What Are the Responsibilities of a Supervisor?
If you're ambitious and you want to make your way along the career ladder, you may strive to be promoted to the role of supervisor.
This is where you may not only be responsible for your own workload, but also those of the people who work alongside you.
There are many different types of supervisory roles, from a foreman to a boss. You could be a facilitator or even a line manager. You may work in retail or in manufacturing. You could be a floor worker or spend the majority of your time in an office.
If you are scouring jobs boards looking for your next career move, you may be tempted to apply for a job that lists the title ‘supervisor’ within the job description.
But before you apply for the job, you need to be crystal clear on the supervisors' responsibilities and how these responsibilities can be identified within the job advert.
To help you get started, here is an overview of the roles and skills of a supervisor.
According to dictionary.com, the official definition of the word supervisor is:
- A person who supervises workers or the work done by others; superintendent
- In education, an official responsible for assisting teachers in the preparation of syllabuses, in devising teaching methods, etc., in a department of instruction, especially in public schools.
- In some U.S. states, the chief elected administrative officer of a township, who is often also a member of the governing board of the county.
In this article, we will be focusing on the first definition: a person who supervises workers or the work done by others.
A supervisor is often within the first rung of the managerial hierarchy.
It's often a junior position or a low-mid management role, where the supervisor has to report to more senior colleagues.
A supervisory role is an excellent way to step your toes into management.
The broader responsibilities of a supervisor mean that you can learn new skills and improve your own expertise.
You can also take responsibility for motivating and inspiring other people you work with. A good supervisor is someone who can provide training and development to their team where needed.
In addition, they can identify areas of improvement and encourage their employees to work to the best of their ability.
If you believe that you are ready to take the next step in your career, it's essential to be aware that supervisors have a broad range of responsibilities.
While they will remain responsible for their own workloads, supervisors will also take responsibility for their teams or those working alongside them. With so much more to focus on, you can expect that supervisors will have responsibilities such as:
As a supervisor, you will take responsibility for your team. You will need to identify who you have working for you within your department and know when you may need additional staffing resources.
You can choose between hiring permanent staff – perhaps choosing whether someone with part-time working hours is enough, or whether your team could benefit from working with temporary contractors or even freelancers to strengthen your skills.
You will be responsible for your hiring strategies, and you will also be responsible for handling any dismissals that may arise from poor performance.
Once you've chosen your ideal candidates to work with you, you are then responsible for planning any training and development.
Individual workers rely on their supervisors to ensure that they are fully trained and capable of doing their jobs. On a factory floor, this training could be based upon internal health and safety systems and processes.
Training could be built around online courses or identifying training workshops, conferences, and seminars that will improve their skills and expertise in an office. You will be responsible for creating a culture of continual improvement.
A supervisor is also responsible for evaluating individual performances, as well as the combined team performance.
You will learn how to provide constructive feedback to your colleagues to help them learn and progress.
You need to understand how to listen to your staff and pay close attention to their career ambitions. If someone is keen to move forward in their career, as their supervisor, you should find ways to help them advance within the company.
Great supervisors lead by example. They understand how to motivate and inspire their teams, and a core part of this is through continuous professional development plans.
The more a supervisor invests in their employees, the more likely they are to continue working hard and remain happy and professionally satisfied.
This may be a big challenge as you take your first steps into supervisory roles.
Previously, you would only have been responsible for your workload, but now you need to consider others. You need to be aware of different ways of working and understand how you can help each person work to their strengths.
For example, when you organize workflows and task distribution, you need to consider how much time is allocated for each task.
Supervisors have to manage a careful juggling act, because some workers may be highly efficient and work at high speeds, while others require additional time. The supervisor's skill lies in allocating workloads that are realistic for all employees.
You want to feel that each employee is continuously busy and productive without feeling overwhelmed or overworked. Beyond this, if you are working together as a team, you need to understand how each person's workload aligns with another.
For example, in a marketing department, you may have a content writer who requires time to prepare the perfect copy before it is handed over to the graphic design specialists. You don't want to have a situation where a graphic designer is idle because they are waiting for the content to be finalized.
Supervisors are also responsible for scheduling work hours, rotas and paid time off policies.
Again, this can be a complex process. You need to make sure that there is always enough staff covering the workload and that communication is available so that all employees know what work needs doing if a team member is absent.
It goes without saying that if you are responsible for your team's workloads, you will also be responsible for their productivity and efficiency. Therefore, you will have to lead by example and show your team how to work as effectively as possible.
Supervisors are responsible for making sure that all employees can meet their deadlines and action plans.
As part of the training and development aspect of a supervisor’s role, you will have to set performance targets for staff and make sure that these performance KPIs are met.
If you know that an employee needs additional training and support, then it's down to the supervisor to facilitate those training needs into that person's workflow.
We mentioned earlier that supervisors are responsible for the resourcing of the team. For example, suppose you believe that your team is struggling to meet deadlines because you do not have enough staffing.
In that case, it's the supervisor’s responsibility to identify what skills need to be brought into the team to help meet the targets.
Much of your time as a supervisor will be spent working closely with other departments.
Businesses function on effective communication. You may need to spend time working alongside your HR colleagues to maintain personnel records or resolve any workplace problems and disputes.
You may need to work with compliance or marketing teams to resolve any customer complaints. You could even work alongside IT departments to identify what infrastructure is in place and examine if any software solutions such as project management tools could help you work more effectively.
The final responsibility of the supervisor is to act as the coordinator of information between your employees and the senior management teams.
For example, you will be responsible for conveying any business strategy plans to your team. But likewise, if you know that an issue ‘on the ground’ makes these plans problematic, you will have to report to your senior teams.
