Turning Today\u2019s Frontline Manufacturing Workers Into Tomorrow\u2019s Supervisors

With the high turnover prevalent in manufacturing, it’s a common scenario: A supervisor suddenly quits, and the best frontline worker is left to quickly fill his or her place. However, being skilled on the line doesn’t always translate into leading successful teams, and without leadership-specific training, the new floor supervisor becomes overwhelmed and quits. Thus, the cycle of turnover is continued instead of resolved.

While the issue of under-prepared supervisors is concerning, it’s one of a long list of challenges that also includes demanding quotas, tight schedules, high turnover and, to bring it full circle, a dearth of adequately skilled labor. Many of these problems could be solved by stronger leadership on the floor, but strong leadership can’t happen without strong leadership training – and the tools to implement that training on the floor. The end result of good leadership training is better supervisors who can positively influence their teams to meet, and even surpass, production goals.

Leadership Training Teaches the Soft Skills Necessary for Success.

A structured, leadership-focused training program that builds soft skills in a strategic cadence is a must-have to develop successful manufacturing supervisors. But few companies have a team of instructional designers and leadership experts to build this type of program on their own.

The good news is that there are leadership libraries available, and manufacturing companies can do a little homework to find one that is built specifically for their environment. Too often, online leadership courses feature generic content that workers gloss over, or their premise and instruction are geared toward an office environment. A ready-to-play e-learning library featuring real-life role-play manufacturing scenarios will have the greatest impact.

Of course, a leadership training program can’t ignore that there are real production goals to meet. Quick training modules, available online and at any time, is key in manufacturing, where every minute counts. And interactive knowledge checks should be trackable so management can easily measure the progress and effectiveness of the training program.

It’s important to remember that, until they are promoted, frontline supervisors’ training has focused on safety or job tasks. But beyond understanding the job, a lot factors into strong leadership. Effective communication requires assertiveness and empathy, especially when managing diverse teams. The ability to facilitate teamwork as a leader and not a line employee is also crucial. Good supervisors must also understand how to drive performance, engaging their teams to meet goals without pushing them too far. Thus, when evaluating a course library, be sure the content covers the topics needed to build teams and lead people in a context that the learners can relate to.

Technology Helps New Supervisors Succeed in and Apply Their Training.

Training can’t be all classroom and theory; it must extend to the work environment. Taking advantage of available tools and technology puts new supervisors ahead of the game. Many companies are already using on-the-floor mobile coaching apps with much success to ensure correct behavior, compliance and performance. Taking the same concept and applying it to a leadership development program also brings positive results.

Mobile coaching apps offer several benefits. Walk-throughs and demonstrations on the floor resonate more deeply, creating a perfect bridge between classroom learning and on-the-floor application. A mobile tool can facilitate real-time observation with photo documentation, allowing for corrective actions and more meaningful training. It can also guide new supervisors by providing a blueprint that helps them identify who needs coaching and how to take corrective actions. This technology can be especially helpful to a new supervisor who is lead former peers. The personal interaction coaching enables might also prove useful when teaching and testing the soft skills of leadership. Dialogue fosters a mentor-mentee relationship with managers that can lend new supervisors the extra support they lack.

Don’t overlook the effectiveness of other communication tools. Flipbook-like huddle guides can assist new supervisors in staying on task when leading shift meetings. They also help upper management ensure consistency in message across supervisors and allow burgeoning leaders to gain confidence in their new role. This positive behavior trickles down, raising morale and improving performance.

While the lack of labor worldwide may be difficult to control, manufacturing companies can be proactive by taking the time to train their supervisors on key leadership skills. The time spent training up front can sidestep the subsequent scramble later due to turnover. An investment in supervisors is an investment in the entire company, with dividends that pay beyond the front lines.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like