Curiosity@Work Manufacturing Insights

Curiosity@Work Report | Insights by Industry


Key Findings for Manufacturing

  • Manufacturing managers struggle with issues related to employee morale, collaboration, teamwork and retaining good employees – as well as challenges related to hiring applicants with necessary technical and interpersonal skills.
  • Managers in manufacturing recognize the value of curiosity as an intrinsic skill that will continue to become more important for employees to have and a skill which drives real business impact. When analyzing differences across companies in this industry, we see that managers at younger organizations are most inclined to believe in curiosity’s value and ability to drive business impact.
  • Curiosity can help address manufacturing managers’ concerns. Highly valuable benefits of curiosity include greater efficiency (64%), more creative thinking (62%), and strong collaboration (57%) and employee engagement (57%) within the workplace and among employees.
  • Like managers in most industries, manufacturing managers struggle with identifying curiosity in job applicants and direct reports. About half find it difficult to develop curiosity in employees who don’t naturally have it (47%) and connect this trait to job performance (48%). Managers in manufacturing need further guidance on how curiosity can be effectively utilized and developed in direct reports to complement and amplify efforts they are already making to foster this trait.
  • About 2 in 5 (38%) manufacturing managers can be categorized as highly curious vs. only 24% having low curiosity. The manufacturing industry sees some of the highest rates of low-curiosity managers compared to other industries. It is beneficial for managers to display high workplace curiosity because these managers exhibit greater engagement and motivation and do more to encourage this valuable skill among their direct reports compared to their less-curious peers.

Curiosity is an increasingly valuable employee trait across industries, including manufacturing.

Amid the Great Resignation and current hiring frenzy, manufacturing managers:

  • Believe curiosity is a very valuable trait in employees (71%).
  • Believe curiosity is much more important for employees to have today than it was five years ago (47%).
  • Strongly agree curiosity in employees drives real business impact (55%).
  • Strongly agree employees who have more curiosity tend to be higher performers (52%).

Managers working in the manufacturing industry believe curiosity is a very valuable trait across organizational levels:

  • C-suite executives (56%).
  • Directors and departmental leaders (57%).
  • Midlevel managers (52%).;
  • Entry-level employees (51%).

When asked in which departments it is especially valuable for employees to have curiosity, manufacturing managers say:

  • IT (66%).
  • Research and development (60%).
  • Marketing (50%).

Manufacturing managers, like their peers in other industries, recognize that curiosity is a skill that can address key challenges and concerns.

The top employee challenges managers in the manufacturing industry are facing are:

  • Keeping employee morale/motivation high (61%).
  • Cross-collaboration with other teams/departments (55%).
  • Retaining good employees (52%).
  • Collaboration/working as a team (50%).

Managers in the manufacturing industry recognize the potential benefits of curious employees. Highly valuable benefits of curiosity are:

  • Greater efficiency and productivity (64%).
  • More creative thinking and solutions (62%).
  • Stronger collaboration and teamwork (57%).
  • Greater employee engagement and job satisfaction (57%).
  • More flexibility and adaptability in times of uncertainty (55%).
  • Greater diversity of thoughts and perspectives (52%).

Managers at younger organizations within the manufacturing industry are more likely to recognize the significance of curiosity in employees.

Managers from younger organizations in manufacturing are more inclined to:

  • Believe curiosity is a very valuable trait (78% at companies 10 years old or less[1] vs. 68% at companies 11-plus years old[2]).
  • Strongly agree curiosity in employees drives real business impact (62% 10 years old or less vs. 52% 11-plus years old).

Regardless of the age of the organization, managers across manufacturing organizations believe curiosity is much more important today than it was five years ago (48% 10 years old or less vs. 47% 11-plus years old) and that employees who have curiosity tend to be higher performers (55% 10 years old or less vs. 51% 11-plus years old).

Manufacturing managers, and those in other industries, note the interconnectedness of curiosity and data expertise and digital integration.

