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How to Transform Frontline Workers into Leaders

Posted by Siobhan Welch

Nov 1 2018
Nov 1 2018

Imagine this: your best frontline worker is promoted to floor supervisor. Yet, after weeks on the new job, juggling unfamiliar tasks such as managing former peers and dealing with compliance paperwork, they become overwhelmed. When frustration rises, they throw in the towel, leaving management scrambling to find a replacement. But what happens when the new supervisor is also underprepared? 

 

You guessed it. 

 

Unfortunately, this is becoming a common theme in production environments nationwide, especially as older generations retire and the next generation of workers is left to fill the empty roles. What many of these new supervisors soon discover is while they may be well-versed in executing day-to-day operations on the floor, they don’t possess the skills necessary to lead successful teams. 

 LDR14 - Valuing Differences_02

 

Teaching a New Skill Set

The question is, why are great line employees unable to lead successfully? For one, effective leadership requires a much different skill set than working the line. Strong supervisors must know how to communicate as a boss, exuding confidence that instills trust in their teams. Communication requirements range from motivating more reticent employees, to encouraging effective teamwork, to dealing with day-to-day personal issues that may pop up. 

 

Supervisors must also know how to handle recordkeeping. Keeping up with compliance can be complicated, yet administrative work must happen on a regular basis. Many frontline workers don’t have experience with reporting, so it’s easy to see why they might get discouraged and quit. A lack of formal, structured leadership guidance might be the reason why some companies are stuck in the cycle of needing to replace unprepared leaders.   

 

One solution is to focus adequate resources on developing the next generation of leaders, to avoid the subsequent problems that can arise from turnover and misses in production. A course program that teaches the soft skills supervisors need to lead successful teams, like effective communication strategies, can make a tangible difference on the floor. 

screen-cap-on-floor-scenario

 

Setting the Stage for Success

Of course, strict production goals and tight timelines make it difficult to get any sort of training in beyond onboarding — and this goes double for supervisors. To many companies, the idea of taking a supervisor out of work to complete leadership training is counter-productive. So in lieu of change, the status quo remains. 

 

The real challenge then is devising a way to fit in effective leadership training while still supporting production goals. Success will not only depend on the content that’s delivered, but also the way in which it’s delivered, including when and how often. 

 

Short online training modules that can be delivered quickly, without pauses in production, is the best option out there. E-courses allow supervisors to complete training in downtime, without travel, and offers the most flexibility across different departments and schedules. 

 

Effective training content must also work to avoid distractions and incorporate interactive exercises. Studies show when learners anticipate answering questions, they’re more likely to focus. Finally, training should aim to utilize the latest technology available, such as mobile coaching apps, to guide future leaders one-on-one. 

 

While many leadership programs are already on the market, until now they’ve all been designed for office-workers in corporate settings, not frontline workers on the manufacturing floor. Or they are delivered as weekend seminars, requiring budget and travel. 

 

But there is finally an online leadership training program — The Alchemy of Leadership designed specifically for developing supervisors in the unique world of food manufacturing. The Alchemy of Leadership is available both as a company solution, as part of a complete library of training and audit-readiness solutions, or as eLearning for any individual to take on their own.

 

What sort of leadership guidance does your company provide floor supervisors? What works, and what could be improved? 

 

 

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