What Are the Five Key Roles of a Supervisor?

What Are the Five Key Roles of a Supervisor?

Not everyone is meant to be a supervisor, nor are all supervisors qualified for the job. However, many people find themselves in that position solely because they have worked in a field/industry for a long time. 


AEU LEAD knows and understands that many of today's supervisors have been promoted through the ranks and received very little training or guidance on how to be a supervisor. That's why we're here to help. But first, let's look at some of the essential roles of a supervisor. 


At a high level, supervisors should be able to communicate organizational needs, manage employee performance, offer mentorship, provide guidance, and develop and support their team members. These responsibilities will quickly become part of your daily routine as a supervisor. Let's dive a little deeper into the five specific roles of the supervisor.



1. Working with the Human Resources Department


There are various reasons a supervisor will need to understand how to successfully collaborate with the Human Resources Department (HR). But two of the biggest concerns will be hiring/firing and reporting performance goals. Hiring will include recruiting, conducting interviews, performing background checks, and following up on references. Sometimes, this can be a detailed and lengthy process, and supervisors must manage their time appropriately. Firing employees is more challenging than it sounds. When you terminate an employee, you want to ensure that HR is involved and that you have their support. This will ensure that the termination is legal and fair. In addition, supervisors will need to handle the documented process for termination. 


Between the hiring and firing processes is the reporting of performance goals. Supervisors will be held accountable for working with their HR departments to report team and individual performance goals. For this role, a supervisor must evaluate and capture detailed and specific records of each team member in several key areas: performance, professionalism, punctuality, safety, and misconduct. Although these are the main areas, the supervisor may also be expected to address other areas. Whether involved in hiring/firing employees, reporting the status of performance goals, or completing work evaluations, working closely with HR will play a significant role in a supervisor's regular activities.



2. Training and Mentoring


As a supervisor, you will dedicate a fair amount of your time to training and mentoring employees on your team. While training is always important, it is integral when you have recently hired new employees. You will need to ensure they are "onboarded" properly. If your company doesn't have a detailed onboarding process, you will need to create one. While it may seem like a "time waste" at the moment, it will quickly become a "time saver" for future hires. 


Search for ongoing and continuing training programs that might be valuable to your teams. No one is ever too old to learn. Besides providing training, supervisors will also want to become a mentor to their teams. As a supervisor, you should strive to be a role model for those around you. Set the bar high. Supervisors should remain positive and set good examples for others to follow. When you supervise others, you will always want to "walk the walk and talk the talk." Steer clear of the "do as I say, not as I do" frame of mind.



3. Dealing with Conflict


In a perfect world, everyone would get along, right? However, in the real world, that doesn't always happen. As a supervisor, you will want to navigate the waters as gracefully as possible when you have two or more team members at odds. It is often best to pull everyone involved together and have a private face-to-face talk. You can eliminate the "he said, she said" aspect by involving all parties. Supervisors will need to remain professional throughout conflict resolution. You should put aside any personal feelings and be as objective as possible. And remember, if you can't find a resolution with your team, it's OK to reach out and have someone from HR intercede.



4. Managing Workflow and Scheduling


Supervisors must understand all the skills and tasks required to do any job. By knowing these things, they can assign team members to the tasks for which they are best suited. Assigning employees the right role is critical for supervisors because it directly impacts the team's performance. The supervisor will also be responsible for scheduling their team's work hours, which can be difficult if employees work multiple shifts. For instance, busier shifts require more workers. However, supervisors can't overlook the slower shifts. One person can't handle the entire burden of a shift even if it is not as busy. As we've explained, the supervisor's role in scheduling is crucial. Finding a proper balance in managing employees is imperative. The organization will become your best friend as you navigate employees requesting a personal day off, vacation times, and time for unexpected emergencies. As a supervisor, you must remain prepared and flexible when creating schedules.



5. Providing Advancement Opportunities


A good supervisor always wants their people to do more and be better. While you work closely with your team members daily, you understand them better than most. You know their strengths and weaknesses and who deserves a promotion. In some cases, you might have direct input regarding a candidate up for promotion; other times, you might not. A good supervisor will look for opportunities to promote deserving employees, even if it means they will leave your team. 


Being able to identify training opportunities for your team members is also essential. Employees can become more productive in their current roles with additional training. When employees understand that the supervisors see something in them, they will strive to do more. Whether it's by promotion or further training, supervisors should always look for ways to better each team member. Doing so will strengthen the team as a whole, benefiting the organization in the end.


It can be challenging to be a supervisor, but with established processes and guidelines, it can be more manageable. Your goal is to create a positive team culture while meeting or exceeding performance outcomes. Just remember your team will always look to you as a role model. So set the bar high and become the example you want your team to emulate.



Ready to take the next step? Learn more about becoming a better supervisor by contacting AEU LEAD.

 Our mission at AEU LEAD is to enable transformation. For those wanting to transform through the development of soft skills for supervisors and managers, we’re here to help. AEU LEAD strengthens organizations and empowers managers with leadership and safety training tailored to your business.

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About the Author

As Director of AEU LEAD, Joe White focuses on helping members transform operational goals into actionable plans through a structured change management process. Prior to joining AEU, Joe was a senior consultant for E.I. DuPont’s consulting division, DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS). He joined DSS in 2011 to develop the next generation of safety practices using extensive research in behavioral sciences he’s compiled over a period of nearly two decades. His efforts resulted in the development of The Risk Factor, which is now the flagship instructor-led offering for the consulting division. Combined, Joe has 26 years of operational safety experience, the majority of which was with DuPont. Joe has been published in Occupational Health & Safety Magazine for his prominent work in safety relative to behavioral and neurosciences and is an event speaker at many leading industry conferences including National Safety Council (NSC) Congress and Expos, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and National Maritime Safety Association (NMSA). Joe is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and has a B.S., in Safety and Risk Administration.

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