To succeed in the next three years, managers in manufacturing need employees with:

  • Technical skills in artificial intelligence (64%), data analysis (62%) and cloud computing (60%).
  • Personal attributes like creative thinking (62%) and problem solving (61%).

Focusing on the beneficial outcomes of curiosity, manufacturing managers believe it is valuable for employees to have this trait when:

  • Innovating new solutions (68%).
  • Tackling complex problems (59%).
  • Analyzing data (54%).
  • Driving new growth and revenue streams (51%).

Managers within manufacturing who rate high in curiosity[3]:

  • Use an average of 4 different data sources in their role vs. 3 for their less-curious peers.
  • More often use performance metric data (70% vs. 50% among those who rate low in curiosity), employee data (65% vs. 46%) and customer data (58% vs. 47%).

These more-curious managers in manufacturing also tend to be more advanced in their company’s integration of digital technology. Overall, 2 in 5(39%) managers in the manufacturing industry believe their company’s integration of digital technology is very advanced. However, those manufacturing managers who rate high in curiosity are more likely to describe their organization as very advanced (51% vs. 25% for those who rate low in curiosity), highlighting how curiosity can help organizations adapt and become more competitive.

Curiosity is integral to workplace success and career advancement – and companies across industries, and in manufacturing, foster this trait in several ways.

Companies in manufacturing formally include curiosity (or similar traits) in:

  • Company training and development (70%).
  • Employee performance review criteria (67%).
  • Hiring criteria (64%).
  • Promotion or advancement decisions (63%).

Managers in the manufacturing industry personally consider or encourage curiosity via:

  • Employee performance reviews (84%).
  • Coaching or team development (84%).
  • Hiring decisions (79%).
  • Promotion or advancement decisions (76%)

Across industries, views toward curiosity are complex. Many managers in manufacturing remain hesitant to encourage this trait and struggle with how to identify or develop it.

Manufacturing managers note they are only somewhat or not equipped to identify curiosity in:

  • Job applicants (50%).
  • Direct reports (48%).

About a third of managers in the manufacturing industry are very concerned about curiosity’s potential to lead to:

  • Increased risk of errors or bad decisions (34%).
  • Decreased efficiency or productivity (30%).
  • Greater difficulty managing employees (28%).
  • Greater difficulty coming to a final decision or taking action (28%).

These manufacturing managers admit they find it challenging to:

  • Connect curiosity to job performance (48%).
  • Develop curiosity in employees who don’t naturally have it (47%).
  • Identify situations or problems where curiosity is most useful (44%).
  • Connect curiosity to business impact (44%).

A quarter (26%) of managers in the manufacturing industry go as far as to say employees and applicants today have too much curiosity, though a similar portion (23%) believe these individuals do not have enough of this trait, highlighting further the complexity between recognizing the value of curiosity in these employees and effectively and efficiently harnessing this skill in the workplace despite concerns.

More-curious managers in manufacturing exhibit greater workplace engagement and work to foster this skill among direct reports in several ways.

The Curiosity Index[5] was used to measure the prevalence of workplace curiosity in managers – managers in the manufacturing industry can be categorized as:

  • High curiosity (most inclined to identify with statements defining a curious nature) (38%).
  • Moderate curiosity (38%).
  • Low curiosity (least inclined to identify with statements defining a curious nature) (24%).

Compared to most other sectors, manufacturing has some of the highest incidences of managers categorized as having low workplace curiosity (24% vs. 18% across industries).

Highly curious managers in manufacturing embrace differing ideas and have a relentless pursuit of knowledge and understanding. They often strongly agree that:

  • They continue to seek information until they understand complex problems fully (88%).
  • It is important to listen to ideas from people who think differently (84%).
  • They seek out opportunities to expand their knowledge and skills (83%).
  • They get excited for experimenting with different ideas (82%).

