The Supervisor: Key to Improved Productivity

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The opportunity cost loss of not having an effective supervisor within your organisation cannot be understated. The supervisor is the one person on theground who decides if the daily target set according to your business plan is achieved or not.

An enormous amount of money has traditionally been spent on capital expenditure programmes and digitisation, but ensuring the effectiveness of the supervisor is usually neglected. It is not that they are not seen as crucial, but the focus is more on sending them for training than ensuring they are effectively coached with the right tools.

Since OIM Consulting started working closely within the supervisor space we noticed the following underlying causes for poor performance: recurring safety issues, missed daily targets, upward delegation, lack of confidence, non-standard work approach, lack of engagement and lack of clear accountability.

The effective execution of any business plan relies heavily on supervisory effectiveness, yet very little effort is placed on changing how the supervisor leads and manages.

Within the mining industry, OIM Consulting found an average of only 12% of supervisors have the right competencies for their role. This average covers the core areas of mining, engineering and plant. Of the outstanding 88%, 6% are not competent for the role and 82% are partially competent.

This has immense consequences for the organisation. The competencies that fared the worst as measured by our psychologists is planning and organising, leading others and analysis and problem solving.

An overwhelming number of supervisors are only able to execute their daily routine tasks effectively on average 53% of the time.

The more than 1 000 supervisors we have worked with are extremely hard working and want to be effective; however we have found that many of them “don’t know what they don’t know”. They have struggled to apply or integrate formal classroom training into how they work. In nearly all cases it is not a lack of willingness to be more effective but a lack of understanding of how to be more effective.

In our work with supervisors across sub-Saharan Africa, once they are provided with the right toolsets and learn the appropriate skills, a major mind shift occurs. They become more confident, and execute more appropriately, meaning they start achieving daily targets, and they become more engaged with their teams, motivating them on.

All supervisors thrive with on-the-job coaching. We have seen major changes occur in competencies and shift execution once this occurs. The 12% competencies shifted to 44% competent and daily routine task execution went up from 53% to 90%.

The impact of this movement on productivity and profitability is profound. In one of the deepest underground gold mines in South
Africa, all in sustaining costs fell by 31%. Tonnes per employee went up from an average of 21.7 to 33.4, gold mined increased by 30%. The average mean time between failure dropped by 42%. On an iron ore mine in the Northern Cape an extra 11.5 million ROM tonnes were
extracted. Where companies have embraced the establishment of a coaching culture, they have continued to report an increase in supervisory performance and overall organisational results.

The benefits are clear: a competent supervisor will create an engaged team which will drive efficiencies.

Especially within this COVID-19 environment, the supervisor is key to ramping up production to achieve the revised targets for the next quarter. Now imagine what a competent supervisor can do within a highly digitised environment which has lean processes and a high-performance culture.