Learning & Training for Supervisors


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The author has spend years training supervisors, generally in manufacturing. With whatever curriculum he used he would add a chapter on adult learning theory. With this as a framework, he believed that trainees are far more receptive to the training as they have some understanding of why and how the program is constructed to benefit there growth. Very rarely do training facilitators take the time to explain the basics of adult learning to class participants. Indeed, if he has limited facilitator experience the facilitator may not even know the basics of adult learning himself.

The Supervisor: A Key Position

From the outset you need to know that there is no other job more important than that of supervisor. It is the supervisor who helps staff work at their optimal levels. It is also the supervisor that helps make management’s work smoother and more trouble-free than it would otherwise be. But developing the necessary skills to be successful in this pivotal position is a real challenge and does not just happen because the new supervisor used to be a first rate tradesman!

The new supervisor probably has the potential to be an excellent supervisor otherwise his boss would not have appointed him. But it is too much to expect you to “pick up the supervisory skills on the job. ” This is why the boss normally provides supervisory training. When and if this occurs, the new supervisor owes it to himself, his boss and the training facilitator to do the best he can to participate fully in the session discussions and other learning activities.

As a prerequisite to training, the new supervisory needs to understand how best to get the most of any supervisory training he may receive.

1. Learning Activity: The Benefits of Training to You and Others Or: What’s in it for Me (WIIFM)!

Firstly, we need to consider the importance of participating in supervisory training. “Because the boss wants me to” is an incomplete answer. To get the most from it and, in turn, be prepared to put a lot into it, the new supervisor needs to see the importance of it and the benefits to him, his staff, his boss and the company as a whole.

Here is a partial list of the importance of undertaking training.

It will help you become :

A better communicator
Know how to develop a more positive work environment
More cost-effective
More satisfied on the job
Develop more productive workers
More confident in your abilities
More self-aware and self-confident
A person with better morale
Increased in skills and make so fewer errors
A better leader able to gain respect and discipline others respectfully
A better problem solver
More stree free
A more collaborative team leader
A strong team spirit developer
Less likely to face personal liability lawsuits
Better respected by staff
A better time manager and more highly organized

2. Basics of Learning

It is important to know how you learn for at least two reasons: When you proceed through a training experience, you will have a better idea of what is taking place in the learning process and you are therefore more likely to respond positively to the experience.

Good supervisors are also coaches and trainers of their staff. Therefore, it is essential for you to understand basic training theory and practice so you can increase your training skills.

A. Learning as Change

The objective of learning is to bring about changes in your behavior so you can do things differently. Learning can be transformational—it can change your life forever. As you acquire new knowledge and skills, you begin to see new potentials and opportunities that you perhaps had not thought possible beforehand. Learning can be a difficult experience as you strive to break through old prejudices and habits, but it also can bring many rewards.

The focus in a training program is on your learning. The flip side is that the person standing up front is a facilitator of your learning, more than he is a teacher or a trainer. The focus, therefore, is on you, the learner, not the facilitator (trainer).

B. Active and Positive Participation

People learn in different ways, but one thing is clear: one of the best ways that all people learn is through active and positive participation, i. e. doing, discussing, listening actively, talking, being keen and enthusiastic about what you learn. It is important that you become actively involved in what happens during the training. Being active and positive will ensure you learn close to 100% of what there is to learn. Being passive, not participating, listening with one ear, day dreaming is a waste of your time, the facilitator’s time and the company's money. You need to make the effort for learning to happen.

C. Self-Directed Learning

A component of learning is the concept of self-directed learning, that is, a student has “learned on his/her own. " Research has shown that 75% of the learning that adults do is self-directional as opposed to institutional or employer provided learning. Write down the many things that you have learned on your own: _

In an training course, because of the limited amount of class-contact time available, you must use your initiative to determine what additional, related knowledge or skills you want to acquire, as we are not going to be able to cover “everything there is to know about effective supervision" in class.

Resources abound and we need not deal with these hear. Suffice it to say your local college, library are two main sources, and of course you need go no further than The Internet.

