Frontload Training for Front Line Supervisors

April 19, 2018

This was originally published on

By Collin Gutman, head of Skilled Trades Division & Strategy, Penn Foster

Front line supervisors are usually named to their positions for one reason: they do great work. Whether that work is within the tightly spaced aisles of a manufacturing floor or the sprawling grounds of a retail distribution center, the person promoted to a supervisory role almost always stands out for his or her effectiveness, efficiency, and timeliness.

All of us have worked side-by-side with such a person. Maybe it was early in our careers, when we were just getting our feet wet in our chosen profession. Or maybe it was more recently, when we took responsibility for a unit or division and we decided to make our own assessment of who the key contributors were under our purview.

In the latter case, many of us have probably found ourselves eager to promote a top performer, especially one who easily stands out from others on key performance metrics. And here is where I sound the cautionary note, because the skills and attributes of a front line supervisor may, in fact, be quite different than those needed to be a successful line worker.

In far too many instances, the reality of the star employee’s transition to a front line supervisor is bumpy and jarring. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. A front line supervisor training program – built internally or outsourced to an expert – can make all the difference in providing the strategies and management skills supervisors need in the daily operations of overseeing front line employees.

This acute need for front line supervisor training comes at a critical juncture in the US workplace landscape. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects there will be an annual average of 215,000 front line supervisor job openings in industrial environments over the next several years, bringing the total front line supervisors in all fields to 2.2 million by 2026. At the same time, a Harvard Business Review report reveals that 71% of front line supervisors receive infrequent or only occasional training; and more than 90% of companies believe front line managers’ lack of leadership development negatively impacts employee engagement results.

Clearly, there is a massive opportunity to address the need for skilled front line supervisors in the industrial sector, as the fact is that many newly promoted front line supervisors lack the crucial skills necessary for job success.

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