Often, the first promotion into a supervisor role can be the most challenging, as the adjustment into management requires a jump in skills and experience.
Gaining management capabilities without being in a leadership role can prove difficult, with experience gaps frequently being the hurdle preventing promotion into a supervisor position.
AIM WA Facilitator and Training and Development Director at FutureWest Institute James Thomson shares four key steps to successfully becoming a supervisor, particularly when lacking experience in the role.
The 4 steps to becoming a supervisor without experience
1. Find the gaps
Obtain the job description of the supervisor role you covet and perform an analysis to uncover any gaps in skills or experience you require.
Mr Thomson said the job description was a great place to start, helping to assess an employee’s current role in comparison to the role they were looking to move into – regardless of whether it was internal or external.
He said an easy way to access a position’s description was via the job advertisement.
“Once you get a hold of the job description, you can analyse the knowledge, skills, duties and accountabilities in that role and perform a gap analysis, recording the skills and knowledge you don’t have,” Mr Thomson said.
From there, Mr Thomson suggested speaking to somebody previously in the role to determine any unspecified or soft skills necessary to succeed.
Mapping out the knowledge and soft skills needed for the role will clarify what experience needs to be acquired and how to go about it.
According to Mr Thomson, many people miss out on promotions because they fail to address skill and knowledge gaps, even though these skills may have been unknowingly proven in the past.
“There are those that have performed well on the operational floor, but they fail to prove in the interview that they can perform the skills and attributes required as a supervisor,” he said.
“People don’t realise that in an interview, they are not being assessed on whether they can perform the role in the future, but whether they can perform it now.”
2. Bridge the gaps
Fill in skills and knowledge gaps by finding a mentor, upskilling through training, and requesting extra responsibility at work or networking opportunities.
To better one’s chances of landing a supervisor role without past experience, Mr Thomson said to obtain a mentor who could provide them with opportunities to grow the knowledge needed to become a supervisor.
Whether it is their current manager or someone else with suitable experience, he said this mentor could help the individual prepare to perform duties they were yet to experience, such as coaching, conflict resolution and performance management.
This can ultimately assist them in bridging their skills gap and open them up to networking.
In addition to this, purposely becoming a mentor for a new employee in their current role was another way to further develop people management skills, which could be enough to prove the skills necessary to be a supervisor.
“When I speak to those that lack supervisor experience, I always suggest they mentor a brand new employee to help them to understand the workplace culture, policies and procedures, and then record that experience down in a journal,” Mr Thomson said.
“Just because they’re not a formal supervisor or a formal leader, doesn’t mean they can’t put their hand up and help coach new people within the organisation.”
3. Record examples of situation, action, outcome (SAO)
Analyse and make a note of situations where you have proved your capabilities for a supervisor role.
When it comes to applying for a supervisor position, recording ongoing and past demonstrations of leadership and other necessary skills for the role is an absolute necessity to showcase that individuals are ready for the promotion.
“Record your examples in a journal or on a Microsoft Word document,” Mr Thomson said.
“Make sure you note what the situation was, the action taken and the outcome, even if it’s just dot points.”
Mr Thomson explained that this was crucial in the interview process, as these notes and specific examples could be the key to showing the individual’s capabilities for a supervisor role.
“There’s nothing to say you can’t bring a journal into the interview – many people get nervous and have a mental lapse, so in this situation, they can go into their journal, look up one of their SAO – situation, action and outcome – examples and refer to that specific example,” he said.
“Some interviews these days will give you the questions beforehand, and then the interviewers will allow you to answer the questions at your own pace.
“This is a perfect time to have your journal with your leadership examples.
“There’s no point in putting all the effort into the application and then failing to prove you can perform the knowledge and skills of the position during the interview.”
4. Assess whether a supervisor role is actually for you
Mr Thomson said soft skills were an essential factor in whether someone new to a supervisor role succeeded or not, as the position was not always suited to everyone.
“Performance management, budgetary and organisational skills are some of the hard skills, but there are soft skills, such as mentoring and coaching staff, conflict resolution and negotiation – skills that require a high degree of emotional intelligence – which are important as a supervisor in the workplace,” he said.
“I don’t think many people realise when they start a leadership role that there are so many other facets that require years of experience and additional professional development, which are not included in their university degree or vocational education.
“It’s about authentic leadership – you have to be able to communicate and motivate your staff through genuine dialogue to be able to hit those key performance indicators.
“That’s where I come back to the point of grabbing the job description, speaking to a mentor and exploring what your gaps are, what you have to do in the role and what you haven’t experienced before, because you might look at it and say, ‘this is actually not for me’.”