Your supervisors are the engines that drive your company goals for future growth. It’s for this reason that you should invest in them. So, why are so many companies not seeing the ROI on this investment?
According to a study of technology-based-service workers in a large US firm, managers in the 90th percentile, compared to average-quality ones, increased team productivity by as much as 50%. What I’ve observed over my 10 years in the corporate training industry, is that businesses are always focussed on executive-level or frontline-staff training, but are missing middle-management development – a critical operational driver of your business. I find this perplexing, because – as this one of many statistics show us – supervisors are directly responsible for leading your operational teams, and therefore business, to achieve key business results.
The Future of the Workplace
In order to pinpoint exactly what you need from a supervisor that will succeed in the future, you need to predict what the future is going to look like. Identifying future skills gaps and characteristics you will need in your employees is important to map out now and will benefit your organisation in the years to come.
So what are some of the things that we can expect from the future workplace, and how do your supervisors fit into that? By acknowledging that nothing is certain and that change can happen without warning, we can nevertheless try our best to foresee where we will be by looking at the direction in which we are going in. Examining the statistics around virtual working – for example a statistic by TECLA that states that 85% of managers believe that having remote workers will become the “new norm” – we can expect that remote working is here to stay. We will need employees who have high levels of digital literacy, are problem solvers, can manage themselves, and are analytical thinkers. Companies are already exploring new ways to communicate, and according to PwC’s “Workforce of the future” report, AI staff communication might be the next trend. Businesses will continue to upgrade their processes to adopt the most efficient systems (reporting methods, for example). These tool upgrades will allow mid-managers to move away from administrative tasks, and rather focus their time on real business issues on a daily basis.
In preparation for creating successful supervisors, I have seen the great need to take administrative weight off the shoulders of middle-managers so that they can invest their time into leading staff and building trusting and fruitful relationships with their teams.
The 2025 Supervisor
Identifying supervisors for the future
I’ve become very aware of a significant issue in the middle-level management recruitment process where organisations promote employees who are performing well into managerial positions, due to their performance in their current non-managerial role. The challenge here is that supervisors cannot be sought-out from employees who simply have impressive technical skills. Infact, the most valuable skills that a supervisor could bear are interpersonal skills – these are the skills that make leading a team possible and successful. When an employee goes into a middle-management position without being equipped with the soft-skills to support the role, he/she struggles to delegate, set goals, and communicate effectively with their team. This is why it is crucial for organisations to have a succession plan in place. Companies need to be intentional about seeking out internal employees who have the right foundational skills and characteristics to take on a leadership position, and then invest time and resources into training them for a potential supervisory role in the future. This is much more cost-effective than hiring a highly-skilled and likely sought-after external employee for the position.
Defining the future supervisor
The past two years have highlighted the skills that I predict will only become more necessary for supervisors to hone in on in the next couple of years. On the technical side of skills, digital literacy is more important now than ever. According to the International Finance Corporation, for example, 230 million jobs in sub-Saharan Africa alone will require digital skills by 2030. Supervisors not only need to have a broad digital skillset, but need a deep understanding of how their employees will be working with technology. As businesses continue to dive into a virtual world, middle-managers need to stay ahead of the technological developments and adopt these technologies as we see the potential new opportunities therein.
Just as important, are soft skills. From what I’ve seen through my experience, supervisors with the ability to problem-solve are greatly successful in their roles. Middle-level managers need excellent communication and listening skills to influence a collaborative culture amongst their team, and culture is the thing that makes business tick. Strong cultures require a high degree of trust, both among employees and in the company leadership, which is critical to longevity and growth.If we look at the core of organisations, we can already see how teams are adopting a collaborative structure over a hierarchical structure. In his popular book – Team of Teams – author General Stanley McChrystal goes in depth to discuss how the traditional hierarchical organisational structure fails in comparison to a team where all employees come together to achieve specific goals.
Your staff needs to understand why they do what they are hired to do. If employees don’t understand their overall purpose and company end-goal, they are not going to personally invest their energy and ambition into their job. It’s a supervisor’s responsibility to support that understanding and sense of purpose. The reality is that you may carry the vision and passion for your company, but as culture flows through the structure it can be grossly watered down if your manager doesn’t have the skills to influence a greater sense of company purpose. Business results can only be achieved by their people. It is the successful managers that drive business results, and identify team members who don’t achieve this.
How to Measure the Impact of Your Supervisors
When determining the success of our supervisors, your key indicator will be the overall productivity of your staff. Because supervisors have a direct influence on the level of your employees’ performance, the quality of your team’s leads or overall contribution to the business’ bottom line, is a direct reflection of your middle-manager’s performance. Employee growth is a major indicator of a successful supervisor. Is your team improving their quality as well as efficiency of work?
Employee surveys are also a crucial part of measuring supervisor performance. For this you will need to create a safe space where employees feel that they can be transparent about their experience with their manager. Cultivating a positive, engaging culture amongst a team is a big part of a supervisor’s role, so if employees aren’t happy, there is a problem that needs to be addressed.
In my experience, having a culture of innovation is vital for any organisation that is looking to innovate and achieve or maintain a leading position in their own field. Supervisors must foster a commitment from the team to embrace an innovation mindset where each employee learns to apply the differences that exist in one another for their own success and that of the organisation. Managers of the future will have to challenge the traditional ideas of management and push back against the many business practices that are outdated and no longer relevant. They will have to adapt to the future employee, which means new ways of working and thinking about work.
Summit highly values supervisory training. We offer bespoke programs specifically centred around middle-level management skills development, and are confident that we can equip your business with the right tools to seek out and train up successful supervisors within your teams.
Get in touch today to chat about the ideal solution for your team!
About the Author
Sunel de Coning, Head: Sales and Operations for Summit
Sunel has a passion for making teams more productive and business more successful. A business strategist and marketer by profession, she strives to develop innovative plans and activities designed to facilitate competitive growth, juggling different projects, in the pursued of achieving tight deadlines and quality deliverables.
With her dynamic approach to leadership, big-picture thinker, catalyst for change and innovator – she brings to the team extensive experience in marketing, sales, operational management and agile project management. With over 24 years’ experience in the education and training sector she developed and executed numerous strategic and commercial growth initiatives in pursuit of sustainable business value.
She has great enthusiasm for innovation and loves the journey from uncovering insights to the creation of new business. With her drive to stay ahead of the game, she works closely with the executive team on how to build innovative practices and innovative solutions to achieve the highest level of growth and customer satisfaction.