Strategic Supervisor Training: Boost Recruiting and Retention

There are few factors more influential on the retention of employees than their relationship with a supervisor. These leaders are the first line of defense — and offense — when it comes to the day-to-day productivity and satisfaction of a work environment. With that understanding, training these managers to actually manage people becomes critically important, but it’s often not given the attention or priority that is needed to set supervisors and their teams up for long-term success.

Particularly in organizations with a large population of hourly workers, supervisors are often picked from the pool because they have become standouts at their job. It’s a natural career progression to be promoted to manager. However, as we discussed in the first part of this series, these supervisors aren’t generally trained for the role, they sometimes don’t have the personality traits to successfully manage others or even have a desire for the responsibilities and accountability that come with such a leadership position.

Turning an eye to strategic supervisor training will help an organization reduce workforce turnover, thus affecting workers and the bottom line. We first addressed internal communications and employee engagement as competency areas for supervisors. This second installment will cover the benefits of managing employees with a positive attitude, as well as the high-level requirements a supervisor needs to lead others.

Coaching cultivates success by practicing positivity.

Anyone can point out someone’s mistakes, but that’s not particularly motivating. The greatest teachable moments are created when the opposite happens — when desired, positive outcomes are acknowledged by a manager with a strategic mindset. By pointing out when a team member does something right as opposed to something wrong, a strategic supervisor cultivates a culture of achievement and positivity.

We not only feel good when recognized for a job well done, but also we’re hardwired to pattern behaviors on what we should do, not what we shouldn’t. For example, an instruction manual for building a bookshelf will flow from step one to step two, as opposed to listing out all of the things you shouldn’t do to put a bookshelf together. By focusing on the tasks required to achieve a goal, a strategic manager lays out a roadmap to success for team members to follow.

Alternatively, if only mistakes are recognized, that manager is simply pointing out what not to do, leaving employees focused on a negative example with no other positive takeaways. Calling out a team member for poor performance in front of the whole group is an unconstructive outcome that can fester among individuals and eventually the group as a whole.

Coaching involves recognizing the potential in individuals, and fighting for the highest possible good of the team. Strategic supervisors, more often than not, need to be taught how to encourage, develop and reinforce the behaviors and decision making that motivate employees. Skills such as establishing meaningful and measurable goals, monitoring employee performance, providing constructive feedback and jumping in to assist team members who are working on challenging situations, aren’t always inherent competencies for professionals who move up the company ranks from roles with less managerial responsibility. Focusing on these areas in training will not only boost their skillset but also increase their confidence in the job they have stepped into.

Training supervisors means equipping them with tools to excel.

John O’Brien, CEO and founder of Sales Talent Group, agrees that coaching talent in supervisory or managerial roles to connect with their teams on an individual basis will help grow and maintain employee motivation and engagement. “The youngest working generation is starving for this relationship, but it’s a motivator for all generations in the workforce,” he said.

To complement the training areas we discussed so far — internal communications, employee engagement and positive coaching — there are some important high-level requirements supervisors should possess to be successful. O’Brien shared some thoughts on what strategic supervisors need to know:

  • Understand their role in terms of how it impacts the business or department, how their performance is quantified, and what results they are expected to deliver as a supervisor.
  • Learn hiring and interviewing skills. Too many organizations keep this process away from the supervisor because it’s considered too time consuming, but they need to be taught and included in the process and have a say in their team dynamic.
  • Possess the lost art of time management and how to run a great team meeting that is useful and productive.
  • Have a working knowledge of current technology — not just the specific tools the organization uses but also social media and its use (or nonuse) and the effect it has on a work environment today.

Training supervisors not only prepares them to take on the responsibilities of management but also places them in a position to meet and exceed the goals put in place for themselves and the team. They will feel successful, and very few leave a job where they feel successful.

The benefits are quantifiable, and the cost of training is far surpassed by the amount saved in reducing employee turnover. The myriad of other advantages that come with strategic supervisor training make it an even easier choice to ensure a team thrives and reaches peak performance. What other skills should supervisors possess in today’s work environment? What issues can be resolved when competent leader heads the team?