How to improve your supervisors’ skills & performance | BDC.ca
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How to improve your supervisors’ performance

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The role of frontline supervisors is critical to your success in building a leaner, more competitive company. However, if you’re like many entrepreneurs, you have supervisors who aren’t delivering on your efforts to improve operations.

“In many companies, there’s a gap between senior management’s goals and what’s happening on the floor,” says BDC Business Consultant Stéphane Chrusten. “To achieve your goals, you need supervisors who can control the floor and maintain continuous improvement initiatives.”

So, boosting supervisor performance is fundamental for creating an efficient company. But how do you go about it?

Chrusten, a lean manufacturing expert, offered six tips.

1. Get the buy-in of your supervisors

It’s essential that supervisors understand how important they are in leading change at your company. Talk to them about your goals and get their feedback and ideas. Commit to providing them with the necessary training and tools to succeed. At the same time, senior management should evaluate each supervisor to decide whether the right person is in the right position. Perhaps a shuffle of personnel will be necessary to achieve your objectives.

2. Give priority to “active supervision”

Frontline managers aren’t spending enough time directly supervising production in many companies, Chrusten says. Instead, they’re tied up with administrative tasks, special projects, employee training or even getting their hands dirty doing production work. In fact, it’s not unusual for supervisors to spend just 30% of their time doing what Chrusten calls “active supervision.” You need to get that number up to be at least 50%. When your supervisors hit 70%, they’ll be world‑class.

What is active supervision? It’s being on the floor making minute‑to‑minute decisions on such matters as assigning work to employees, solving production problems and making quality control checks.

3. Appoint team leaders

To free up your supervisors’ time for higher value activities, appoint employees to be team leaders. In this position, they help the supervisor achieve production goals, solve operational problems and maintain quality. Specifically, the team leaders take on such tasks as ensuring work standards are respected; replacing absent employees; helping employees with production problems; and providing training.

4. Develop a performance dashboard

As part of the improvement process, it’s essential to measure how well you’re performing. A good way to do this is by creating a performance dashboard where you monitor a limited number of key performance indicators (KPIs). This dashboard will allow your supervisors to measure and analyze results, make corrections quickly and mobilize employees.

5. Develop a daily scorecard for supervisors

Require supervisors to keep track of their daily activities by filling out a performance scorecard that’s linked to your company’s KPIs. It should include a checklist of tasks they must perform and the corresponding times for completing them during the day. It should also identify specific production objectives for the day and any interruptions that prevented the supervisor from completing that objective, if applicable. There should also be a place on the scorecard where your supervisors can write down their observations, ideas for improvement and noteworthy events through the day.

The purpose of the card is to help the supervisor organize his or her day and avoid being overwhelmed by daily problems. It also encourages review of general and specific goals and prioritizing the most important tasks—those that should be done regardless of emergencies.

6. Implement daily team meetings

Supervisors should also hold short daily meetings—15 minutes—with their team. During this time, the whole group will discuss production objectives, problems, progress on improvements and new ideas for improvement.

Chrusten said the best companies embrace a change in mindset. Rather than blaming employees for problems and mistakes, they focus on improving processes, eliminating obstacles and sources of error and coach employees.

“The process is the problem, not our employees.”


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