MBA Module #9: Staffing and Supervision

Sections of this topic

    © Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting,
    . Adapted from the Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision in Business
    and the Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision for Nonprofit Staff.

    This module is in the organization development program. However, this module can also be used by anyone as a self-study exercise to learn more about staffing and supervising employees and volunteers.

    Sections of This Module Include the Following


    Staffing and supervision are two of the most critical functions of a manager. Each of the functions includes various other activities, as well.

    Very simply, staffing is:
    a) Deciding what human resources are needed, ideally in terms of knowledge, skills, and abilities regarding specified roles, jobs, and tasks (ideally these roles are determined on the basis of strategic planning and are defined in terms of competencies and/or on-job descriptions)
    b) Recruiting the necessary human resources (sourcing, placing ads, etc.)
    c) Considering outsourcing to hire outside expertise
    d) Screening job candidates (interviewing, testing, etc.)
    e) Selecting candidates (via job offers)
    f) Equipping new hires (via orienting, training, facilities, assignments, etc.)

    Very simply, supervising is overseeing the progress and productivity of direct reports, often by:
    a) Mutually setting goals with direct reports
    b) Supporting conditions for their motivation
    c) Observing performance and giving feedback and other forms of guidance
    d) Conducting regular performance appraisals/reviews
    e) Addressing performance problems
    f) Ensuring sufficient rewards

    Staffing and supervising should be carried out according to carefully designed and approved personnel policies in the workplace.

    This module provides materials and guidelines to understand staffing and supervision, along with setting up basic systems and processes in the organization in order to carry out activities in a legal and effective manner.

    NOTE ABOUT THE LARGE SIZE OF THIS MODULE: This module is one of the largest in the program. Learners who have very limited time schedules might first “pick and choose” which subtopics they want to review before they proceed through this module in its entirety. Learners are encouraged, though, to print out the entire Free Basic Guide to Leadership and Supervision for reference in the future.

    NOTE ABOUT BOARD COMMITTEES: Consider establishing a Board Personnel Committee to review and help guide the implementation of the information in this learning module. Major activities and goals from this learning module could be incorporated into that Committee’s Committee Work Plan.

    Also, consider
    Related Library Topics


    Learners who complete this module will achieve the following outcomes:

    Supervising Staff, Including How to:

    1. Define New Job Roles
    2. Recruit Job Candidates
    3. Screen Applicants
    4. Orient New Employees
    5. Delegate to Employees
    6. Ensure Strong Performance
    7. Fire Employees
    8. Compile Personnel Policies and Samples
    9. Evaluate Your Supervisory Practices


    • The following materials will help you address each of the topics and learning activities in this module.

    Basic Overview of Staffing and Supervision

    Read Free Basic Guide to Leadership and Supervision — particularly the sections:

    Introduction to Management and Supervision


    Employee Training

    Employee Performance Management

    Personnel Policies

    Experience of a First-Time Supervisor


    • Learners are strongly encouraged to discuss the following questions with peers, board members, management, and staff, as appropriate.

    Introduction to the Role of Supervisor

    See What is “Supervision”? What Do Supervisors Do? and One Definition of Supervision.

    1. What is a supervisor? How does that role differ from the general role of management?

    2. What are the typical activities carried out by a supervisor?

    3. What are some of the unique struggles and stresses of a first-time supervisor?

    4. What are some of the roles of a supervisor?

    5. Does a supervisor oversee the progress and productivity only of entry-level workers only — that is, can supervision occur at all levels of management?


    Defining Job Roles

    See Defining a New Job Role.

    1. How should new job roles be defined? What is the relationship between the results of strategic planning and staffing?

    2. What is a job description? How should it be developed? What should be included in a job description?

    3. What factors are considered when determining the cost of a new hire? What is fringe?

    4. How is a job description kept up-to-date?

    5. What are at least two primary uses of a job description?

    6. What is the relationship between a job description and a performance review?


    See Hiring (Advertising, Screening, and Selecting).

    1. What should be looked for when screening resumes?

    2. When interviewing, should you ask different questions to each candidate? Should you ask open-ended or yes/no questions — why?

    3. What are some useful open-ended questions to ask?

    4. What matters should be in an offer letter?

    5. What is the purpose of a personnel file? What goes in it?

    Building Teams

    See Building Teams.

    1. What is the importance of a team in the workplace — particularly in the future workplace?

    2. Name at least three of the four kinds of teams.

    3. What are the five stages of team development? What are the characteristics of each?

    4. What is the first guideline for building a team? (HINT: Think about “SMARTER”.)

    5. What are some considerations when determining the membership of a team?

    6. What does the “structure” of a group mean?

    7. What should be communicated to the group in its first meeting?

    8. Name at least eight of the 12 guidelines for team building.

    Employee Training

    Orienting Employees

    See Orienting New Employees.

