The Critical Role of a Supervisor

role of a supervisor

You may be seeking promotion to the role of a Supervisor after serving time in your work team. You are likely a clear candidate if you either have excellent knowledge of the work that is done, are a champion of safe practice, have simply been there longer than anyone else, or are generally well-liked by your team. But promotion to Supervisor creates additional roles and responsibilities, and sometimes the leap is a challenge.

In this article, we look at the role of a Supervisor in light of organisation, management, communication, and collaboration skills to provide tips to improve your effectiveness.

What is the Role of a Supervisor?

The main role of the Supervisor is to ensure that your workgroup achieves the results that you expect. Supervisors are responsible for the results of the people they supervise and they can be judged by their organisation for the success of their team.

Supervising means getting involved and understanding the day-to-day operation firsthand. It means knowing your people as individuals and being known by them.

Real involvement on the part of the Supervisor reaps two advantages. First, it will provide you with knowledge about your team and the work that they do that is unobtainable any other way.

Second, frequent interaction with your team demonstrates your concern for their daily performance, rather than taking it for granted. Visible and personal involvement by a Supervisor builds morale and a sense of cohesion within the team. This forms a substantial base for a productive Supervisor-Team relationship.

See our article, Best Tips to Motivate Your Employees.

Create Open Channels of Communication

There are several things you need to do in your role as a Supervisor and ensuring that you have open channels of communication is extremely important. You must be able to communicate up and down the line to those you report to and those you supervise.

You must ensure that those you supervise know the exact results you want from them. Your team needs to know the objectives of their workgroup and their specific job.

They need to know the tasks they must perform. Your team must understand the priority of their tasks and the quality and quantity of standards that apply to the work.

They should be aware of the result of these tasks and the deadlines, time frames or close-offs that apply. Most importantly, you need to give clear directions.

Your team should also have the skills, knowledge and capacity to do their work and be motivated to do their job well. Finally, you must inform them how you will be monitoring their performance so that you can provide feedback.

See our article, Effective Safety Communication Do’s and Don’ts.

Provide the Equipment to Do the Job

Your team needs the appropriate aids and equipment to do the job, because substandard tools, for example, can hamper the timely delivery of the work. One of the key responsibilities in your role as a Supervisor is to set up the best possible conditions for your team to work under. These conditions are very important because they directly affect how well they can perform their jobs.

However, some Supervisors don’t know what conditions their teams need to perform well and don’t realise the impact good conditions can have on their performance. These aids and equipment must be easily accessible for use. Your team must know which aids and equipment are used to perform each task, where they are located and how to use them.

Allow Your Team Autonomy to Get the Job Done

In your role as a Supervisor, it’s important to give your team a chance to develop. Teams thrive when they have autonomy and can develop themselves, rather than simply repeat a static routine. You need to be sensitive to individual differences in your team and tailor their duties and their training to match their respective capacities.

At times, you will have members of your team who do outstanding work or demonstrate superior capacity. You should challenge them with more responsible tasks.

As a Supervisor, you’ll be responsible for providing graduated challenges to the people in your team, as well as keeping track of their long-term training and development. It is also important to rotate your people through different jobs within the work area to give them experience in the various aspects of the work that is being done.

See our article, What is Your Preferred Safety Leadership Style?

Provide Timely and Accurate Feedback

Another important area of supervision is what happens when your team has done the work. In your role as a Supervisor, providing your team with feedback on their work is an essential step in evaluating them.

Often supervisors do not respond to the work their teams produce in the best way. Sometimes, they do not let people know they have done well and achieved the expected results.

At other times, when people do not complete the work according to their supervisor’s expectations, they either throw the work back at them without helping them with the problem, or they fix the issues themselves. In both situations, they are contributing to poor performance in the long run.

See our article, Are Safety Managers Simply Performing Busy Work?

Overcoming Performance Problems

One way of overcoming performance problems is to have a work monitoring or measurement system which will help identify the sort of feedback you need to give your team. By measuring the quality and quantity of work each individual team member produces, you can motivate others.

Measurement not only motivates those who achieve the results you expect but highlights those who do not. In your role as a Supervisor, this allows you to help those who are underperforming to try to solve their performance problems.

For team members who need additional training, the Tap into Safety Training Platform can help. We have over 50 out-of-the-box safety and mental health training courses that cover a wide range of topics. Coming soon we will have dedicated courses for Leaders, Managers and Supervisors to provide soft-skill training for their roles as well as how they support work health and safety obligations to keep employees and others safe. Take a look at the training courses, try a free trial and watch for our future updates.

See our article, Do Supervisor’s Leadership Behaviours Impact Safety?

To Conclude

Being an effective Supervisor will demand a great deal of time and attention. Supervision is a continual, rather than a periodic task. However, when done well and when you take your role as a Supervisor seriously, it can be very rewarding.

A bad supervisory relationship is usually marked by a breakdown of communication between the Supervisor and their team, resulting in frustration, confusion, and lower productivity.

To supervise your team properly, you must take the time to involve yourself and find out how the work is going, rather than waiting for any problems to come to you. Providing your team with the right equipment and autonomy to get the job done helps to build a productive team.

In your role as a Supervisor, you should work on your communication skills. You need to provide clear directions and timely feedback to manage expectations and any performance issues.

This article is also available on the Tap into Safety podcast.

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