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Contrary to popular belief, one does not need to be born a leader to lead — anyone can learn effective leadership skills with the right training.

The number one thing leaders need to understand is how to build relationships, a broad ability that requires interpersonal skills like effective communication, empathy, objectivity, patience, collaboration and more. In other words, good leaders focus on people first, then the job at hand.

Effective leadership has a measurable impact on employee engagement, plant efficiency and overall organizational performance. But how exactly does a manager or supervisor become a true leader who people want to follow? Here, we discuss the elements of an impactful supervisor training program and how to measure its success in your organization.

The Importance of Supervisor Training

Supervisors and managers typically make up the largest group of leaders in an organization and are responsible for most day-to-day operations. Without effective managers, critical tasks are not likely to get done; if a team or department is underperforming, it often falls to managers to take responsibility for fixing the problem.

Managers exist to keep their teams on task, organize and maintain workflows, resolve issues and escalate larger concerns to leadership. Their responsibilities extend far beyond simply telling or showing employees how to do their jobs; they need to know how to motivate their teams and keep them aware of how their work impacts the company’s overall success.

Poor or ineffectual management results in far more than a couple employee complaints or a bad day at the office. In fact, “bad” managers (or their poor decisions) have been identified as the cause of at least $960 billion in lost revenue — and that number comes from before the Great Resignation of 2021!

Poor management can lead to:

  • Lower employee productivity
  • Low employee engagement
  • High turnover
  • Poorly trained employees or managers
  • Stalled improvement initiatives
  • Market instability
  • Skills gaps
  • Employee lawsuits

In light of any of these issues, and especially without proper support from leadership, managers themselves may feel that their jobs are thankless, frustrating, draining and pointless — all of which may translate to their work performance.

It must be noted that ineffectual management is not usually an issue of the wrong people being in the wrong roles. More often, poor management stems from a lack of appropriate training. Many managers achieve their positions by being standout employees in their departments — that is, they are promoted to management roles based on their performance in non-management roles. However, what may be missing from their toolbox is the skill of managing people.

If they receive the proper training and are equipped to lead their teams, effective managers and supervisors can have a markedly positive effect on overall business performance, including:

  • Helping to instill a lasting culture of improvement
  • Contributing to superior business results
  • Building their team’s capability to solve problems and improve processes
  • Improving employee engagement and morale
  • Reinforcing organizational values on a day-to-day basis
  • Showing their teams the value of collective continuous improvement
  • Creating a sustainable internal coaching program

What Skills Do Managers Need?

In terms of daily operations, managers and supervisors are typically responsible for keeping their teams on track, resolving issues, providing guidance and feedback, conducting reviews, monitoring, assigning tasks, training, hiring and firing, to name a few. Any decisions they make should be in service to the success of the overall organization. A manager is also expected to have a crystal clear understanding of their role and responsibilities — without this, they risk overstepping or falling short of expectations.

Of course, any manager will possess skills that are specific to their job or industry, but effective management requires a combination of practical skills and interpersonal skills or traits, such as:

  • Communication
  • Creative problem-solving
  • Proactivity and initiative
  • Organization
  • Diplomacy
  • Patience
  • Empathy
  • Versatility
  • Open-mindedness
  • Active listening
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Delegation
  • Conflict resolution
  • Presenting
  • Instructing
  • Improving methods and processes
  • Adaptability
  • Learning agility
  • Ability to “pitch” or “sell” solutions
  • Power to influence outcomes
  • Ability to navigate relationships
  • Respect for others’ strengths
  • Ability to motivate others

How Can Managers Help Keep Employees Motivated?

Motivating others means more than incentivizing good work and doling out the occasional “You can do it!” Managers can motivate employees in much more nuanced and subtle ways, including:

  • Listening to their ideas
  • Making themselves available
  • Establishing clear lines of communication
  • Giving positive and constructive feedback
  • Providing opportunities for growth and development
  • Recognizing good work
  • Advocating for employees’ needs to leadership

Besides making themselves physically available, managers should also open the door to receiving feedback from employees. This can be as simple as asking, “How am I doing as your manager?” in regular check-ins, and communicating that you, too, are committed to continuous improvement. Knowing that a manager is accessible and considerate goes a long way in motivating employees to show up on the job.

What does true leadership look like on the floor?

Find out in 20 Essential Skills Your Frontline Leaders Need.

What Is Included in Supervisor Skills Training?