    1. What should be communicated in a welcome letter (sent to the employee before they begin employment)?

    2. What are some of the activities to conduct with the employee during the first meeting after they have started employment?

    3. Name at least four practices to help new hires learn about the organization.

    4. What should be done with the new hire regarding the employee manual?

    5. How often should the supervisor meet with the new employee during the first six weeks or so?

    Job Training

    See Job Training.

    1. Name at least four of the six different reasons/situations to conduct employee training.

    2. What are the four basic types of employee training?

    3. Coaching is a common type of employee training. The process can mean many things to many people (coaching has become a major service to organizations and includes a wide variety of approaches). What are the four basic steps (outlined in the reading) for conducting employee coaching?

    4. What are the four common pitfalls in employee training?

    5. What is a training goal? Learning objective?

    6. What are some methods to ensure that the design and implementation of employee training are highly effective?

    Employee Performance Management

    Setting Goals

    See Setting Goals.

    1. What is one of the common problems that new supervisors experience regarding employee performance management?

    2. What is the first step toward overcoming this problem?

    3. Why do some people dislike the use of goals?

    4. Name at least three of the four advantages of using goals.

    5. What are the four types of gaps that goals can be used to address?

    6. What is a performance gap? Growth gap? Opportunity gap? Training gap?

    7. What can be done so that supervisors and employees have more “buy-in” to goals?

    8. What does the acronym SMARTER mean — that is, what does each letter stand for?

    Supporting Employee Motivation

    See Supporting Employee Motivation.

    1. Name at least four of the six myths about motivating employees.

    2. What is the first step in motivating employees? (HINT: think about yourself.)

    3. What must be done regarding the goals of the organization and the goals of employees?

    4. Is each employee motivated by the same thing(s) as other employees?

    5. Name at least eight of the 14 steps that you can take to motivate employees.

    Observing and Giving Feedback

    See Observing and Giving Feedback.

    1. When providing feedback, focus on the ____ rather than the person.

    2. Own the feedback — use __ statements.

    3. Why should people be careful with giving advice?

    4. Name at least six of the nine guidelines regarding observing employee behavior and giving advice.

    Conducting Performance Appraisals/Reviews

    See Conducting Performance Appraisals/Reviews.

    1. What are some of the ill effects of not doing regular performance reviews?

    2. What are some of the law-related requirements of performance reviews? (HINT: Think about the points made by Patricia King in Performance Planning and Appraisal — these points were included in your reading for this learning module.)

    3. What items of information should be included in the standard performance appraisal form?

    4. When should performance reviews be conducted?

    5. What is the relationship between the performance review and the job description?

    6. What should not be discussed in the performance review and discussion?

    7. Always address employee _____, not characteristics of their personalities.

    8. What is the best guideline to ensure that the guideline in question 7 is always followed?

    9. What are some guidelines for carrying out the performance appraisal meeting/discussion?

    10. Nothing should be a surprise for the employee in the performance review meeting when discussing the employee’s performance. Why is this true?

    Addressing Performance Problems

    See Addressing Performance Problems.

    1. When should the supervisor almost always convey to the employee that the employee’s behavior is a problem in the workplace?

    2. When determining if an employee has a performance problem, consider the employee’s ____, not their ____.

    3. When you first convey a performance problem to an employee, what two points should you convey at a minimum?

    4. What might be some special circumstances to consider when addressing an employee’s performance problem?

    5. What should you do right after the first meeting about the employee’s performance issue?

    6. If a supervisor sees a performance problem soon after the first occurrence and reports to the employee, what should the supervisor do? (HINT: Think about what should be said and what should be written down.)

    7. What is the relevance of personnel policies when addressing performance problems?

    Firing Employees

    See Firing Employees.

    1. What is the relevance of personnel policies when firing an employee?

    2. You should consider firing an employee (for a performance problem) only if you have done at least four specific activities. What are they and in what sequence should they occur?

    3. What should be included in a letter of termination to an employee?

    4. What should be conveyed when meeting with the employee who is to be terminated?

    5. What should be done right after the meeting with the employee?

    Personnel Policies

    Developing Personnel Policies

    See Developing Personnel Policies.

    1. What is a personnel policy?

    2. Why is it important to develop them?

    3. Why is it important to always consult a lawyer (who is well-versed in current employee laws) when developing personnel policies?

