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Front line managers

An organisation's effectiveness relies on the quality of management and administrative procedures it has in place. The employee's first port of call when it comes to learning how the organisation operates is their immediate supervisor. The management skills demonstrated at this level bear directly on the effectiveness of the individual and the team.

Front line managers usually are the first level of management and may manage one employee or a large number. The role of the manager often includes managing:

  • people
  • budgets
  • work rotas
  • quality and operational performance
  • customer care

Whatever the size of the organisation managers need to be consistent, fair and flexible about the way they treat their staff as they often have responsibility for:

  • Disciplinary and attendance issues
  • Communication - providing a link to senior management
  • Organising staff rotas / team meetings
  • Choosing staff to attend training courses
  • Taking part in staff recruitment
  • Writing staff reports
  • Ensuring company policies and procedures are adhered to

Front line managers are best placed to talk to employees, to listen to their concerns, to counsel and coach, to check employees meet their targets and to ensure they are committed to the business. For further information please see the Acas advisory booklet - Front line managers.

Questions and Answers

What makes an effective supervisor?

The role of a supervisor, first line manager or team leader is to achieve tasks by planning, controlling and motivating members of their work group. Supervisors need to gain the commitment and co-operation of each individual.

It will help if they:

  • get to know all members of the group and respect them as individuals
  • give people an aim by setting agreed and achievable targets and keeping them informed of how well they are doing
  • keep the group informed of any changes
  • tell people the reasons for doing a job
  • be approachable: listen to suggestions and grievances and consult people
  • give specific praise where it is due
  • provide leadership.
  • look after the interests of your group
  • ensure that their working environment is safe and clean
  • set a good example

What's the difference between a supervisor and a manager?

Supervisors are part of the first line of management. Traditionally they have often been referred to as foremen, charge hands or superintendents - these terms are still used in some organisations today. However, it is becoming more common for employers to see their supervisors as 'team leaders' or 'first line managers' and to use these terms to describe them.

Whatever their title, supervisors direct and guide others in the performance of tasks. Their traditional role, of planning and controlling the pace of work, is changing with the introduction of new technologies and changes in working practices. For instance, the growth of areas such as work study and quality control combined with increasing use of set procedures has eroded some supervisors' responsibilities for decision making and problem solving. Also some organisations now ensure that their supervisors are team leaders in briefing groups, quality circles and consultative committees, and help resolve grievance and disciplinary issues.

Front line manager and supervisor training from Acas

Acas run practical training courses to equip managers, supervisors and HR professionals with the necessary skills to deal with employment relations issues and to create more productive workplace environments.

"Brilliant feedback from our staff after the Acas training for new frontline managers"
- Charity organisation

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