A couple months ago I blogged about how important structured learning experiences are for new employees; you can read it here.  Throwing them into the frying pan and expecting them to learn “how we do things around here” on their own is the worst way to start off a new team member.  Most new employees will be self-conscious and uncomfortable at best, and feel downright neglected and resentful at worst.  Even on my volunteer mountain rescue team, where new teammates are unpaid and may have joined the team just for fun, and our mission is as clear and uncomplicated as “go climb that mountain and get the guy with the broken leg and bring him down here”, I have learned that a structured training program is critical to their success on the team.

For a newly promoted supervisor, a formal training program is even more important.  Think about it; your new supervisor has a nearly overwhelming number of new responsibilities.  She must learn how to recruit, interview, select, hire, train, coach, supervise, motivate, reward, discipline and terminate employees who used to be her peers.  Then she must learn an endless list of company policies, government regulations and applicable legislation behind these new responsibilities, else risk getting herself and the company into all sorts of hot water.  If the organization is unionized, she must learn about the collective bargaining agreement.  There are affirmative action and/or diversity goals to become familiar with, EEO legislation to learn, pitfalls in the interviewing process, and requirements for performance documentation.  Depending on the size of your organization, there may be many internal programs for people processes that must be studied.  HR generalists may or may not be available to help, and to the extent they are, the supervisor still needs to know when to call them and when to handle something on her own. 

We’re not talking about Leadership development with a capital “L” here.  We’re just talking about the nuts and bolts of becoming a supervisor.  If you don’t spend time putting together a formal, structured training program in human resource management for your new supervisors, you’ll pay the consequences in increased employee complaints and possibly even litigation, not to mention decreased employee performance and morale. 

And yet as obvious as all this seems, I frequently see small to mid-sized companies expecting their new supervisors to learn on the job.   Sure, they provide resources; a handbook here, a intranet site there, an assigned human resources specialist or maybe a short class or two.  But no comprehensive, fully integrated workshop that gives the supervisors the big picture along with the tools and resources they need.  And so supervisors pick up a few tidbits here and there and maybe  learn some lessons the hard way, but they never make all the connections they need to make in order to understand how to be an effective supervisor.  Don’t be one of those companies; set your new supervisors up for success right at the beginning.

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