As mentioned, management requires both practical skills and interpersonal skills that focus on improving the experience (and outcomes) of work.

In the supervisor skills training offered by TWI Institute, for example, current and prospective managers focus on five core competencies in the Training Within Industry (TWI) methodology:

  • Job Instruction (JI): Establishing stability in work processes by identifying and coaching others on the “one best way” to perform a given job.
  • Job Relations (JR): Knowing how to handle problems, prevent them from occurring and develop a logical, common sense approach to resolving issues with a people-centric view.
  • Job Methods (JM): Identifying and developing new ways to improve how work gets done by eliminating, combining, rearranging and simplifying steps in a process.
  • Standardized Work (SW): Establishing standards for executing repeatable work processes built around the “one best way.”
  • TWI Problem Solving (PS): A systematic approach to recognizing and solving problems that empowers employees to be proactive.
  • Daily Management: Learning how to deliver expected business results — day after day after day — through the use of visual controls, team meetings and Leader Standard Work.

Employee Management Training

Along with the issue resolution training outlined in TWI Job Relations, managers need to develop a range of other people-centric skills. The ability to navigate relationships with respect is invaluable in uncomfortable scenarios, just as taking disciplinary action regarding an employee or having to let someone go from their position.

Supervisors and managers should receive proper training for tasks including:

  • Leading productive meetings
  • Conducting performance reviews
  • Soliciting and receiving employee feedback
  • Responding to criticism and complaints
  • Developing and executing disciplinary measures
  • Handling employee challenges (this can pertain to chronic tardiness/absenteeism, HR concerns, theft, toxic behavior, etc.)
  • Escalating matters to HR or leadership

Learning how to effectively execute these responsibilities not only helps daily operations run smoothly, but it signals that a manager cares about the people on their team and holds them accountable for their part in maintaining a positive and productive workplace.

Legal Training for Supervisors

Many existing manager training programs include modules on safety, accessibility and employee accommodations. These trainings are intended to help managers create safe and welcoming workplaces for all employees, as well as understand their roles in potentially challenging circumstances.

  • Sexual harassment training: While not required by federal law, many workplaces provide this training to help employees and managers understand personal boundaries and identify unacceptable behavior in the workplace.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act training: This training helps managers understand the allowances and limits of accommodations made for employees who need to take time off of work for medical or family reasons.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act training: With this training, managers can provide equal opportunities and make reasonable accommodations for employees with a physical or mental disability as recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Cultural sensitivity training: As workplaces become more diverse and inclusive of people from all backgrounds, managers and supervisors can benefit from learning how to exercise cultural sensitivity and provide equal opportunities for all regardless of identity.

Is your organization ready to make lasting improvements to processes and performance?

Review the 24 Key Questions to Ask Before Investing in Training Programs.

How to Tell If Your New Supervisors are Effective

Managers and supervisors will know they have become true leaders when their teams trust them and actively want to follow their direction. Besides anecdotal evidence of happier teams and less stressed managers, effective supervisor training can be quantified by metrics including:

  • Decreased employee turnover
  • Higher employee engagement and morale
  • Increased volume of new ideas
  • Higher productivity
  • Greater output
  • Higher employee retention

The full scope of an “ideal” manager training program may seem overwhelming, but the good news is that much of this training can be performed on the job. Programs like TWI Job Instruction and Standardized Work are designed to integrate into a workplace’s existing operations, meaning that trainees can learn new skills while completing their daily tasks. What’s more, managers in a TWI training program learn the skill of instruction, so they can pass on their knowledge to their successor (or even enhance their current team’s capabilities).

For an example of effective supervisor and manager training, take a look at Developing Effective Leadership Skills Case Study, a free webinar that details one leader’s trajectory in the manufacturing space.

FAQs About Supervisor Training

Who should take supervisor training?

Any supervisor or manager who oversees a team of people is a good candidate for supervisor training. However, managers themselves may not always be able to identify the need for this training. In this case, leadership teams can look for the following signs that their managers (and overall organization) could benefit from better training:

  • Lower productivity
  • Employee lawsuits
  • Low employee engagement
  • High turnover
  • Poorly trained employees or managers
  • Stalled improvement initiatives
  • Market instability
  • Skills gaps

Is supervisor training worth it?

Better management has been shown to lead to better business results — so yes, supervisor training has a tangible return. Besides capital gains, properly trained supervisors contribute to more employee engagement, higher productivity, better employee retention and a strong culture of improvement.


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What can we help your team achieve?