Becoming a Star Supervisor: Part 1

By Jennifer Craig | July 5, 2012

Retaining Top Employees Starts at the Top

Let me provide a typical scenario. Joe is a key performer for a packing and shipping company. He has been with them for five years, primarily driving a large forklift. His performance reviews have been outstanding for his ability to operate equipment, load and unload freight, pack and unpack boxes, transfer freight from and onto large industrial racks; his hard work, dependability, attitude, and his ability to work under pressure. Management has been impressed with Joe’s performance so he was promoted to warehouse supervisor, overseeing all the forklift operators.

Unfortunately, the only supervisors Joe has had in the past have not been good. Their management skills were lacking and he feels that supervisors, in general, have to stay on top of their employees at all the time. He has never had to handle reports, performance reviews (never received many), interviews, training, or staff meetings. What will happen to Joe in his new job?

Like parenting, supervision is learned. Unfortunately, if not modeled correctly or without coaching and training, Joe could fail miserably or slide by without ever knowing how important his job is to the company. In order to be an effective supervisor, he has to be part of the management team, separating himself from his friends on the job. He has to understand why his job is important (providing him with an idea of productivity numbers and overall performance requirements), how to be a good supervisor, how to grow a loyal team and how to continue his personal development with the company. Since his job is a set of learned skills, the business needs to spend time and money on Joe to ensure that he can deliver according to their expectations.

Turnover in Staff is Costly

Far too often, the best worker is promoted without being developed and nobody wins. Employees leave due to dissatisfaction and the supervisor feels powerless to stop it. Turnover in staff is costly. According to American Management, the cost is about 30% of that person’s annual salary which includes replacement costs like advertisement, training, and productivity.

Yet the vast majority of employers fail to understand why their employees leave. A recent nationwide survey (Kenexa, 2011), which included data from thousands of employees and employers from all major industries, found that “41% of employers cited a ‘poor relationship with their manager’ as the top reason employees leave. However, only 15% of employees agreed. In a recent blog post, Top Five Reasons for Employee Turnover, management consultants Peter Scontrino and Jevon Powell, shared the real reasons employees leave their jobs, according to the Kenexa survey.

The top five reasons given by employees who quit their jobs in 2011 were:

  1. Lack of Opportunities for Professional Development (30%)
  2. Inadequate Compensation (28%);
  3. Boredom/Lack of Challenge (27%)
  4. Poor Work/Life Balance (20%)
  5. Job Stress and Unfair Treatment (20%)

After looking at the reasons people leave, it is even more important to retain good employees, help to motivate them, and provide challenging work. A mediocre or inexperienced supervisor will not be able to ensure that they stay. Businesses need to have a supervision development plan so that all supervisors are trained the same, have a good understanding of the policies and procedures, know how to be a stellar supervisor, and have management support.

My next article will share six critical skills a supervisor must possess in order to be a star supervisor. Check back in a couple of days for Part 2 of this post, “Six Key Skills for Being a Stellar Supervisor.”

About the Author

Jennifer Craig

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