Improve your Supervisory Skills. Take the next step in career development, learn effective supervisory procedures and practical skills and knowledge.

Course Code: VBS104
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Train to be an Effective Supervisor


This is a very sound foundation course in the theory and practice of supervision, relevant to those working as supervisors, and those wanting to move into a supervisory role.
Learn to recruit and train new staff, plan work, motivate staff, solve problems systematically, implement disciplinary procedures, maintain a safe workplace, use worker participation as a supervisory tool, and more.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Functions of a supervisor,
    • Organisational structures & heirachy,
    • Bases for organisational structure,
    • Organisational charts,
    • Supervisors responsibilities,
    • How supervisors fit into an organisation,
    • What does a supervisor do.
  2. Understanding the work place
    • Government and private personnel departments,
    • Unions;
    • Law and employees,
    • Contracted responsibilities,
    • Discrimination,
    • Liability for staff actions,
    • Workplace elements.
  3. Communications and human relations
    • Influence in the workplace (formal authority, Reward and punishment, Knowledge, Leadership, Power, etc),
    • Familiarity,
    • Managing Aptitude (Status, Prestige, Loyalty, Security, Friendship, Personality, Workload, etc),
    • Good Business Writing,
    • Memoranda, Letters.
  4. Motivating employees
    • Internal Incentives,
    • Environmental Incentives,
    • Practical ways to motivate
  5. Organising the work place
    • Good work habits,
    • Planning a Work schedule,
    • Establishing priorities,
    • Improving results,
    • Project planning and management tools,
    • Organising the work space.
  6. Problem solving techniques
    • Solving problems,
    • Guidelines for making decisions,
    • Types of problem, solvers,
    • Different ways to solve problems,
    • Involving others,
    • A Classic Problem Solving Technique
  7. Discipline, complaints and grievances
    • Levels of discipline (reprimanding, fixing, blame, formal warning, removing privileges, termination of employment, legal action),
    • Increasing self discipline,
    • Introducing change,
    • Giving orders.
  8. Interviewing, recruitment, training
    • Job interviews,
    • Successful interviewing,
    • Resumes/ C.V's,
    • Training Staff,
    • Staff Procedure Documents,
    • Staff contracts,
  9. Work place safety
    • Cost of injury and illness,
    • Duty of Care,
    • Accidents,
    • Managing manual work safely,
    • Protective equipment
  10. Dealing with management/worker participation/ report writing/ staff meetings
    • Purpose of meetings,
    • Leading a meeting,
    • Problems with meetings,
    • Meeting documentation

Staffing Considerations for Significant and Historic Gardens and Parks
The role of managers in garden heritage and allied sectors has developed quite substantially in the last few years. Today’s manager requires depth of industry and botanical knowledge, the ability to handle a varied workforce that includes full time, part time, volunteer and trainee staff. They also need administer complex financial planning processes, understand the rigorous health and safety and risk assessment procedures required in today’s work environment and be able to introduce compete with other sites, similar attractions and commercial venues for custom. Varied skills are required to enable a manager to work effectively in this very demanding sector - including the following:
  • Garden history
  • Garden design
  • Plant science
  • Engineering
  • Ecology
  • Environmental science and conservation
  • Marketing
  • Strategic planning
  • Management
  • Staff skills assessment, management and training
  • Financial planning
  • Financial Management
Know What You Need
A good supervisor needs to have a clear vision of what they want from the people they are supervising; and then have the ability to convey those needs to the staff, and both motivate and facilitate actions in order that the desired outcome is achieved.
Every job is different; and different supervisors can have differing levels of expectation.
The one thing that is always a constant is that there must be clear communication between the supervisor and those that are being supervised.
Skill Sets Required for Workers in the Historic Parks and Garden Sector
In an ideal situation garden staff would consist of a head gardener managing a team of skilled and semi-skilled and unskilled workers. The head gardener would be the person responsible for staff training.
Skilled gardeners should have the ability to undertake a range of tasks and traditional techniques (some unique) required in the upkeep of a heritage garden or site. These skills would include the ability to propagate and care for a range of historic plants and to restore, conserve and manage features and other elements found within historic gardens and parks, (in many cases not found in contemporary gardens) such as:
  • Complex water features
  • Bedding-out schemes
  • Herbaceous borders
  • Rock gardens
  • Topiary
  • Walled fruit and vegetable gardens
  • Historic glasshouses (often large and complex structures)
  • Arboretums
  • Dry stone walls and ha-has
  • Hedges (and hedge laying)
  • Antique garden ornaments
  • Woodlands (and associated wildlife)
  • Complex and ancients drainage systems
Skills Crisis
A shortage of skilled labour in the garden sector has developed over recent decades, in many countries. This includes public gardens and parks, botanic gardens, historic gardens and parks, private heritage gardens and designed landscapes. The problems are mainly due to:
  • An ageing workforce (In 2014, a significant majority of historic gardens staff in the UK and Australia were over 40 years old).
  • Low pay.
  • Lack of funding for training.
  • Lack of appropriate and meaningful training schemes (some training schemes are ‘in-house’ only and may be as limited as a day spent on workplace safety.
  • The abolition of local authority apprenticeships (the outsourcing of labour to CCT (Compulsory Competitive Tendering being the major factor).
  • Restructuring of local councils (parks departments in many cases have been absorbed into larger departments, creating confusion as to who is responsible for what).
These issues relate to other areas of horticulture as well.
On one hand this is worrying; but on the other hand, it is creating a growing demand for well trained and skilled gardens staff; from managers right through to manual workers.


Your understanding of supervision and awareness of techniques that may be used to better supervise staff will be greatly improved.  For some this may help them in a job they already have (operating their own business, or working as a supervisor elsewhere). For others, these studies will broaden and strengthen your range of skills, and in doing so, enhance the possibilities for you to advance your career.

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Rosemary Davies (Horticulturist)

Rosemary trained in Horticulture at Melbourne Universities Burnley campus; studying all aspects of horticulture -vegetable and fruit production, landscaping, amenity, turf, aboriculture and the horticultural sciences.
Initially she worked with the Depart

Bob James (Horticulturist)

Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry.
He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Maste

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and edito

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