Sunday, October 14, 2012

What makes a good supervisor?

An interesting result on how good supervisors improve teams of people in what are called “technology-based service job,” (e.g. those with retail sales clerks, movie theater concession-stand employees, in-house IT specialists, airline gate agents, call-center workers, technical repair workers):
Replacing a supervisor from the bottom 10 percent of the pool with one from the top 10 percent increases output about as much as adding a tenth worker to a nine-worker team........ 
The main impact effective supervisors have on their employees isn’t from motivating or supervising them per se, it’s from teaching them better work methods. But despite that teaching/learning dynamic, the most efficient matching structure is to assign the best workers to the best bosses rather than try to have the best bosses bring the weakest workers up to speed.
The research was done in a large company (unnamed) that offered special opportunities for the study.

There is of course the question of how well the results will generalize, even to TBS jobs in other fields. It is nice to see some actual measurements backing up (and challenging) conventional wisdom in management.

Here is a link to a publication of the work by the original researchers. 

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