Early support in supervisors’ daily work
When you become concerned about an employee, talk to them. Make early support activities part of your management practices. They give you the tools to help you address difficult issues.
The earlier, the easier
As a supervisor, you have an important impact on your employees’ daily lives. You can improve their work performance, commitment and productivity. You can also reduce the costs and other negative consequences of absences due to illness or disability.
Everyone gets ill from time to time and that gives the employee the right to stay home. Everyone’s work ability varies during their career. This is completely normal. Therefore, early support is an excellent tool for your daily management practices.
When you become worried about your employee’s performance, behaviour or work ability, don’t hesitate to bring your concerns up with your employee. It’s better to discuss things with them unnecessarily rather than too late or not at all. There is no such thing as reacting too early. When you act early enough, you and your employee have access to a variety of possibilities for maintaining the employee’s work ability and the molehill doesn’t grow into a mountain.
Well-functioning interaction is everyday leadership
When you and your employee trust one another and talk to one another often and openly, your leadership has a strong foundation.
One of your key tasks as a supervisor is to build trust. You build trust when you express an interest in your employee’ concerns and try to resolve them, act as an example, encourage conversation and see mistakes as a normal part of work.
Avoid the illusion of happiness, i.e. don’t think that the mood always needs to be positive and that everything needs to go off effortlessly and without a hitch. In terms of successful leadership, the most important thing is that you know how your employees are doing and what their situation is like. The only way to know this is by holding frequent and regular discussions with them. When an employee brings up problems in these discussions, you can congratulate them and yourself: they trust you enough to want to talk about a difficult issue with you. This will allow you to sort things out together.
When your team’s or unit’s or the entire workplace’s atmosphere is attentive, your employees can be confident in bringing up even difficult subjects – also the ones that are connected to their work ability.
Make work ability a regular topic for discussion
Think of work ability and work ability risk as a regular topic of discussion. When you view them as natural, you will find them easy to talk about. Remember also, that you serve as an example to your employees.
Bring up work ability risks regularly with your employees. Discuss them at meetings on a more general level. That is how you make talking about work ability and work ability risks a part of your normal operations. When your employee can give their opinion, they become more interested in work ability improving practices than if you were just to tell them. Even if the discussion were to go smoothly, keep in mind that your employees may need encouragement to talk about concerns and fears regarding their work ability.
Be proactive to have an impact
If you notice that your employee begins to act in an unusual way, stop for a minute. Has their ability to focus weakened? Does their behaviour seem confused? Do they seem to have lost their motivation?
When you react to your employee’s changed behaviour before they take a sick leave or before the situation otherwise worsens, you are reacting in time. Agree with your occupational health team and your employees, what things you should react to and how and when. When you have agreed on these reaction criteria together, you will find it easy to react – and it will be easier for your employees to have a positive attitude towards your actions.
Your role as a supervisor is key
Make early support activities part of your daily management practices. Tell your employees about them immediately when they start their work and you provide them with orientation.
The practices help you bring up difficult subjects. Talk to your employees and think about what practices are good precisely for your work community and select the best ones. Be proactive and start early, because problems do not usually disappear on their own.
The early support steps help you understand, step by step, what early support activities are and how you can make them part of your leadership practices.