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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Ann


I wrote a guest blog post for Amy Brugh Consulting in which I discussed effective supervision practices to create a more engaged staff. When I wrote it, we were in the midst of what became known as "The Great Resignation." Have things changed over the past two years? I think workplaces are continuing to find it difficult to hire and retain staff. Have they learned some lessons?

What do you think of these tips? What resonates with you? What did I miss? Check it out below!

by Jennifer Bertram, MSW, LISW Have you ever had a supervisor that you disliked? When you think of your worst experience with that supervisor, what do you remember? Chances are, you may still recall harsh words, accusations, or unrealistic expectations, but what stuck with you most is how that supervisor made you feel. When you walked away (or clicked “Leave Meeting” in the age of COVID), did you feel respected, supported, or valued? Probably not. How often did you think about quitting? How productive were you after you had that negative experience with a supervisor? I’m guessing you spent time looking at job boards, texting with a friend, and got the bare minimum done. Now think about a supervisor who did make you feel valued and who provided useful guidance and mentorship. In that situation, how often did you think about quitting? How motivated were you to get your work done? You likely felt empowered and highly motivated, and wanted to work hard to meet (or exceed) your goals in your position. And it showed. I know it’s not that cut and dried - every supervisory relationship has its ups and downs. When faced with budget constraints and external pressures, even the most supportive supervisor can sometimes fall short in providing you with all that you need to feel successful. But in this time of The Great Resignation, following much research into the pitfalls of leadership that fails to maintain an engaged workforce, people are starting to leave workplaces in large numbers, often due to frustrations with their manager. The role that supervision plays at work can make or break a team, and an employee’s relationship with supervisors can often be the deciding factor for employee retention. Turnover is expensive and places an undue burden on leaders and team members alike. Organizational culture is cultivated by all employees, but the tone is set by leadership. Leaders who inspire their team by promoting a supportive environment with open communication will be rewarded with a more engaged, hardworking staff and less turnover. What does effective supervision look like?

  1. Schedule (and maintain) regular one-on-one meetings with each employee you supervise. Be consistent - hold the meetings at a regular time every week - and use the time to focus on the needs of that employee without being distracted by email or texts.

  2. Use time in supervision with your staff to discuss their ongoing professional development and ensure they have the tools and resources they need to do their work effectively.

  3. Take a strengths-based approach and be transparent about opportunities for promotions, salary increases, and advancement.

  4. Allow your staff to take ownership for their work - no one likes a micromanager - and use supervision time to ask them what they need from you. Be invested in your employees’ success while being responsive to their questions and concerns.

What can you do as a supervisor that may help retain staff, improve employee satisfaction, and increase productivity?

  1. Listen to your staff. Take time to get to know their skillsets as well as their positive qualities that contribute to a well-functioning team. Identify ways that your staff can use these skills and qualities in the work. Don’t limit them too much to their ‘lane’ - find ways to help them thrive at work by focusing on what they do well, while also holding them accountable to getting their required tasks completed. An engaged employee who is allowed to use their talents will be more productive overall.

  2. Motivation looks different to different individuals. What might work for one may be detrimental to another. Take the time to learn what motivates each of your employees and use that knowledge to provide that motivation that will achieve the best result for that individual. A combination of actions, such as the use of kind words, recognizing success at a team meeting, showing gratitude for their contributions, being open to ideas and suggestions, and celebrating hard work are all ideas that may help a team feel supported and valued.

  3. Determine whether your pay range for employees represents an investment in the level of education and skill that they contribute to your organization. Don’t underestimate the power of an increase in salary, and a recognition of the value of people’s time and need for work-life balance. If your budget won’t allow for salary increases, allow for additional time off in the short term, and identify additional funding sources to improve compensation (salary and benefits package) in the long term.

Employee turnover is inevitable - people recognize when it’s time to move on, even with the most supportive environment. But there are many ways that leaders can set the stage for a positive work environment to help make the time people spend at work more enjoyable. And a happier workforce is a more productive one.

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