In response to the question: “How do you create a supervisor?” a key executive in a high-tech organization once replied, “It’s easy, you just change the color of his or her badge.” He was being facetious, of course, because becoming a supervisor is not so easy. The job of a supervisor is one that should be trained with not only the duties of management, but handling the work results (or the lack thereof) of the employees whom they are in charge of. However, supervisors are often blamed but are seldom (or inadequately) trained.
In most organizations, first-level supervisors tend to be promoted with little or no leadership training. If you survey their subordinates, the response is generally that whatever leadership training there was, it wasn’t enough!
Take the job of â€œfunctional specialistsâ€ for example. These specialists include such job titles like engineers, accountants, or sales people and they may spend years learning their field of expertise. Yet when they get their first supervisory promotions, they often are plunged into the complex world of supervisor-subordinate relations and interdepartmental cooperation without the necessary preparation. Many soon get an abrupt orientation to the old adage: “Management would be easy if it weren’t for people!”
Whereas mathematical formulas and the laws of physical and chemical science provide the basis for predicting the behavior of things, people are noticeably variable and thus less predictable. A leader’s mission is to recognize individual differences and to be able to organize people’s combined resources for efficient performance. And that’s not an easy task. It requires specialized skills beyond those learned by functional experts.
Recall, or imagine, what it was like to select someone for promotion into the ranks of supervision. Whom did you pick? What were the characteristics of the leading candidates for consideration? Were most of them high producers in their own specialties – for example, the leading salespeople? Did you consider promoting anyone who produced less but who may have had other attributes, such as listening skills and a strong orientation to teamwork? Or did you feel that the promotion should be a remuneration given to the highest producer?
Your answers to these questions may reveal that your decision to promote a certain candidate over another is based on incomplete – if not inappropriate – criteria. The highest producer doesn’t necessarily embody the strongest supervisory skills – at least not without the proper training.
Company Computer Training
Many companies have developed a variety of interactive computer programs to train employees. Such programs were initially designed for use in schools to enable students to learn at their own pace. Slower learners could take their time and repeat sections until they understood them. Fast learners or students who had more background could move ahead quickly, and students could test themselves as they progressed.
Because most companies have their own ways of doing things, generic programs, such as the ones used by schools, haven’t been of much value. However, there are generic programs, such as those that teach basic accounting skills and various computer operations, which can be an asset to any organization. Check software catalogs to determine which programs might be valuable to you. Some larger organizations have customized programs to suit their own needs.
These programs are usually not available outside the companies that developed them. Perhaps you can customize programs to meet your own requirements. Walk into any computer store and you’ll find a variety of standard courses on CD-ROM. You’ll find courses in all types of computer functions, typing, general office skills, accounting, marketing, business planning, and general management. These can be used at the workplace or given to employees to use at home.