Department Supervisor Job Description
Working under management, department supervisors lead the day-to-day operations of their specific area, develop departmental strategy, and lead their team members. Their job involves training new workers, creating budgets, setting goals, monitoring inventory, and keeping the department’s performance in line with company expectations. They often work in retail stores, warehouses, healthcare facilities, laboratories, and automotive repair shops. This career fits someone with both strong leadership skills and work experience in a specific department. While a high school diploma can suffice, employers prefer candidates with business management education for this first-line supervisor role.
Department Supervisor Duties and Responsibilities
Department supervisors work in a variety of organizations. Specific duties and
responsibilities may vary, but there are several core tasks associated with the job, including:
Manage Team Members
Department supervisors assign daily tasks to their team members, create their work schedules, and offer feedback on their performance, providing coaching as needed. They also coordinate with human resources to acquire and train new departmental employees and take disciplinary action when necessary.
Develop Departmental Strategy
Working with managers to understand companywide goals and help their departments contribute positively to the company’s vision is an important aspect of the job. This involves developing strategies for improving productivity, performance, and profitability, and guiding team members to reach these goals.
These supervisors monitor their department’s inventory levels, report missing or stolen stock, and order new items as needed to meet customer demand. In some companies, they also set up displays to advertise department merchandise and help keep goods on the proper shelves so customers can easily find them.
Department supervisors create the department’s budget, determine when the department can make purchases, and compare actual expenses to the budgeted amounts. Their work may also include looking at financial ratios to compare their department’s performance to that of other departments or the company as a whole.
Department supervisors pay close attention to their work areas and use available data to spot issues with excessive costs, low performance, or poor customer service. After observing team members, looking at reports, and using business software, they take corrective action by offering employee feedback, working with management to develop new strategies, and cutting costs as needed.
Department Supervisor Skills and Qualifications
In addition to strong organization skills, department supervisors should have strong leadership and decision-making skills and some previous experience working in the department they lead. Employers look for at least a high school diploma and three to five years of work experience. They also seek department supervisors with the following abilities:
- Business management – while only responsible for their department, a supervisor’s business background enables them to guide their team, monitor profitability and productivity, and plan departmental operations
- Department experience – experience performing the job duties of their department is crucial for effectively leading employees, assigning job duties, and improving processes
- Personnel mangement – department supervisors are responsible for all the department’s employees and must successfully train, mentor, and guide them
- Communication skills – interacting daily with team members and other managers and giving clear instructions to staff requires strong oral communication skills. Writing reports and filling out other forms makes good writing skills a must
- Problem-solving skills – whether helping team members resolve conflicts, handling customer complaints, or fixing productivity issues, department supervisors solve problems every day
Tools of the Trade
Department supervisors often use the following tools:
- Enterprise resource planning software (Oracle PeopleSoft, Oracle Fusion, Sage Business Cloud)
- Productivity software (Microsoft Office Suite)
Department Supervisor Education and Training
Employers require a high school diploma for department supervisor positions, and some prefer an associate’s or bachelor’s degree related to business management. Topics of study for business programs include finance, leadership, human resources, marketing, accounting, operations management, and organizational behavior. Since most department supervisors have department-specific work experience and earn the title through a promotion, companies often provide management training. They have employees participate in training courses and work alongside experienced department supervisors to learn daily job duties. The length of this training depends on the company but is usually short term.
Department Supervisor Salary and Outlook
Because department supervisor pay varies between industries and employers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide salary or outlook information for this job title. However, Glassdoor lists an average annual income of $35,394 based on 13,419 reported salaries.
Want to learn more about working as a department supervisor? Here are some resources that provide more information about the field:
American Management Association – striving to help managers overcome challenges and grow their careers, AMA offers a variety of on-site and online training programs in topics like project management, communication, finance, and supervisory skills. It also hosts seminars, offers industry news and publications, and provides skills assessments
Leading People: Expert Solutions to Everyday Challenges – using examples from real companies, this guide from Harvard University explores the challenges leaders face and offers advice on adapting leadership strategies to your work environment. It also includes tips on motivating employees, creating a vision, leading change, and setting a direction for a department or company
Business Professionals of America – BPA provides students and professionals with opportunities to pursue certification, attend conferences and workshops, and get career assistance. Business professionals can also attend events as guest speakers and give workshops on their areas of expertise
The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business – author Josh Kaufman has extensive experience teaching business professionals and has created this guide to give both students and working professionals a strong foundation in the most important aspects of business management. Some of the topics he covers include value creation and delivery, sales, marketing, leadership, finance, operations management, and ethics
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