My consulting practice is geared toward small and midsize businesses. One issue I find that is common to many of those companies is a lack of supervisory training. Of course that is unfortunately all too common with larger companies as well. We promote people to those positions often without any preparation. It is as if, by giving them the title, we have imbued in them all the skills they need to have. Without the training what do they fall back on? Supervisors they have had in the past generally act as the model. Sometimes that is good and sometimes that is a disaster. Ever wonder why a kid is a jerk and then you meet their parents? Puzzle solved. Well some supervisors are the same way. Regardless, even the ones that had good role models need some training. So here are three reasons supervisory training is so important.
Reason 1- To stay out of court
In employee relations where does the “rubber meet the road?” It is in the interaction supervisors have with their direct reports. Ever hear the term “vicarious liability”? The company is held at fault for the actions of its supervisors in what they do, say to, and how they interact with employees. Do you really want your supervisors to rely on their definitions of the words harassment, discrimination, and documentation? If you do then we need to talk. I can save you a lot of money. So train your supervisors in the policies and procedures that will keep them from violating the law.
Reason 2- Productivity
Having a supervisor who is well trained will make your employees more productive. If your supervisor not only knows the processes but also is skilled in communication he/she will be more effective in insuring smooth running operations. They need to be trained on how to:
- Deliver assignments
- Deliver coaching
- Actively and effectively listen
- Deliver bad news
- Deliver effective performance feedback
- Deliver praise
All of these items will increase the productivity of their employees.
Reason 3- Retention
How often have we heard that one of the prime reasons someone leaves a company is that they do not like the person for whom they work? It is typically in the top five reasons for employee turnover. “Liking” a supervisor does not mean they have to be Facebook buddies, or drinking buddies, or have to spend weekends with them. Liking the supervisor, in this discussion, means that the employee respects and trusts the supervisor. They feel they can have a candid discussion if need be and not be held hostage because of what they said. They feel that their opinions are given serious consideration by the supervisor and they are not belittled for offering the opinion. That is the kind of person that someone wants to work for.
For many people being “likable” does not come naturally. These are inter-personal skills that need to be fostered and this can be done with training and coaching. Quite often we promote someone to a supervisory position because of their technical skills and hope that they have the personality for the job. Quite often we are wrong. So don’t just train supervisors on hard skills, train them on soft skills as well. It will pay dividends in keeping good employees.
Training often gets pushed aside due to monetary or time considerations. However, training, especially delivered early in a supervisor’s career, can be one of the best uses of time and money. Training supervisors in HR policy and procedure lessens exposure to law suits. Training supervisors in people skills in addition to technical skills will make employees more productive. Training supervisors in soft-skills will improve employee retention and the costs associated with turnover.