How do I Become an Operations Supervisor?

Carol Francois

There are two primary ways to become an operations supervisor: promotion through the ranks and post-secondary training in management. An operations supervisor is responsible for the daily management of the business. The exact responsibilities vary considerably, based on the industry and the work environment. For example, a call center would have an operations supervisor on every shift, but his or her responsibilities would be significantly different from those of a construction site operations supervisor.

Operations supervisors might receive education or be promoted from within a company.
Operations supervisors might receive education or be promoted from within a company.

There is no post-secondary training program specifically focused on the skills required to become an operations supervisor. Instead, most candidates have completed training in the industry itself. For example, an operations supervisor in a call center typically has formal education in business, management, or business administration. An operations supervisor in a production environment is usually trained in a skilled trade.

An operations supervisor may work in a call center.
An operations supervisor may work in a call center.

Workplace experience is much more important than education once you become an operations supervisor. In general, it takes eight to 10 years of experience to gain the skills required to function at a supervisory level. In order to qualify for this type of promotional opportunity, candidates must have an excellent performance record in their current role. The ideal operations supervisor is well versed in the actual tasks that must be completed and is able to provide guidance to staff as required.

Another way to become an operations supervisor is the successful completion of post-secondary training in management. In some firms, the organization is looking for a supervisor who is unfamiliar with the current business practices. He or she is expected to provide new ideas, insights, and find different ways to meet the business needs.

A person who becomes the supervisor this way often faces two significant challenges: staff resistance and resentment, and lack of management support. In many cases, the staff had a specific preference for who should be promoted to the supervisory role. Selecting an external candidate often creates resistance to accepting the new supervisor. A wise candidate takes the time to build rapport and trust with existing staffers before making any changes.

The next stage of difficulty often arises when the new supervisor attempts to change the business processes. The current staff members often see no merit in changing the current processes and may even find flaws in the proposed changes. Although upper management was clear on a desire for change when hiring someone external, the commitment to change often waivers in the face of staff resistance.

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