Best Practices

Best Practices

Below can be found some general tips on four components of supervising students.



Your ability to motivate employees is one of the key competencies that predicts your effectiveness as a supervisor. It's widely accepted that engaged employees feel more motivated to go the extra mile.

Here are some tips on how to motivate yours:

  • Provide opportunities for learning new skills
  • Set and track attainable goals or targets
  • Allow for student input and decision-making
  • Build trust and respect
  • Honour your commitments
  • Model desired behaviours and work ethic
  • Communicate openly and honestly (verbal and non-verbal)
  • Provide performance feedback


Employee recognition is the acknowledgement of a job well done. But, why is recognition so important?

Well, recognition:

  • Increases self-esteem and job satisfaction
  • Leads to increased productivity
  • Fewer employees quit

It's all connected: Appreciated employees tend to be engaged employees. By providing opportunities to grow, you signal that the good work a student employee is doing does not go unnoticed.

Examples of how you can recognize your student employees include:

  • Interesting and new tasks
  • Involvement with special projects
  • "Promotion" to new duties (e.g. assisting in training new co-workers)
  • A simple thank you note: "Great work on project X!"

Employee Recognition Awards

Award systems like the student employee of the month programs are not only a formalized way to recognize your student employees, they're also a resume booster for the recipient!

If you have a superstar you want to recognize "for demonstrating inventiveness and compassion and for going above and beyond to help other students, McGill colleagues and members of the outside community", you can nominate them for an SLL Employee Recognition Award for the chance to:

  • Receive a $1,000 prize
  • Get inducted into the SLL Circle of Distinction
  • Receive an official Annual SLL Employee Recognition Award
  • Get honoured at a dinner reception with leadership

For nomination instructions and deadlines, visit the Employee awards section of the Student Life and Learning website.

Manage Expectations

Here are some key themes to focus on when you are managing the expectations of your new hire:

  • Desired Results - Identify what is to be done and when
  • Communication - Acknowledge success
  • Guidelines - Explain the relevant policies and practices
  • Resources - Identify the support available to help accomplish the results (e.g., staff, budget, technical tools, etc.)
  • Accountability - Set up performance standards (e.g., if someone is continuously late, explain why this is a problem)
  • Consequences - Specify what will happen as a result of non-performance (e.g., may not be able to assign more interesting projects)

NOTE: If the employee belongs to a union, consequences must be according to the terms laid out in their collective agreement.

Provide Feedback

Supervisors who use a coaching approach view feedback as a development opportunity and regularly seize opportunities to help their employees improve. Providing feedback is essential because it helps employees answer two concerns:

  • How do you expect me to contribute?
  • How am I doing?

Tip: It is especially important to provide feedback early on, when the employee is within their probationary period, so they can course correct, as necessary.

Effective Feedback

Good feedback needs 4 core components:

  • Timely (e.g. acknowledge success immediately)
  • Specific (e.g. coach them on improvements by giving them attainable goals/tools to get there)
  • Actionable
  • Supportive

Feedback Ratio

When it comes to feedback, experts say that in general, you need to give 5 pieces of positive feedback for each 1 piece of negative feedback.

Delivering Feedback

When delivering feedback, it's a best practice to ask your employees about feedback style preferences:

  • How often would they like to get feedback on progress, issues, concerns, success?
  • How would they like to collect this feedback?
  • Do they have any learning goals? Identify relevant learning opportunities.
  • Ask for feedback on your feedback and ask if:
    • You are giving enough?
    • Is the feedback clear? Are you giving enough details?

Feedback DO's

  • Make time for regularly scheduled check-ins (e.g. bi-weekly, or as needed)
  • Focus on specific behaviours
  • Describe rather than judge
  • Observations rather than inferences
  • If improvement is needed, agree on a plan

Underperforming Employees

Click here to find our guide on talking to an employee who is under performing

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