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* Most jobs are filled by promoting individuals from within the organization, very often from the ranks of clerks they subsequently supervise.
* While office automation will cause employment in some clerical occupations to slow or even decline, supervisors will be more likely to retain their jobs because of their relatively higher skills and longer tenure.
All organizations need timely and effective clerical and administrative support to operate efficiently. Coordinating this support is the responsibility of clerical supervisors and managers. They can be found in nearly every sector of the economy, working in fields as varied as office management, or, customer services.
Although some functions may vary considerably, many duties are common to all clerical supervisors and managers. Supervisors perform administrative tasks to ensure that their staffs can work efficiently. For example, equipment and machinery used in their departments must be in good working order. If the computer system goes down or a photocopier malfunctions, they must try to correct the problem or alert repair personnel. They also request new equipment or supplies for their department when necessary.
Planning and supervising the work of their staff is another key function of this job. To do this effectively, the supervisor must know the strengths and weaknesses of each member of the staff, as well as the required level of quality and time allotted to each job. They must make allowances for unexpected absences and other disruptions, and adjust assignments or perform the work themselves if the situation requires it.
After allocating work assignments and issuing deadlines, clerical supervisors oversee the work to ensure that it is proceeding on schedule and meets established quality standards. This may involve reviewing each person's work on a computer, as in the case of accounting clerks, or, in the case of cashiers, listening to how they deal with customers. When supervising long-term projects, the supervisor may establish regular meetings with staff members to discuss their progress.
Clerical supervisors also evaluate each worker's performance. If a worker has done a good job, the supervisor records it in the employee's personnel file and may recommend a promotion or other award. Alternatively, if a worker is performing poorly, the supervisor discusses the problem with the employee to determine the cause and helps the worker improve his or her performance. This might entail sending the employee to a training course or arranging personal counseling. If the situation does not improve, the supervisor may recommend a transfer, demotion, or dismissal.
Clerical supervisors and managers generally interview and evaluate prospective clerical employees. When new workers arrive on the job, supervisors greet them and provide orientation to acquaint them with the organization and its operating routines. Some may be actively involved in recruiting new workers by performing functions such as making presentations at high schools and business colleges. They may also serve as the primary liaisons between their offices and the general public through direct contact and helping to prepare promotional information.
Supervisors also help train new employees in organization and office procedures. They may teach them how to use the telephone system and operate office equipment. Because much clerical work is computerized, they must also teach new employees to use the organization's computer system. When new office equipment or updated computer software is introduced, supervisors retrain experienced employees in using it efficiently. If this is not possible, they may arrange for special outside training for their employees.
Clerical supervisors often act as liaisons between the clerical staff and the professional, technical, and managerial staff. This may involve implementing new company policies or restructuring the workflow in their departments. They must also keep their superiors informed of their progress, and abreast of any potential problems. Often this communication takes the form of research projects and progress reports. Because they have access to information such as their department's performance records, they may compile and present these data for use in planning or designing new policies.
Clerical supervisors may be called upon to resolve interpersonal conflicts among the staff. In organizations covered by union contracts, supervisors must know the provisions of labor-management agreements and run their departments accordingly. They may meet with union representatives to discuss work problems or grievances.
Clerical supervisors and managers are employed in a wide variety of work settings, but most work in offices that are clean, well-lit, and generally comfortable.
Most work a standard 40-hour week. Because some organizations operate around the clock, however, clerical supervisors may have to work nights, weekends, and holidays. In some cases, supervisors rotate among the three shifts. In others, shifts are assigned on the basis of seniority.
Clerical supervisors and managers held nearly 1.4 million jobs in 1996. Although jobs for clerical supervisors are found in practically every industry, the largest number are found in organizations with a large clerical work force, such as government agencies, retail establishments, wholesalers, business service firms, banks, and insurance companies. Due to the need in most organizations for continuity of supervision, few clerical supervisors and managers work on a temporary or part-time basis.
Most firms fill clerical supervisory and managerial positions by promoting individuals within their organization from the clerical ranks. To be eligible for promotion to a supervisory position, clerical or administrative support workers must prove they are capable of handling additional responsibilities. When evaluating candidates, superiors look for strong teamwork skills, determination, loyalty, poise, and confidence. They also look for more specific supervisory attributes, such as the ability to organize and coordinate work efficiently, set priorities, and motivate others. Increasingly, supervisors need a broad base of office skills coupled with personal flexibility to adapt to changes in organizational structure and move among departments when necessary.
In addition, supervisors must pay close attention to detail in order to identify and correct errors made by subordinates. Good working knowledge of the organization's computer system is also an advantage. Many employers require postsecondary trainingin some cases, an associate's or even a bachelor's degree.
A clerk with potential supervisory abilities may be given occasional supervisory assignments. To prepare for full-time supervisory duties, he or she may attend in-house training or take courses in time management or interpersonal relations, for example, at a local community college or vocational school.
Some clerical supervisors are hired from outside the organization for positions with more managerial duties. These positions may serve as entry-level training for potential higher-level managers. New college graduates may rotate through departments of an organization at this level to learn the work of the entire organization.
Like other supervisory occupations, applicants for clerical supervisor or manager jobs will encounter competition because the number of applicants is expected to exceed the number of job openings. Employment of clerical supervisors and managers is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2006. Most job openings, however, will stem from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave this large occupation for other reasons.
Employment of clerical supervisors is affected by the demand for clerical workers, which is determined by the volume of clerical work and the development of office automation. More managers will be needed to coordinate the increasing amount of clerical work. With the spread of office automation, however, this work can be accomplished with fewer clerical workers. As office automation causes employment in some clerical occupations to slow or even decline, supervisors may have smaller staffs and perform more professional tasks. In other cases, fewer supervisors will be needed. In most cases though, the relatively higher skills and longer tenure of clerical supervisors and managers places them among the clerical workers most likely to retain their jobs.
Median annual earnings of full-time clerical supervisors were about $28,900 in 1996; the middle 50 percent earned between $21,500 and $38,900 a year. The lowest paid 10 percent earned less than $16,300, while the highest paid 10 percent earned more than $50,600. Employers in major metropolitan areas tend to pay higher salaries than those in rural areas.
Clerical supervisors generally receive typical benefits. Some clerical supervisors in the private sector may receive additional compensation in the form of bonuses and stock options.
Clerical supervisors and managers must understand and sometimes perform the work of the people whom they oversee, including accounting clerks, cashiers, bank tellers, and telephone operators. Their supervisory and administrative duties are similar to those of other managers.
State employment service offices can provide information about earnings, hours, and employment opportunities in this and other clerical jobs.
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