As we saw in the last session, the supervisor has to bridge the gap between the workforce and management. It can sometimes be an uncomfortable role, as they must act as a go-between, representing staff and their views and problems to management, and representing management to staff.
It must sometimes be a difficult and lonely place to be.
They might be a leader as well as a team member, and must offer guidance and support to the rest of the team, while ensuring that management appreciate the workforce’s situation.
They must strive be fair at all times, and be even handed, not showing favouritism to anyone.
They need to tailor their management style to each individual, offering detailed help and guidance to those new to their task, or struggling with it. At the same time, they should have a lighter touch with those who are familiar with the work and don’t need to be micromanaged.
Sometimes they will find themselves in the role of peacemaker, spotting and defusing potential conflict, hopefully before it escalates into a serious problem or a row. They need to understand both sides of situation and be able to defuse the situation if required.
They need to be aware of all the regulatory aspects of the job such as Health and Safety legislation, equality in the workplace, ensuring no one is abused by others, as well as managing the workflow and achieving targets.
And if there is Change (and where is there no change in these fast-paced times?) then it will fall to the supervisor to explain managements’ plans to the workforce, assure them that all will be OK, and lead them through the change and the problems that will undoubtedly occur with any new regime.
So it is easy to see why a good supervisor is essential to the smooth running of a business. If the supervisor is poor, or negligent in their duties, not strong enough to carry the workforce with them, then all manner of problems can, and will occur.
Management must select the right person for this role, and train them adequately. This can be an ongoing process, perhaps with a half-day session every few weeks or months. This will allow the supervisor the opportunity to get out of the front line occasionally, afford them time to regularly reflect on their role, what they are doing well and less well.
They can learn tools to improve their own performance. In turn this will undoubtedly reflect well on the performance of the group, so can be considered a good investment of time by management.
A strong, capable, effective supervisor definitely adds a great deal of value to their team and their company.