Struggling to hire the right people for your embroidery department? Erich Campbell guides you through the process of finding the perfect new employee

Hiring an embroidery operator is much like hiring for any skilled position. You should start with a clear idea of the tasks that the work requires and look for both the skills and qualities that make any applicant suited to take them on.

With a dearth of skilled operators and embroidery professionals, it’s unlikely that you’ll find a candidate ready to run full production unassisted. With a clear understanding of an embroiderer’s role, however, and a knowledge of the necessary skills and standard operating procedures for production, employers can focus on the soft skills and general aptitude of potential hires, with a view to working with them to develop task-based knowledge and experience.

The soft skills

It’s easy to focus solely on embroidery or adjacent production experience when looking for a machine operator, but experience alone can’t predict success. I’ve had the dubious pleasure of working with operators who had spent plenty of time making the needles move, but lacked either the communication skills necessary to make workplace cooperation possible or the attention to detail it takes to avoid errors and produce high-quality products.

Given the choice between a disengaged, inattentive candidate with operator experience and an enthusiastic, curious and careful novice, it may be better to opt for the latter.

Take time in your interview process to talk about more than embroidery. While directly applicable skills are an undeniable plus, an applicant’s fit with your company culture, their desire for mastery of the skills they’ll need and their ability to navigate interpersonal interactions can’t be underestimated.

In my experience, the best hires for embroidery positions are detail-oriented people who can follow a process and have a knack for managing workloads on a schedule. Technically minded problem-solvers and creative applicants that fit this profile – particularly those that have leadership skills and/or are diligent self-starters – are a definite plus as they have potential to rise to management or design positions as they gain experience.

Defining the role: technical tasks

Defining and exploring the daily duties of your potential hire can help you see the sort of qualities that make for the best fit. Beyond that, having a clear idea of these tasks lets you prepare the assets you’ll need for on-the-job training.

For the simplicity of the following list, I’m not including the duties reserved for either a department manager or a production manager, and instead focusing only on the operator directly involved in production. The tasks I have listed here are required of every embroidery operator.

  1. Preparing jobs
  2. Running jobs
  3. Machine maintenance
  4. Feedback/recording

Training for basic skills

There’s good news and bad news when it comes to training operators. Many of the basic skills relating to machine operation itself and the handling of information aren’t based on talent so much as a knowledge of process and diligence in practice. Even so, in the case of those more experientially-learned skills, the current climate of content creation means there’s no lack of examples on which to draw above and beyond your direct in-person training…

….Read Erich’s full guide to finding the perfect new employee in our November 2023 issue here

Erich Campbell

Erich Campbell is an award-winning digitiser, embroidery columnist and educator, with more than 20 years’ experience both in production and the management of ecommerce properties. He is the programme manager for the commercial division of BriTon Leap.