Multifaceted Training for Supervisors: A Best Practice

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    Corporations, non-profits and any big organization–especially the financially strapped state and federal government agencies are looking for ways that save money and still accomplish training needs.

    My previous article was on meetings that are held to discuss “best practices.” Here is an idea for multifaceted supervisor training that came from one of those meetings that I’d like to share.

    We generally take our best workers and promote them to supervisors to do unfamiliar and dissimilar work in a totally foreign environment.

    Even if they were team leaders before, it’s a whole different approach to what they did before when they were one of the guys. Now they get to be the “bosses,” separate and apart from their crews and peers. It may seem to them this impending alienation is sorry “reward” for doing a great job, but once they learn the way of things they’ll probably think differently.

    You hope his attitude will help get him there. You hope you chose well.

    Let’s say you’ve managed to snare the young, hard-working employee and gave him the job of supervisor, and you are anxious to see what the diligent and dependable employee can do to make his people more like him.

    Hopefully, he can turn his workers into a productivity train—but he has to become a supervisor first, and that requires some additional skills. You hope his attitude will help get him there. You hope you chose well.

    Now, you think of training, but they took your money. Maybe he can make it on-the-job without training. Now, that would be the way to lose him.

    How did you train supervisors before they took your funding away?

    The supervisor took a core set of courses, traveled to some site training and spent a good deal of time just settling in.

    Okay, maybe that’s a little too simplistic and ideal, but today what he gets is a big question mark. Today, because funding is low, he is thrown to the wolves and you hope he has a knife or grew instant fangs, or is tossed in the river and you in hope he can swim.

    While I like focused, self-directed and motivated, core-based, classroom and exercise-based training, I think mixing classroom training when available, using online training, company-specific training provided by local managers, a support group, and a mentoring system that provides a place for questions and feedback is something to consider seriously.

    The biggest problem is getting the core-training in a timely manner.

    In the absence of that it makes sense to use the other methods to fill in the gaps. A supervisor support group will help to start with and could be continued indefinitely, creating a pool of supervisors sharing problems and solutions. These groups of 8 to 10, if the company is large enough, need not meet weekly, but monthly or quarterly to share common issues, network and training.

    Add in a seasoned mentor who besides, advising, can develop a working relationship with the young supervisor.

    The supervisor can possibly take advantage of that relationship rest of his career; after all, who could know him better over time?

    It would be the manager who would set up a plan with the mentor, who would meet with and observe the new supervisor in the office; if so needed he could recommend training in addition to providing advice. He follows up with phone calls and emails to keep up the bond that follows the supervisor for his first year at least.

    That may be all it takes for the supervisor to come up to speed, but what is the harm of establishing strong links in the company with his peers (supervisor support group) and his mentor—a guide for his career. As for the mentor and other teachers/managers drafted in the process, a little refresher never hurt anyone.

    These days of economic uncertainty it might to also refresh their interest in the company goals and needs.

    It is also possible your trained, confident and supported talent will lead the company one day.

    As for the online training, the managers sign on as teachers or teaching assistants and can monitor the supervisors’ progress. Best of all, it doesn’t have the feel of training in the traditional sense; it feels more like support, and it works. It is a Best Practice.

    The result: You will have good supervisors to support the line staff, make a case for recruitment and succession planning; and besides growing strong supervisors you will be increasing company productivity. Of course, that’s not a given, but a strong probable with the right talent.

    For more resources about training, see the Training library.