Understanding and Responding to Your Needs 

Published in October 2019. 

The Leadership Insights newsletter is one year old! Thanks to all of you for your interest in the newsletter and, more importantly, your investment in joining this community of supervisors and continuing to develop your leadership skills. 

Feature Insight

In a decentralized organization like the University of Minnesota, each college, unit, and department at the University has their own culture and norms that can vary widely even between work groups in the same department. This structure places supervisors in a position with a tremendous amount of responsibility to manage and influence their team to achieve their goals. The attitudes and relationships a supervisor has with the faculty and staff they supervise makes a critical difference in the work experience and productivity of the people whose work they oversee. 

Feedback from past Employee Engagement Surveys is evidence of the key role that supervisors play in the engagement and satisfaction of faculty and staff, and the ability of their work group to reach their strategic goals.  Engagement survey data also indicates the need to support supervisors in their supervisory roles.

Leadership and Talent Development (LTD) is focused on understanding the supervisor and leadership development needs at the University.

“We heard from college and unit leaders, as well as HR Leads all over the University that the demands and challenges facing supervisors were creating a need for support. The Engagement Survey helped show the extent of the need and pinpointed some specific issues for attention,” noted Brandon Sullivan, PhD, Senior Director of Leadership and Talent Development in the Office of Human Resources.

For example, feedback from faculty and staff shared through the Employee Engagement Survey showed an opportunity to support supervisors in developing and coaching their employees since 43% of staff and 50% of faculty reporting not receiving feedback and coaching.

“There was some supervisory training being offered centrally and locally at the time, but it was clearly not meeting the needs of the University,” Dr. Sullivan said. “We knew we needed something more effective with greater impact that was accessible for supervisors across the system.”

LTD team members developed training and resources for supervisors across all campuses that was convenient and addressed the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are needed to meet the challenges of a supervisory role.

Research-based best practices help to shape the content of the supervisory development courses that LTD offers along with insights from demographic data and assessments. 

For example, data from the Hogan Assessment administered by LTD shows that faculty and staff at the University tend to have high interpersonal sensitivity, which means they are diplomatic, warm, and friendly, but likely indirect with feedback. This increases supervisors’ risk of not being clear with expectations and preferred behaviors. To help supervisors hone their skills in coaching, providing feedback, and establishing roles and responsibilities, the Supervisory Development Course includes an entire learning module dedicated to supporting these skills.

Supervisors across the University have responded enthusiastically to the support from the Supervisory Development Course. To date, more than half of the nearly 6,000 supervisors at the University have participated in one or more webinars, and demand for additional training and support continues to grow. 

One program participant said: 

"I have only just begun my journey as a supervisor with the University but I feel like I have excellent resources and tools that will help me along. This course has helped introduce me into the community and have people I can turn to."

Another shared:

"The materials are really great and I enjoy reading through the discussion posts to see what issues other supervisors are having. I especially like that this is an online, self-paced course so that I can digest and reflect on the material at my own pace."

LTD continues to review and update supervisor training offerings and materials based on the latest research and most critical needs. They’ve also added opportunities for supervisors to learn in an online course with fellow supervisors across 27 different units in four campuses.