A Best Practices Manual for Supervisors

The effective Supervisor employs several skills, tactics, and resources to manage individuals and teams to promote productivity, collaboration, and successful work products, while increasing individual motivation and viability within the team dynamics. This manual provides several guidelines for “best practices” in the work environment to facilitate and support the goals and objectives of the Supervisor and overall organization.

This manual provides information regarding the following key skills:

Communication Skills

Orientation and Training Methods

Improving Productivity for teams

Performance Appraisals

Conflict Resolution

Employee Relations

Demonstrating Communication Skills

If leadership guides team members, and morale and production requirements move team members, then communication is the wheels upon which the project, Supervisor, team members, and overall organization, steam forward towards success. Successful communication represents the links that bind all the project pieces together, fostering team “synergy” that results in increased productivity, enhanced team dynamics, and overall job satisfaction. When the Supervisor facilitates an environment where team members can freely express ideas without bias, the process and environment provides for innovation, creativity, and enhanced contribution to the success of the team and resulting work products. “It is essential that effective team communication occurs throughout the project in order to minimize misunderstanding and unnecessary delays. Environments that foster effective communication provide the foundation for building the synergy needed to ensure timely and successful project completion” (Hub, 2009, para. 1-3).

Establishing a collaborative, interactive work environment is one of the most crucial components of the Supervisor’s leadership role. Effective communication is imperative to the success of each individual team member, the team, and the overall project. Through increased communication and interactivity amongst team members, and facilitating and fostering processes and events to promote collaboration within team dynamics, the Supervisor can effectively address and mitigate problems facing the team and team members before these issues adversely impact production, operations, and individual morale and motivation, while simultaneously enhancing employee motivation (Effective, 2009, pp. 6-7).

With transparency of information through all levels of the organization, the Supervisor, in facilitating a work environment and frequent vehicles by which to increase interaction and communication, acts as the conduit between organizational leadership and each employee, fostering a sense of value and viability within the immediate team, and within the overall organization. Individual members of the team begin to feel comfortable interacting not only at the “one-to-one” level, but, as the process and environment becomes established and practiced, communicating within a larger group.

As teams become more comfortable, and more proficient, with use of the collaborative work process, a mutual sense of respect and inclusion develops amongst team members and the Supervisor, and individual accountability, motivation, and productivity increases. Supervisors can also address issues within the team in a timely manner through frequent, highly interactive, team meetings, and monitor the status of workflow and productivity, while simultaneously enhancing employee motivation (Nikol, 1999, para. 4-6).

Determining Effective Orientation and Training Methods

In the contemporary business environment, successful recruiting, selection and hiring practices ensure that new hires enter the workplace with a basic, pre-requisite skill set. For retail organizations, the new hire skill set should encompass the background, experiences and training in like situations to the operational environment into which the new Employee will be placed. The new Employee, dependent upon individual experiences, may or may not have been exposed to or proficient with the exact performance standards, technology, and specific processes unique to the organization and job tasking.

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Whether the employee requires acclimation to the new work environment within smaller or larger organizations, new hire orientation is essential to initial success during the first few months with any company. In larger organizations, orientations may include high-level, organization-wide summaries of policies, procedures and practices, but cannot, due to the volume of new employees, facilitate specific information regarding individual teams, compensation, or scenarios. Smaller organizations, in contrast, can provide more personal interactions with new employees, including accommodation of individual or small group orientations, allowing the new hire to ask specific questions about their jobs, performance standards, and personal compensation and benefits. The Human Resources (HR) team, with coordination from Training, Business Development, Public Relations (PR), and all levels of organizational leadership, including Supervisors, facilitate, develop, and update Orientation and associated materials.

Training is also imperative to organizations, as employees must remain current with skills, as they reflect the current business and industry standards, regulations, guidelines, and requisite certifications. Larger organizations usually maintain an “in-house” Corporate Training team, who coordinates efforts with HR and Supervisors to determine organizational training needs, and develop curriculum to meet these requirements. Larger organizations also may have access to classroom space, Computer-Based Training (CBT) products, and highly-specialized virtual, or vestibule, training facilities. As physical classroom space and technology-based training methods are extremely costly, smaller organizations facilitate training through either out-sourced training opportunities, including computer-based, programmed products, OJT and peer training.

On-the-Job Training (OJT) provides an effective method by which Employees can learn the skills, processes, and practices necessary to do their jobs in the same, or similar, environments in which they will work. This type of training is primarily targeted for newly hired Employees, occurring after the new Employees complete the formal Orientation process through the organization. OJT is defined as training providing the knowledge, skills and information essential for the Employee for full and adequate performance of the job. The Employee participates in OJT as they are engaged in productive work for the organization (North, 2008, p. 2).

Improving Productivity for teams

Supervisors should employ a plan of action to address and mitigate issues affecting poorly performing teams that attempt to incorporate increased interactivity and communication amongst team members through casual events, guided group discussions and meetings, cross-functional leadership and training, and mentoring opportunities. Increased communication and interactivity amongst team members, and facilitating and fostering processes and events to promote these within team dynamics, is an effective method to address and mitigate problems facing the team and team members before these issues adversely impact production, operations, and individual morale and motivation.

An effective team is able to create work products within a prescribed time frame, with each team member contributing to, and accountable for, the work flow process based upon individual skills, experience and professional demeanor. Within the team dynamics, each team member should serve in a variety of cross-functional roles to garner increased experience with team interactions, completion of tasks, and the overall quality of the work process and resulting product. Team members should play more than one role within the team, encompassing leadership, process-based and task-based roles, assisting the team and team members with achievement of goals, and roles, shaping the work flow process to allow for optimal focus, cohesion, and productivity (University, 2009, para. 1-2). The Supervisor should also establish methods and activities by which team members participate in all aspects of the flow process, including management, research, development, quality assurance (QA), delivery and periodic evaluation.