D. An Inquiring Mind

People who have an open, inquiring mind, ready and eager to continuously learn new things are far more likely to live satisfying and successful lives than those who close their minds to the opportunities, challenges and new ideas they may encounter.

Here is a story: John Black, a forty five year old supervisor working in Victoria wondered why he never got promoted or increased responsibilities and he asked to see his boss. The boss invited him to meet at the local pub for a beer where he bought a jug. They began chatting and then the boss started pouring the beer into John’s glass. He poured it full, and then kept pouring. John watched the frothy overflow with amazement until he could restrain himself no longer. “Can’t you see, the glass is full? No more will go in, ” he exclaimed. “Like this glass, ” the boss said, “you are full of your own judgements, opinions and prejudices. I cannot help you get ahead until you empty the first glass. ”

A person with an inquiring mind thinks mentally and emotionally “out of the box. " Try this exercise: Connect all nine dots by drawing four straight, continuous lines without lifting your pencil or retracing a line.

  • E. Spaced Repetition

    Learning , and the behavioral change that goes with it, takes time. You have to review what you have learned time and again if you are to learn to do it well. Learning something may take weeks—sometimes months—especially if it is complex. You must repeat the process again and again with some time lapse in between. This is called “spaced repetition, ” and if you do review and practice, you are far more likely to significantly increase the level of your learning achievement and to “push" your new knowledge into your long-term memory. That is why good training is usually conducted over a number of weeks , not crammed into 2-3 intensive days.

    F. Reflection and Thinking: the Importance of Doing “Nothing”

    We are a nation of eager beavers. We are active all the time and feel guilty when we are not. However, an under-recognized yet invaluable way of “getting our act together, ” of growing and allowing ourselves to be creative, is to spend time reflecting on what we do, how we do it now, and how we can improve. There are times when it is appropriate just to sit and think!

    G. Learning Domains

    Learning domains are the areas in which learning takes place. When we learn, we learn three types of things: 1. Knowledge (cognitive) learning: e. g. recalling information, using rules, comparing and contrasting, problem solving.
    2. Skills (psychomotor) learning: e. g. performing gross motor-skills, steering and guiding, position movement.
    3. Attitude (affective) learning: e. g. learning to be empathetic, understanding, supportive.

    H. Learning Techniques

    There is no one way to learn. People have their preferences. Some prefer to read books, others prefer multi-media or audio-visual materials. Some like to learn in groups, while others prefer to learn at their own pace on their own. Also, learning techniques will vary, depending upon whether you are learning new knowledge or new skills or new attitudes. If you want to learn about welding, for example, you might best acquire new knowledge about it by reading a book or listening to a tape or a lecture. Welding skills, however, are better learned by demonstration and hands-on practice than by only reading a book. Learning to be a more effective supervisor requires both knowledge about what you need to do, and you need to practice what you have learned to turn that knowledge into skills. In most training program, a number of techniques are used.

    They are all essential to your successful learning. They include:

  • Discussion and group work;
  • Readings and learning activities from a workbook and handouts;
  • Work-place skill-development activities;
  • Short talks by the Facilitator.

    I. Program Details

    Content Areas

    The following two major content areas will be emphasized:

    1. Managing yourself, your work and your life in general. It is essential that you get your act together before you can help others to get their act together.
    2. Helping your staff to manage themselves, their work and their lives

    J. Program Objectives

    At the end of this program you will:

    1. Have a clear sense of what your supervisory roles and responsibilities are and feel confident in your ability to implement them.
    2. Have acquired significant new knowledge and skills in how to conduct yourself as a supervisor.
    3. Be able to work effectively with other participating supervisors in a team atmosphere.

    Remember before you can get full benefit from training you need to know how you learn. This short introduction may help you and others.

    Michael Brooke, Ph. d is a retired university senior administrator, adult educator, corporate trainer and recruiter and published author. He spends hours a day learning from the Internet and running his businesses , the main one being Prosperity Automated System which you can see at http://www.ehomebiz.org

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