What Are the Responsibilities of a Supervisor?
Updated March 10, 2023
Whether you’re considering a supervisor position or are simply curious about your manager’s responsibilities in relation to your role, it is important to understand the function of supervisors in the workplace. A supervisor is anyone who oversees and manages a team or individual to ensure that they are performing effectively and satisfied in their role. The term “supervisor” usually refers to lower-level managerial positions, and these professionals often communicate information from their direct reports to senior management personnel.
While being a supervisor has its challenges, it’s also a rewarding position where you can help individuals achieve personal career goals. Here's some background information to help you better understand what this role entails.
What does a supervisor do?
A supervisor oversees the day-to-day performance of employees. Depending on the company, a supervisor may manage a team, a shift or an entire department.
Successful supervisors have excellent organizational and communication skills. These skills help them transfer information from upper management to employees and communicate their teams’ performance or needs to high-level managers. In most cases, supervisors are experts in their field and can efficiently manage daily operations as a result.
Related: How to Be a Good Manager
Responsibilities of a Supervisor
Supervisors are responsible for managing a team's progress and maintaining a positive environment.
Supervisor responsibilities include:
Training new hires
Creating and managing team schedules
Reporting to HR and senior management
Evaluating performance and providing feedback
Identifying and applying career advancement opportunities
Helping to resolve employee issues and disputes
What are the responsibilities of a supervisor in the workplace?
Supervisors assume several roles in the workplace. They are essential in managing a team’s efficiency and building a positive team environment, but the specifics of these tasks can vary based on the company.
A supervisor’s responsibilities often include:
1. Managing workflow
One of a supervisor’s most important responsibilities is managing a team. Often, supervisors create and oversee their team’s workflow, or the tasks required to complete a job. Supervisors must define goals, communicate objectives and monitor team performance.
2. Training new hires
When a new employee joins the team, their supervisor should help them understand their role and support them during their transition. This might include providing workplace orientation and explaining company policies or job duties. The supervisor may manage all onboarding activities, or they may work with the human resources department to make sure the new hire receives the guidance and information they need.
3. Creating and managing team schedules
In some cases, organizations have set hours for their entire workforce, and supervisors won’t need to adjust them. However, when team members work in shifts, supervisors are usually responsible for creating schedules.
For example, if you are a supervisor of restaurant waitstaff, you will want to make sure you have an appropriate number of servers scheduled for each shift. This usually means scheduling more people during the busiest time of day and balancing shifts so that the staff does not feel overworked. Managing employee schedules also means being flexible and prepared when employees need to make changes, such as requesting a day off, calling in sick or handling a family emergency.
4. Reporting to HR and senior management
As a supervisor, you’ll often be responsible for reporting team and individual performance to human resources and senior management. You may need to evaluate each member of your team and record employee punctuality, performance on goals, professionalism, disciplinary issues, adherence to company policies and more. You may also be required to develop and administer performance improvement plans.
5. Evaluating performance and providing feedback
Supervisors are often tasked with developing or executing employee feedback and recognition programs. This responsibility might include setting employee and team goals and choosing appropriate rewards for achievements. For example, if a salesperson exceeds their monthly quota, they may be eligible for a bonus. This time should also be used to provide both positive and constructive feedback.
6. Identifying and applying career advancement opportunities
Because supervisors work closely with employees, they often help decide who is eligible for promotions. In some cases, supervisors may directly award promotions. However, even when supervisors don’t have the authority to directly promote employees, senior management professionals often consult supervisors during the promotion process.
7. Helping to resolve employee issues and disputes
When employees are unhappy with their workplace experience, they may approach their supervisor before speaking with HR. Supervisors must use active listening skills to understand employee complaints and to work with them to reach a solution.
If an employee complains that another employee or member of management has violated company policies, the supervisor will likely need to report the issue to HR for an investigation. In the case of minor disagreements between employees, supervisors may act as mediators and help the two parties come to a resolution.
What does it take to become a supervisor?
In many cases, companies promote individuals from non-managerial roles after they have proven themselves capable to lead others well. When deciding who to advance to a supervisor role, companies often look for employees who demonstrate the following:
Excellent communication skills
Expertise in team or department
Ability to remain calm under pressure
Firm grasp of company policies
Strong work ethic
Punctuality and time management skills
Professionalism and a positive attitude
Interest in leadership opportunities
To increase your likelihood of promotion to a supervisor role, it’s important to focus on growing the necessary skills and expertise. Consider attending relevant seminars, conferences, workshops and online classes or pursuing an advanced degree or certification.
Most importantly, be professional and set an example for others by taking the initiative on difficult tasks. When opportunities for advancement arise, let your manager know that you’re interested in their consideration.
Related: How to Create a Supervisor Resume
What should I expect from a supervisor interview?
Job interviews can be stressful. However, if you prepare thoughtful answers to common questions, you may feel more confident in the interview room.
Here are a few questions you should prepare to answer:
“What do you think makes a good supervisor?” In your answer, consider explaining your perspective on the importance of organizational skills, effective communication, decisiveness and the ability to motivate others or manage conflict.
“Describe your management style.” Interviewers often ask this question to determine how well you can adapt to different situations, apply strategic thinking skills and remain calm under pressure.
“Share a few ways you would motivate employees and improve teamwork.” When responding to this question, consider providing specific examples of how you might help employees to improve performance, remain positive and cooperate with each other. For example, you might talk about your goal-setting process or how you might reward a team for meeting company objectives.
“How would you go about coaching a team member or employee to perform a specific job?” Coaching employees is an essential supervisor responsibility. When answering this question, it’s smart to demonstrate your willingness to help employees improve their skills. This is a good opportunity to provide examples of your relevant strengths, such as patience or the ability to provide constructive feedback.
“How would you resolve a conflict between team members?” When answering this question, it’s wise to provide an example of a time when you helped two parties reach a resolution in a workplace or team environment. Be sure to describe how you mediated the conversation and the result of your resolution.
How can I be a good supervisor?
Educating yourself on how to succeed in a new position is an important process. Here are a few tips that can help you become a more successful supervisor:
1. Always support your team
Ensure you’re available to your team members and strive to provide the best working environment possible. Arrange team-building activities to support employee bonding and team cooperation.
2. Assist employees with career advancement
Encourage your team to seek training in the field by suggesting online classes or seminars that could help their professional development.
3. Take responsibility for your team
If the team makes a mistake, hold yourself accountable. One of the supervisor’s primary responsibilities is to oversee workflow and monitor performance, so you should be able to spot issues and resolve them before they affect results.
4. Create a positive team culture
Set a good example by avoiding workplace gossip and staying in control of your emotions. Offer an open door policy for employees to express themselves, and actively address disputes.
5. Provide consistent feedback
Positive feedback is essential for team performance and employee job satisfaction. Practice delivering helpful, constructive reviews that benefit employees and the company as a whole.
Working as a supervisor allows you to contribute to your workplace while helping employees advance in their careers. Whether you’re considering applying for a supervisor position or are interested in pursuing other leadership roles in the future, these tips can help you develop the skills needed to earn the respect of your employer and your team.
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