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Head shot of Kelly Adler

Attorney Kelly Adler

They are a big part of the reason a business functions as it should. Or they’re a big part of the reason it doesn’t. They are your supervisors and managers: the people at any business whom the owner counts on to enforce company policy, manage personnel and get work done. But many businesses do not provide their supervisors with training on how to be supervisors, leaving them to figure things out for themselves.

That not only hurts productivity; it’s asking for trouble.

“Your supervisors are your front line; they can pretty much make or break your company,” attorney Kelly Adler said during a presentation at NJBIA’s “Roadmap for Performance Management and Coaching” seminar. “What they do can lead to litigation, but if they are properly trained, they can avoid litigation or at the very least protect you in case of litigation.”

Adler, an associate with Capehart Scatchard, says supervisor training should be done at least once a year in three areas: discrimination and harassment, the employee handbook, and responsibilities specific to being a supervisor. 

Training 1: How to be a supervisor

It’s natural to think that if someone is a good employee, they will make a good supervisor. After all, if he or she is good at something, why not put them in charge of others so they can show them how to do it well, too. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.  Good employees do not necessarily make good supervisors or good managers, Adler explains, but they can become good at it if they are given the right training.

Supervisors should undergo training prior to taking on their new duties. If they are going to have to do employee evaluations, they need to be trained in that. If they are going to have to set up shift schedules, they need to learn how to do that as well.

And while cost may be an issue, Adler said the training usually pays off in savings from increased productivity.

Get More Helpful HR Advice at NJBIA’s Upcoming Seminar Workplace Accommodations: Cutting Through the Haze


Training 2: What’s in the employee handbook

“Your supervisors should know your company handbook from front to back: know what’s in it, know what they’re responsible for, know what their employees are supposed to be doing and be able to answer their questions,” Adler says.  The reason is simple: Your supervisors can’t make sure things are being done right if they don’t know the right way to do them in the first place.

It’s especially important for areas in which supervisors may have to take action, such as meting out discipline or dealing with poor performance. Likewise, they need to know the procedure for handling employee complaints. 

Training 3: Anti-harassment and discrimination

The publicity about workplace sexual harassment has increased the demand for anti-harassment training, and all employees should receive it, as well as anti-discrimination training. Your workers need to know how to behave in the workplace and most importantly, what behavior is unacceptable.

Harassment training for supervisors goes well beyond that, so there should be an extra session just for them. If they are required to accept complaints and reports of harassment, they need to know what to do with them. Even if they’re not the one receiving complaints, they still need to know their responsibilities.

“They need to understand that once they know of discrimination and harassment, they need to do something about it,” Adler said. “They can’t just pretend it didn’t happen.”