TRANSITION. Noun. Definition: passage from one state or stage to another.
Welcome, good readers, to 2008. As always, everyone has a different opinion of what to expect this year from our economy. Too many people are sharing the gloomy "it's out of our hands" expectations within their organizations; creating the perfect self-fulfilling environment that virtually ensures a bitter result. Rather than play the depressing guessing game, let's instead concentrate on what we know for certain and, more importantly, what we can do about it.
We know: Our country will continue to add new jobs to the overall economy and the competition for the best workers will only grow more intense. The first wave of Baby Boomer workers are thinking about retirement or starting a new phase in their lives that leaves the five-day work week behind. There is a significant percentage of new workers who show gaps in preparation for the workplace (SF Oct '07). The most productive staff members are the ones that feel truly engaged with the people and the purpose of work (SF May '07). Your very best employees (the ones you'd be lost without, the ones who need continuing growth and new challenges) are quickly topping out on your pay scale. To keep them you'll have to continue carving out new career paths and promotions to satisfy their own entrepreneurial lust. If you ever had hopes of getting some time away from the madness of day-to-day business, you are going to have to delegate more and more critically important responsibilities to others you can trust. If you're like most businesses with whom I interact, some 25 to 40 percent of your gross revenue is used to fuel your total payroll (not counting other employee costs). Finally, the No. 1 reason for undesired employee turnover — issues with the manager or supervisor. (People tend to quit their immediate boss more than they quit a company!)
What do these realities leave us with, and what have we learned?
• Recruitment matters
• Retention matters
• Retraining matters
• Relationship matters
• Recreation matters
• Return on talent investment matters
Most fabricating firms have at least one person with the formal responsibility of supervision (be it shop, office or field) — some fabricators have three supervisors or more. Let's not allow terminology or titles to get in our way. Some companies use alternate terms like manager, coordinator, leader or senior "something or other" but whatever you call it, if you pay someone more money because they have taken on the added responsibility of observing, coaching, reconciling and harmonizing the work of others, they are a supervisor! If you don't pay them more for that difficult extra work, I would suggest you open a spot on your driveway so the gods have somewhere to park their big karmic wheel of justice while they perform the "What Comes Around, Goes Around Dance of Irony."
WHY DO NEW SUPERVISORS OFTEN FAIL?
I've seen studies that show new supervisor failure rates as high as 40 percent — too high of a number to suggest that poor hiring and undeserved promotions are the sole cause of the problem. I believe that this is more than likely a training and transition problem than a hiring problem. Maybe not enough is being made of the significance of the career threshold that is being stepped across when one goes from being an employee responsible for one's own performance to that of a supervisor whose success is now significantly defined by the performance of others. A common scenario has the new "under boss" as a top performer of yours who has paid his or her dues — when an opportunity came along and they were selected and promoted.
Almost as common, is the tale of the motivated, results-oriented hourly worker who reached the top of the pay scale and received the promotion in an effort to reward and retain him or her. Too many companies find themselves in this tough spot. They "crown" the employee as a supervisor and hope for the best even though there's been little or no supervisory training. If the new supervisor came up through your ranks, there is a painful pattern you can expect: Usually a far-too-brief honeymoon period is granted to the newbie by their direct reports. These are the same people that used to be his or her lunch buddies and close friends. Just as the new supervisor is beginning to understand the job and all its traps, he or she begins to notice less eye contact, less casual conversation and less camaraderie; it is, in a word, shocking. The workforce has always been an "us and them" world; the new supervisor didn't sign up to be a "them" but it's clear his or her days of "us" are over. You can help your new supervisor and yourself if you make preparation and perception your priority. Try developing a list to help protect and prepare your supervisor for the challenges ahead.