    4. Note that if management’s behaviors do not conform to the personnel policies, courts will consider the related policies to be superseded by the behaviors. True?

    5. How might an organization train employees about its personnel policies?

    Developing an Employee Manual

    See Developing an Employee Manual.

    1. What is an employee manual (or personnel policies handbook)?

    2. What is at least one use of this type of manual?

    3. In the case of a corporation and its board of directors, what is the role of the board of directors regarding personnel policies?

    4. What points should be included in the description of the manual to the employee, that is, what points might be included in the wording on the cover of the manual?

    Sample List of Personnel Polices

    See Sample List of Personnel Policies.

    1. Name at least five of the topics that might be addressed in personnel policies regarding work schedules.

    2. Name at least two of the topics that might be addressed in personnel policies regarding hiring practices.

    3. Name at least five of the topics that might be addressed in personnel policies regarding compensation.

    4. Name at least five of the topics that might be addressed in personnel policies regarding payroll information and timekeeping procedures.

    5. Name at least five of the topics that might be addressed in personnel policies regarding benefits.

    6. Name at least five of the topics that might be addressed in personnel policies regarding compensation.

    7. Name at least five of the topics that might be addressed in personnel policies regarding performance issues.


    • Learners are strongly encouraged to complete the following activities and share and discuss results with peers, board members, management, and employees, as appropriate.
    • As you proceed through the following activities, be sure to note any incomplete actions in the Action Item Planning List.

    1. Do you have job descriptions for all employees? Do they include titles, qualifications, responsibilities, and whom the role reports to? Dates on the forms?

    2. Do you have a personnel policies handbook for all employees, and have all employees reviewed it and signed a form indicating they’ll comply with the policies? Has the board approved the handbook with its policies?

    3. How do you ensure adequate and fair compensation for each of the roles in your organization? Are your practices described in your personnel policies?

    4. How do you ensure your employees are oriented to your organization when they are hired? Are these practices described in your personnel policies?

    5. How do you ensure that you’re effectively delegating to employees?

    6. Do you have a written policy about how you conduct regular, formal performance reviews? Are your practices described in your personnel policies?

    7. How do you ensure all management personnel are completely familiar with personnel policies? (It’s critical that they be very familiar with the policies — their behavior can be interpreted as the de facto policies of the organization.)

    8. Do you have a policy about how employees are fired? Are your practices described in your personnel policies?

    9. Update your organization chart with all roles and their titles in the organization.

    10. Make a list of any personnel policies your organization needs and write down what you’d generally like the policies to address and how. Discuss this with your board.

    11. Provide your personnel handbook (and a list of any new policies you might need) to a professional (preferably a lawyer who is well-versed in employee law) for review, and arrange to have all appropriate changes made as soon as possible. Arrange board review and approval of the policies, and training to all employees about any changes to the policies.

    12. Draft an action plan with specific goals needed to improve your supervisory skills. Add how you will accomplish each goal and when.


    1. Evaluation of Human Resource Management and Supervision Practices in Businesses


    1. One of the first indicators that an organization or a person is struggling is that open action items are not tracked and reviewed. (Open action items are required actions that have not yet been completed.) Instead, people only see and react to the latest “fires” in their workplaces or their lives. Whether open action items are critical to address now or not, they should not entirely be forgotten. Therefore, update and regularly review a list of open action items (identified while proceeding through this program) that includes listing each open action item, who is responsible for completing it, when it should be completed, and any associated comments. When updating the list, consider action items as identified during discussions, learning activities, and assessments in this module. Share and regularly review this action item list with the appropriate peers, board, management, and employees in your organization. You can use the following Action Item Planning List. (At that Web address, a box might open, asking you which software application to open the document.)

    2. If you have questions, consider posing them in the national, free, online discussion group, which is attended by many human resource and organization development experts.


    1. Are you exchanging feedback with others about what you’re learning in this program?

    2. Are you sticking to your study schedule for this program?

    3. Are you practicing your basic skills in management and leadership, including in problem solving and decision making, planning and meeting management?

    4. Are you communicating throughout your organization by using your skills in internal communications?

    5. Are you managing yourself? How many hours a week are you working? Are you noticing any signs of stress? If so, what are you doing about it?

    6. One of the ways you might be able to tell if you’re stressed out and/or losing perspective might be whether you’re tracking details or not. Are you using the action item list referenced above?

    7. Are you reflecting on learnings from past modules and how they build on the learning in this module? For example, are you seeing your organization from a systems view, as explained in the module “Starting and Understanding Your Organization?”

    (Learners in the organization development program can return to the home page of the organization development program.)

    For the Category of Supervision:

    To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

    Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.