Further highlighting the value of curiosity in helping companies address some of their key challenges when it comes to employee retention and performance, more-curious managers within manufacturing are likely to:

  • Strongly agree they would continue to work for their employer for as long as possible (67%).
  • Strongly agree they feel motivated to go above and beyond what their job requires (73%).
  • Say their direct reports’ performance is very strong(66%).

The top methods more-curious managers in the manufacturing industry use to foster and encourage curiosity are:

  • Rewarding curiosity in performance reviews (70%).
  • Publicly praising employees who demonstrate curiosity (64%).
  • Allowing the use of work time to explore passion projects (61%).
  • One-on-one coaching or mentoring (53%).

Managers across the curiosity spectrum can be further divided into one of four segments based on how each segment values curiosity in the workplace in various ways.

Managers in the manufacturing industry can be categorized as:

  • High-curiosity collaborators (36% of managers in manufacturing vs. 35% across industries). The most curious segment. These managers value collaboration, are teamwork driven and are relentless in finding answers. They do this through listening and valuing co-workers' ideas and continuously seeking opportunities to expand skills but are more hesitant when new challenges present themselves. Focused on curiosity, these managers believe this trait leads to greater efficiency and productivity at work and results in greater job satisfaction.
  • Flexibility-driven opinion seekers (20% of managers in manufacturing vs. 26% across industries). These managers embrace challenges, and the possibility of being distressed does not impact their motivation. Curiosity leads to greater flexibility and adaptability during times of uncertainty and can bring more empathy and inclusivity to workplaces. These managers do not believe that curiosity leads to a boost in efficiency or overall team performance.
  • Productivity-focused leaders (28% of managers in manufacturing vs. 24% across industries). These managers believe curiosity can lead to stronger collaboration and teamwork and help increase efficiency and productivity in the workplace. They do not, however, believe curiosity drives inclusivity and diversity of thought.
  • Anti-curiosity leaders (16% of managers in manufacturing vs. 16% across industries). The smallest segment, these managers do not believe curiosity adds any value to performance or the workplace.

[1] Base note: n=129.
[2] Base note: n=363.
[3] Base note: n=186 high-curiosity managers.
[4] Base note: n=118 low-curiosity managers.
[5] The 2021 Curiosity Index: The Curiosity Index score is based on the ratings of 8 different attributes related to curiosity in the workplace. The index transforms the attributes’ raw ratings into a 0-100 metric where all the scores are averaged. Managers with a score of 71 or lower ranked “low” in the index; managers with a score ranging from 72 to 83 were categorized as “medium”; and those with a score or 84 or higher were assigned to the “high” category. The thresholds in each category were derived based on the index score distribution and best practices. Questions used in the development of this index were inspired by research conducted by Todd Kashdan and his team on the topic of curiosity in the workplace, “Curiosity has comprehensive benefits in the workplace: Developing and validating a multidimensional workplace curiosity scale in United States and German employees".


Given its global value and impact, it is evident that curiosity is an increasingly necessary and crucial skill that employees across levels need to develop as well as a trait that organizations must foster to remain competitive. Curiosity has the potential to help address some of the biggest business challenges identified by manufacturing managers by fostering increased innovation, collaboration, efficiency and productivity and addressing challenges related to employee morale and retention – key to mitigating the Great Resignation and hiring challenges that many organizations across industries are experiencing. Understanding how to& identify and cultivate this skill will be necessary as competition around hiring and business performance continues.

However, knowing how to effectively develop this trait among employees is difficult. Many managers in manufacturing admit they struggle with how to develop curiosity in employees who do not have it naturally and with identifying situations where this skill is most useful. Many also find it challenging to connect this skill to areas like job performance and overall business impact. Yet manufacturing managers identified as being more curious in our research show increased motivation and satisfaction in their role and actively work to encourage this trait among their direct reports. This can be done in multiple ways, such as by rewarding curiosity in performance reviews or publicly praising employees who demonstrate this trait. The case for curiosity is clear, it is now up to organizations within the manufacturing industry to further embrace this trait and for managers to continue to incorporate this skill in their employee development efforts or risk falling behind.