Supervisor Training

Supervisors and managers serve as a company’s direct connection to their employees. The larger the company, the more essential supervisors and managers are for increasing sales and production, implementing company policies and procedures, communicating company goals and values, and handling any issues that arise day-to-day. Consequentially, these supervisors and managers increase a company’s legal exposure as the company is liable for their actions and words.

Whether a supervisor or manager is promoted from within or hired in as a new employee, training is a critical requirement to ensure that the company’s expectations are properly communicated and met. Some areas of training are common sense, but others should be considered to help mitigate liability by (hopefully) preventing unacceptable behavior.

Job duty training: Supervisors and managers must understand the duties of those they supervise in order to train, step in if needed, and properly manage expectations. If the supervisor is promoted from within, (s)he probably understands at least some of the job duties as well as company expectations and culture. A new-to-the-company supervisor will need to be trained in both of these areas even if they have experience from a previous company. 

Supervisors must also learn how to delegate responsibilities and that, even if they can do it quicker or better, they must now mentor other employees and allow them to figure out the best way of doing the job their way. This is often a struggle for newly promoted supervisors and should be considered an area for training and development in order to ease the supervisor’s transition into the new leadership role.

Additionally, supervisors need to learn company-specific procedures such as scheduling, processing and managing time off, and handling leave requests.

Management training: One of the greatest challenges for recently promoted supervisors and managers is making the transition from performing the duties of a job to supervising and managing others to perform those duties. New supervisors should be trained on this new role, particularly how to handle challenging performance issues with employees who may previously have been peers and, conversely, how to avoid favoritism. This transition period is critical to whether the new supervisor will be successful in his or her new role.

Safety training: In addition to the OSHA and safety training given to all employees, supervisors require additional training in what actions to take if an employee is injured (providing first aid, assessing equipment for safety, documenting and reporting injury, etc.). They should also be trained in reasonable suspicion drug testing standards and procedures, such as when it is okay to send an employee for testing, what’s the safest way to transport them to the testing facility, and how to document such situations.

Unfortunately, supervisors also need to be trained in how to handle workplace violence situations (i.e., what to do during a violence conflict between co-workers or with a customer and employee).

Performance management training: Perhaps their most important role, we believe that managers share a co-equal responsibility for their subordinates’ performance. This includes: 1) Ensuring employees know what is expected of them in their job; 2) ensuring they have all of the necessary tools, equipment, training, and structure necessary to be successful in their role; 3) providing the ongoing feedback that employees need to ensure they know how they are or are not meeting expectations and what they can do to meet those expectations; and 4) holding employees accountable for the performance standards that you have mutually established. Employees also need to know how what they do contributes to the larger success of the company.

Training in critical conversations is always a good idea to ensure supervisors have the tools to have difficult discussions (such as those relating to poor performance, terminations, workplace conflict, etc.).

Part of performance management also includes timely progressive discipline. Managers need to be trained on the company’s discipline procedures so they are ready to discipline as soon as an inappropriate or unacceptable action is known.

Harassment / sexual harassment / discrimination / retaliation training: In order to maintain a safe and compliant workplace, all employees should receive training on the company’s harassment and discrimination policies. Supervisors require additional training into what to do if they witness this behavior or if they receive a complaint because supervisors are held to a higher standard. How they handle claims of harassing, discriminatory, or retaliatory behavior will have a significant impact not only on the parties involved in the behavior, but also on the company’s exposure to liability. In addition, regular training is an important part of an affirmative defense if there is a complaint.

It’s important to know that some states go so far as to require that supervisors receive this training annually or bi-annually.

Business skills training: Managers often have expanded duties in areas not covered by employee training or experience. This basic business training includes:

  • Documentation – how to properly document and file any issues, requests, investigations, discipline, performance management, etc. so it can be referred to later if needed
  • Communication – how to communicate effectively in multiple formats (in person, over the phone, via email, etc.) with employees, fellow supervisors, vendors, customers, prospective clients, etc.
  • Project management – how to keep projects on time, on budget and on track
  • Finance / budgets – what do the numbers mean and how to manage the department’s finances
  • Computer / software skills – how to use computers or management software more often or in new ways to get the job done, track performance, submit documentation, etc.

Finally, it’s good business practice to get a signed acknowledgment from each participant who has participated in training, regardless of which training you conduct. This sort of documentation should be kept in employee personnel files so that you can track employee training and verify to a court of law, should you need to, that you provided the necessary training to ensure a safe and productive workplace.

Of course, if you need any assistance with training, please don’t hesitate to contact us today!

By Paige McAllister, SPHR, HR Compliance – Affinity HR Group, Inc.
Paige McAllister is a contributor for Affinity HR Group, Inc., NAWLA’s affiliated human resources partner. Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations such as NAWLA and their member companies. To learn more, visit

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