – Even those not working directly in project management roles should understand the basic processes and skills required to plan and execute a long-term project.
- Data Management and Analytics – A good manager must be able to efficiently and accurately gather information relevant to the continued operations of a business, analyze this data for significant trends or potential issues, and relay these findings to upper management.
- Communication – While not a technical skill exactly, communication can require proficiency in specific company systems or programs, such as those used to relay instructions or updates to and from front-line managers up the chain of command.
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1. Harvard Business Review, "Skills of an Effective Administrator," on the Internet at https://hbr.org/1974/09/skills-of-an-effective-administrator (visited March 24, 2016).
2. Boundless.com, "Technical Skills of Successful Managers," on the Internet at https://www.boundless.com/management/textbooks/boundless-management-textbook/introduction-to-management-1/additional-roles-and-skills-of-managers-20/technical-skills-of-successful-managers-129-3976/ (visited March 24, 2016).