Reporting and strategy is a big responsibility for supervisors, and, as such, it's about having a seamless flow of communication between yourself, your employees and your management line.
The qualifications and experience you need to work as a supervisor will depend on your profession.
Some sectors will require specific training or qualifications. Others may rely on experience rather than academic success. However, there are still many industries where you can work your way up and learn how to become a supervisor while working on the job.
Typically, you can expect to need a minimum of a high school diploma to work as a supervisor.
However, some jobs may stipulate a college degree. When seeking supervisor job roles, make sure you pay attention to the criteria listed in the job advert.
Most supervisory roles are based upon experience. Great supervisors lead by example, so you must have ‘been there, done that’ to relate to your staff.
Often, supervisors are promoted from internal staff because they already understand what the work is about and the company’s ethos and values.
Often, you will find that employers will invest in training for their supervisors. Businesses know that they can only thrive when their staff has the right skills involved.
The jump from merely ‘doing’ the work to ‘leading’ the job is big, so many employers will invest in training and management support for supervisors to ensure that they can thrive in their new roles.
There are no right or wrong answers to this question because clearly, this will depend on the sector you work in, the geographical location and the size of your company.
With so many variables, it's impossible to offer a specific answer. However, because supervisors have an enormous responsibility, there will likely be a significant increase in your take-home salary.
In the UK, a supervisor may make approximately £21,000 per year – this is higher than the minimum wage and equates to the average UK salary.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has broken down supervisor salaries across different professions and states.
From here, we can see that the annual mean wage for a supervisor is $66,800 per year. We can also see that those working in electric power generation, transmission and distribution are likely to make approx. $102,850 per year – over twice as much as those working in food and beverage stores, where the average mean wage is $50,950.
Now that you are aware of the responsibilities of a supervisor, it's much easier to determine which skills are needed to meet those responsibilities.
Good supervisors will have a wide range of interpersonal skills. Not only will they be good at what they do, but they will also be respected by their peers and have the emotional intelligence to work well with others.
Critical skills that a supervisor will need include:
Supervisors need to explain what work needs to be done to their teams and explain progress to their senior teams.
Those who can clearly define and set expectations will be highly sought-after. It would help if you were clear and concise, with no ambiguity in what you are saying.
Your communication skills are about how you speak to staff in person, in writing and even over the phone.
Communication has many facets, from your tone of voice to your body language and even your dress sense and personal appearance.
Your communication skills are also about being approachable. If someone is unsure of what you are asking them to do, they need to feel confident that they can ask for help where needed.
We all like to think that we work as part of a family. But in reality, employers will hire people from different backgrounds with different personalities.
You may invest heavily into personality tests as part of your recruitment strategies, but issues may still arise between individuals.
As a supervisor, you are not just responsible for your staff's workload. You are also responsible for their health and wellbeing.
Therefore, you need to be empathetic to your team and understand how you can make their working life easier if they have a tough time. The more you care for your staff, the more loyal they may be.
To be a successful supervisor, you need to be technically proficient in your area of expertise. Staff members want to work with people that they can respect and that they can learn from. In addition, you want to show that you can lead by example, which is demonstrating what you have already achieved.
Think carefully about how you present yourself at work. What does your body language say? How approachable are you?
Do you listen to others and take on board their feedback? The more you focus on your interpersonal skills, the more effective you may be.
Supervisors need to show that they have leadership skills. They need to be focused, with a positive attitude, and constantly aware of overcoming issues with minimal disruption.
Your philosophy can be built on how you talk to others in your team through your work ethic, time management skills and organizational capabilities.
Finally, supervisors need to present an aura of professionalism on even the toughest of days – more than anyone else.
Below are a few examples of the types of questions an employer could ask you in an interview for a supervisor job role.
These questions will help employers identify if you have the skills listed above and are well aware of the breadth of responsibilities that a supervisor has.
Here, the employer wants to know more about what you think makes a great supervisor. Can you link this back to the skills required, as well as the job description?
For example, if the supervisor role requires managing a large team of people, how do you plan to communicate between all employees? Can you discuss your planning and management style?
What would you say about your decision-making skills and how you know how to delegate work? Can you talk about how you work and how you intend to motivate and inspire your co-workers? This is your chance to explain that you know what the job entails and what you perceive the company needs.
This is about explaining your managerial style. If you are applying for your first supervisor job role, why not think about the people you've previously worked with. Who has inspired you, and who did you think was a good supervisor, and why?
You can also think about those you felt were poor supervisors and explain how you've learned from their mistakes.
Within your answer, you can show how you've researched the company and understand its culture and ethos.
You may be given a hypothetical scenario, or you could be asked how you work with your team to rectify mistakes.
This question is about your ability to handle resourcing capabilities, as well as your communication skills and conflict resolution.
You may want to talk about how employees can own up to their mistakes and how you will work with them to problem solve the situation. You could talk about how you could use it as an opportunity to invest in further training for that employee.
Alternatively, you could explain how to know when mistakes lead to dismissals and how you would handle that scenario. This is about showing your capabilities as a supervisor.
For more examples of supervisor interview questions, why not read top 30 supervisor interview questions.
A supervisor will have a wide range of responsibilities, and many of these will coincide with maintaining your workload.
To be a great supervisor, you need to demonstrate to an employer that you are someone that others can respect and learn from. You need to be clear that you understand what skills are required to lead by example and that you have the right capabilities to deserve the promotion.
As supervisor roles are often the first rung on the managerial ladder, this is your first opportunity to demonstrate leadership potential.
You could choose to remain working as a supervisor or use your experience to push further and apply for more senior positions.
The scope of the supervisor role is varied, and it can help you branch out into horizontal career advancement options (for example, a similar role in a larger company) or vertical career advancement (more senior management roles).