Most managers would say that good employee supervision is about results. But will supervisors who demand immediate and unquestioning compliance with their orders always obtain the best results? Whether or not you have the official title of "supervisor," if you are in a position that requires you to direct the activity of others, a periodic review of your supervisory skills may bring you better results.
Supervision is about building working relationships with employees. Building a trusting relationship takes time. But when supervisor and employee trust one another, both of their thoughts and efforts can be applied to each situation. The likelihood of time-wasting conflicts is reduced. The supervisor needs to be able to trust the employee to get assigned tasks done in a satisfactorily manner. The employee needs to be able to trust the supervisor to support and compensate him fairly. Employees have high expectations for leadership in the workplace. They want to be treated with dignity and respect. A strong working relationship builds the necessary commitment to get the work done.
One of the most challenging aspects of supervision is evaluation of employee performance. Evaluations should be much more in-depth than a simple judgment by a supervisor about an employee's performance. Evaluations can be a tool to improve performance by establishing goals for and recognizing outstanding performance. Conducting formal evaluations of employees on a routine basis ensures that there is adequate communication between employer and employee. Constructive feedback is a powerful tool to reinforce desired behavior because everyone likes to receive positive feedback on work well done.
Good supervisors provide training and development for their employees and are glad to make the investment in refining employee skills. This can benefit the employer by retaining employees and meeting future business needs. Many employees want to have the opportunity to take on new responsibilities and grow with an organization. Providing training and development opportunities will enable them to do this. They will be less likely to look elsewhere for work if they are satisfied with the work and future possibilities. For instance, the work nearly everyone does now involves some interface with technology. If an organization has kept technology current and has provided training for employees in using that technology successfully, employees will be more likely to stay.
More and more supervisors are relying on coaching skills for self-directed employees as opposed to directing employees to perform certain tasks. With all of the demands that fall to today's managers, delegating work and supporting employees with coaching is a better fit.
Often, a supervisor's work includes resolving conflicts and managing diversity. Conflict resolution is a critical skill for those who wish to get work accomplished through others.
Maintaining a safe workplace is another primary supervisory responsibility. Setting high standards for safety communicates to employees that they are important and valued at the same time it encourages employees to do their part in maintaining a safe work environment.
Concern for regulatory compliance has grown in importance for many employers. For instance, environmental regulations require the safe disposal of hazardous materials. Responsible supervisors will ensure their employees are trained on safe handling and disposal of hazardous waste.
Sharpening your supervisory skills is one of the most effective investments you can make in your company. It will result in better performance, greater employee satisfaction, a safer and healthier environment, a positive workplace and, ultimately, an improvement to the bottom line.
Further support is available from your local Small Business & Technology Development Center to help you with market research and other business management issues.
- Kevin Baiotto, business specialist, MO SBTDC. For Creating Quality Newsletter, Sept. 2002.