New Supervisors: Tips for Spotting Talent and Ensuring a Successful Transition
October 31, 2018

New supervisors need support and attention. I was recently reminded of this concept when responding to a question about the value of stay interviews. The skeptic asked, “Isn’t this what good supervisors already do?” The answer is yes it is, and sadly weak or poor supervision is still the number one reason that your talent is jumping ship. So, how do you develop a culture that creates great supervisors?

Many organizations use the “sink or swim” method of preparing new supervisors. That’s a dangerous move based on the Human Capital Institute’s I2016 research that confirms that 97% of front-line supervisors are essential to business success, and only 48% of organizations adequately invest in this population.

When growing supervisory talent internally, look for skills, accomplishments, enthusiasm and potential, and have clear vision of what success looks like.

Skills and Accomplishments to Look for Before Promoting to Supervisor

  • Current work performance: it’s one of the best indicators of future success because top performers take pride in their work and want to excel
  • Informal leadership signs: find the “Go To” person, the volunteer who asks to take on more, and the natural leader who people already gravitate towards
  • Experience as a Mentor or Buddy: team leads who help raise up new or junior members of the team typically have strong emotional intelligence and have the confidence to lead informally for the benefit of the team
  • Subject Matter Expertise and the Individual Contributor (IC): when an IC moves to a supervisory position, technical skills are not as important. The focus is on developing others to get the job done

Supporting a Successful Transition

So now that you’ve found the best supervisor candidates for your organization, how will you know if their transition is moving in the right direction? Staying close to these new supervisors is critical to their development. Creating a community where they can share challenges and vent without fear will show that you are committed to their success. Here are a few areas to consider:

  • Are your new supervisors open to coaching and feedback from peers and the people they are supervising?
  • How are they responding to the feedback?
  • How are they delegating? Is it effective?
  • Observe a meeting, was it useful to participants?
  • If promoted within the same work-group, what do the relationships with their former peers look like?
  • How comfortable are they saying “no” or “I don’t know”?
  • What steps are they taking to enhance their people skills?

When launching a new supervisor, it takes careful consideration of that person’s skills and abilities plus a clear vision of what success looks like for your organization to master developing talent.

Leesa Schipani

Leesa Schipani


With 20+ years HR experience, her focus includes HR strategy, talent management, and customer & employee experience. Leesa has advanced HR certifications: SPHR, SHRM-SCP.


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KardasLarson is a human resources and business consulting firm that maximizes employee performance so people and organizations prosper.



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