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What does a Site Supervisor do?

By Carol Francois
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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The precise role of a site supervisor depends a lot on the sort of site being supervised, but in most cases the job revolves around managing and instructing staff, setting goals, and seeing projects through to completion. This sort of job is found in many different industries. Construction sites are some of the most obvious, but there doesn’t necessarily have to be a new building in order for supervisors to have work to do. People with this kind of expertise are also needed when companies are moving locations, for instance, or when big events are being planned. The job usually centers on a transition period and ends with the execution of a specific goal, and the supervisor’s main job is to make sure that that goal — whether it’s a construction project, a renovation, or a grand opening — goes according to the client’s specifications.

Managing Staff

One of the most important parts of this sort of work comes in terms of managing, motivating, and encouraging staff. There are usually a lot more tasks to do than any one person could do him or herself, and supervisors are often the ones who delegate, making sure that the right people are doing the right jobs, and that they’re doing them both properly and on time. Disciplining and mentoring staff members often goes hand-in-hand with this. The skills required for this aspect of the work often include communication and problem solving. Many people find this aspect of a supervisor's job difficult to handle at first, especially if they’ve never held a management position before, but there are a range of short courses and certificate programs that provide training on managing staff to assist with the transition.

Supervisors are often responsible for making hiring decisions, too. Sometimes they inherit projects with staff already in place, but it’s often the case that they themselves are responsible for assembling their teams, either from known employees or contractors or from an open pool of outside applicants.

Knowledge of Industry Procedures

Another important part of the job involves keeping projects in line with protocol. There are a couple of different types of protocol that matter. Sometimes governments institute different rules and procedures, for instance, which is common with construction projects, and employers and managers often have internal rules that need to be followed, too. The supervisor needs to be familiar with all relevant processes and procedures, both internal and external. He or she often is required to train staff members or adjust work patterns to keep them up to standard. Most people gain this level of expertise through past work experience. Upon promotion to the role, he or she can recommend changes to the business process that will improve efficiency.


Performance targets are found in almost all industries, and one of the most important parts of the job is getting these set up. The site supervisor communicates the targets to staff members and works with the team to meet and exceed those goals. This can often be done by making changes to business processes and by motivating team members. The supervisor can encourage staff members to exceed their previous performance output by working as a team, though this usually requires at least a certain degree of leading by example.


In most instances the supervisor is the leader or “boss” of the site, but he or she rarely has ultimate control. He or she is almost always accountable to a manager or team of managers, and regular reports to these people is often required. The supervisor communicates both positive and negative information to managers and, in turn, shares information from management with the team. This information could include things such as strategic plans, long-term goals, and any concerns. The efficiency of this communication has an impact on staff morale and overall dedication to the firm.

Required Education and Training

The position of site supervisor is not usually considered to be an entry-level job, and as such it almost always requires at least some industry experience. Many of the top candidates have spent a number of years working as team members and have excelled in that role. Some post-secondary education is often required, as well, though a lot of this depends on the firm and the type of work at issue. Required training can be in a specific technical skill or in business administration. In addition, candidates usually have at least one year of supervising experience, which can be obtained either through professional work or as a volunteer or intern.

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Discussion Comments

By tigers88 — On May 25, 2011

@Gravios - Having experience working different kinds of construction jobs is definitely a benefit. Knowing how and why the work you are supervising is being done helps in lots of different areas.

But you need to have skills beyond this. Site supervisors monitor budgets, handle logistical issues like shipping and receiving materials, and ensure that the project is being done according to specifications. They also serve as liaisons between clients and contractors. There really is a lot of duties. Gather as many skill as you can and good luck!

By gravois — On May 24, 2011

Thanks guys for talking about the people skills. But I was hoping that you could tell me more about a site supervisor duties. I have some experience working in the trades, would this qualify me as a site supervisor?

By Ivan83 — On May 22, 2011

@badjohnson - I have done some site supervising and I wish they put people skills in the job description. That really is the most important feature of a good supervisor. It takes a lot of work to manage a site, but the most important job is to keep everyone working on task, on schedule and in as good a mood as the situation allows. As I'm sure you're aware, this is easier said than done.

By BadJohnson — On May 16, 2011

As a construction site supervisor I have to be a people person, it’s all about knowing the people I work with, recognizing their capabilities, and delegating responsibilities to the person or persons who are best suited to the tasks. While all the education and job experience is certainly necessary, it really comes down to understanding people. But I guess that could be said about most any career.

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