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The High Cost of Too Little Workplace Training
Suzanne Dyer-Gear, MAS, SPHR

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Imagine this scenario if you will: An opening for a supervisor comes up at work, and it seems a logical decision to promote someone from within to fill it. An employee in the same department has been doing extremely well for years, and he appears to be an obvious choice. He’s bright, well liked, knows the job and business inside and out, and is an extremely hard worker. When asked, the individual jumps at the opportunity to move up in the company.

Happy ending? Not quite. Within two months it’s clear that placing the person in a supervisory role was a huge mistake. While his level of effort and technical competence is high, the people part of the supervisory position seems to be completely beyond him. Everyone is disappointed, including the employee. He’s miserable, his morale has plummeted, and he regrets ever considering the promotion.

What’s worse, as his manager you don’t know what to do with him now. You filled his position when he took the promotion, and his replacement is working out well. Do you fire the once-great employee? Demote him and let his replacement go? Does he even want his old job back, knowing that he’ll always be reminded of his failure?

Unlikely scenario? Unfortunately not. I’ve personally seen this happen on a number of occasions. Perhaps you have too. Usually employees are promoted into supervisory positions based on success in their current job. While this may seem to make perfect sense, it also has drawbacks. Sometimes the job, especially if it’s one of a technical nature, requires very different skills than a supervisory position does. Managers manage people not things, and people are complicated.

The result of a situation described above is that everyone loses – the employee, the manager, the department, and the organization as a whole. Maybe the worst part is that it all could have been fairly easily prevented.

How? By providing training in supervisory and managerial skills to current supervisors and to employees who show potential to grow with the organization in the future. Good programs include training in Employee Interviewing and Selection, Managing and Appraising Employee Performance, Progressive Discipline and Documentation, Employee Retention Techniques, Effective Communication Skills, and Preventing Sexual and other forms of Harassment. Some companies also train their supervisors in Managing Change in the Workplace, Teambuilding, Managerial Ethics, and other topics.

While training may be considered expensive in terms of hiring a competent trainer and taking supervisors away from their jobs for a day or two, in reality it’s an investment in employees and the company. Well-trained supervisors and managers are less likely to make mistakes that could end up being settled in court. Good supervisors and managers tend to have more productive employees who show up for work, work hard when they’re there, and who are less likely to leave the organization.

Management-skills training for potential supervisors has benefits too. Having a “bench” of individuals ready to step into supervisory positions when they occur makes an organization stronger. Some employees may decide through training sessions that supervising isn’t for them. Better to find out before they’re promoted and possibly fail than afterwards. Even if opportunities for promotions aren’t frequent in your organization, having employees trained in “people” skills can make them more valuable employees.

Losing great employees because they don’t work out as supervisors is a failure of management. By investing in training beforehand, it never has to happen. Supervisory and managerial training can truly be a win-win proposition for an organization, and one that prevents failure before it happens.

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With more than twenty years experience in Human Resources and Organizational Development, Suzanne Dyer-Gear has a proven track record of developing and implementing systems that significantly reduce costs while enhancing organizational and employee productivity and satisfaction. Suzanne is widely regarded as a dynamic trainer, having developed and delivered hundreds of seminars on more than 30 different management and H.R. topics, and has presented at national and international conferences. In addition to her consultation practice, Suzanne teaches both undergraduate and graduate level college courses on a number of Management, Leadership, Human Resources and Organizational Development topics. She has published over 70 articles in newspapers and trade magazines, and is currently working on her first book, Lost Employees: How Good Organizations Lose Good People—While Still Employing Them.


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