What’s So Hard About Supervising? A Reality Check for New Supervisors
Supervising | Two People Working
October 4, 2016

We appoint individual contributors into management roles which are not specifically suitable for that individual and tend to let them ‘sink or swim’.*

Sink or Swim

The sink or swim approach leaves so much to chance because new supervisors are not typically assessed ahead of these promotions for their management potential.

Current research supports that: *

  • 97% of front-line supervisors are essential to business success
  • 58% of front-line supervisors have the support they need to be successful in their roles
  • 48% of organizations adequately invest in front-line supervisors

How big a deal is this lack of support and development?

A VERY BIG DEAL!!  Since most front-line supervisors have been promoted to these positions based on their performance as individual contributors, they bring to these new positions all of the technical

expertise they have developed. In a recent highly-publicized study, researchers at Google found that technical expertise was the least important criteria in a new supervisor while coaching and empowering employees was essential.

What other skills are essential?

The most important indicators of front-line supervisor impact are: *

  • Increased productivity
  • Improved team functioning
  • Increased engagement
  • Team objectives aligned with business strategy
  • Reduced turnover
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Effective onboarding

All of these indicators require front-line supervisors to apply effective PEOPLE SKILLS in order to get work done through others, rather than doing it themselves.

How About Competencies?

Current research solicited feedback to identify the critical competencies for front-line supervisors’ success. The highest responses included:

  • Ethics and integrity
  • Effective communications
  • Motivation to succeed
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Development of effective teams

So, how can you support a new front-line supervisor in developing his/her PEOPLE SKILLS?

Depending on your organization’s commitment formal training, providing just-in-time management training would be a very effective way to support your new supervisor.  While this training is effective at providing a toolkit for your supervisor, there are other ways to begin developing supervisory skills that are just as effective.  In fact, they may be more effective. Formal training’s effectiveness is very dependent on the supervisor’s application of these new skills. Often times, the new supervisor requires ongoing support in applying what he/she has learned.

Other targeted approaches to developing new supervisory skills include:

  • Performance expectations- establish specific supervisory goals and measurements to include employee retention, ongoing coaching and feedback and regular performance review meetings with each employee
  • Onboarding- create a structured onboarding process to assure that new supervisors have tools and guidelines for communication, delegation and employment law that impacts their new roles.
  • Coach assignment- identify a seasoned, successful manager who is willing to provide ongoing coaching and feedback to the new supervisor as he/she transitions
  • Challenging assignments- help the new supervisor identify projects that may stretch his/her management skills
  • Targeted learning tools- provide the new supervisor with a list of effective YouTube videos and web sites focused on skill development for new supervisors
  • Create a New Supervisor support group to share challenges and successes

Want to learn more?

Join us for the next KardasLarson 30-minute webinar in our free Small Bites series on Tuesday, October 18 at 12:00 PM.  Click here to register.

* Talent Pulse, 2016 Learning and Development Research, Human Capital Institute

Cheryl Chester

Cheryl Chester


With 25+ years HR experience, Cheryl's focus includes leadership development, OD, performance management, employee engagement, and succession planning.


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