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When developing individual and team tasks and project schedule, the Supervisor must be cognizant of the background, experiences, and work behaviors of team members, so as to assign duties, responsibilities, and performance requirements that optimally utilize each individual. The team environment should allow for team members to draw from their own expertise, skills, and experience, and foster an environment where each individual feels comfortable, encouraged, and uninhibited in interactions with other team members (National, para. 9). The personality of the team is shaped by how team members will perform and operate within the team dynamics, serving in a variety of different roles, and offer “natural placement” of team members into the roles that promote increased collaboration, morale and productivity.

Conducting Performance Appraisals

When conducting employee performance appraisals in the professional environment, the Supervisor should utilize a defined body of organizational policies, procedures, and quantitative data with which to compare the individual employee’s performance, such as target production rates, job descriptions, employee handbooks, and overall organizational performance. The Manager should also consider how interactions with the work environment, associated technology, and other employees impact the performance of the appraised employee.

Through both formalized performance appraisals and frequent Supervisor feedback, employees garner a sense of interest and appreciation within the immediate team and the overall organization. Supervisors ensure that employees feel viable and valuable in the positions they hold by simply expressing satisfaction with daily tasks, feedback and formalized employee appraisal programs. In order for Supervisors to provide specific feedback and fully develop accurate performance assessments, the Supervisor must establish short-term and long-term goals for all team members, with milestones for professional and educational achievement through incremental assessment and feedback cycles, formal performance appraisals, and self-defined “Individual Performance Assessments (IPAs).”

This also establishes the expectations for employee performance and a qualitative measure from which assessment can occur. The Supervisor must ensure that the employee fully comprehends all standards of practice, professional expectations, and organizational regulations, as they apply to the individual, team, and work environment. The employee must also understand the ramifications of behaviors contrary to these stated standards and rules.

Through increased interactions with employees, setting clear expectations and guidelines for performance and performance appraisals, providing frequent feedback, and fostering a collaborative, respectful work environment, employees can feel valuable and viable in the immediate team and within the overall organization, ultimately increasing employee satisfaction and motivation (How, 2009, para. 2-5).

Resolving Conflict

Situations and issues arise that impact performance objectives, productivity expectations, and standard practices for the work environment and job requirements. When these types of behaviors occur, Supervisors must implement progressive methods to mitigate issues in the work place, and strive towards optimal achievement of business objectives (Alabama, 2001, para. 2-3). Supervisors must address work place issues prior to the situation degrading even further for the individual and other members of the immediate team.

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Increased communication and interactivity amongst team members, and facilitating and fostering processes and events to promote these within team dynamics, is an effective method to address and mitigate problems facing the team and team members before these issues adversely impact production, operations, and individual morale and motivation. In order to address issues, the individual members of the team must feel comfortable interacting on a one-to-one level prior to feeling comfortable communicating as a larger group. As this level of comfort increases, the level of respect amongst team members also increases, mitigating issues with amongst team members.

It is imperative for Supervisors to address and promote effective behaviors to motivating employees for successful team dynamics and interactions, enhanced productivity, a cooperative work environment, and increased worker satisfaction. Encourage employees to voice opinions, beliefs, and ideas for enhancement of the work environment, changes to organizational policies, guidelines and procedures, and any issues. This can be accomplished through frequent staff meetings, comment boxes, and a Supervisor’s “Open Door” policy. Employees must feel appreciated and viable to Supervisors and Management, and have a sense of a “proactive voice” in the work environment, management planning and decision-making, and overall success of the organization.

When the Supervisor addresses and fosters relationships and a workplace that promote these feelings within employees, overall quality and productivity is considerably higher, and absenteeism, attrition, tardiness, lack of motivation, increased errors, and decreased quality and productivity, which can negatively impact financial growth and stability of the organization, is effectively mitigated (Morale, 2010, para. 1-2).

Improving Employee Relations

A breakdown in the employee-management relationship can have major impact upon production, quality of service, financial viability, profits, and, ultimately, the job security of workers. Through the collaborative union management process, management and employees can work together on issues of mutual interest, rather than as adversaries, possibly creating negative effects upon the organizations and jobs within the organization (FMCS, 2009, p. 2).

In order to promote a secure and equitable workplace for all employees, organizations must establish, promote, and ensure worker-management relationships fostered through collaboration and constructive dialogue. If the organization is not committed to the ideal of constructive relations, there is a real risk of strongly adversarial, centralized, i.e., union, reaction, creating a plausible threat to productivity and rewards at the enterprise level (BCA, 2009, p. 2).

To ensure adherence to this collaborative model, modern organizations should establish several venues and governing bodies for the monitoring of workplace standards, accountability of employees, managers, and the organization, and the transparency of information, communications and interactions between employees, managers, and external agencies, such as unions, legislative groups, and employee advocacy organizations.

Organizations can mitigate union involvement through prevention. Representative committees bring management and employees into regular communication and contact over subjects of mutual interest, and serves as an ongoing forum to deal with common problems, ranging from attitudes to productivity improvements. Use of the collaborative union management process model can enhance joint problem-solving and decision-making capabilities, overcome barriers to quality and productivity, manage change collaboratively, and jointly address job satisfaction and employment security (LM, 1998, para. 3).

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