Supervisor training sessions grew out of Shaping the Workplace


During the Shaping the Workplace feedback sessions that happened in early 2020, one of the key issues raised was expanding training and accountability for supervisors.

At the time, David DeJong, who was then vice chancellor for Human Resources, said concerns about supervisor training ranked just behind compensation as the most frequently raised issue. “We’ve heard about … widespread lack of uniform understanding about our policies and widespread variation in the application of those policies,” he said.

Human Resources has now taken those concerns and channeled them into the new Supervisor Essentials @ Pitt program, which all faculty and staff who supervise people at the University will be required to take.

The program — seven hour-long, online training modules — will get its first cohort this fall. But it might take some time to get the 2,000 to 2,500 supervisors at Pitt through the training.

In addition to feedback at the Shaping the Workplace sessions, Diane Chabal, manager of HR’s Office of Organizational Development, said they frequently hear about issues with supervisors during their regular work with employees. “A supervisor can maybe communicate better or differently,” she said. “They could maybe manage their team better.”

The topics that will be covered include:

  • Enhancing communication skills

  • Managing staff performance to partner for success

  • Fostering diversity and inclusion

  • Mastering staff time off

  • Navigating the staff hiring process

  • Handling FMLA and other types of leave

  • Understanding compensation administration at Pitt

Participants have four months to complete the seven modules and take a post-course assessment to gauge their learning. “If they watch the videos they will pass the test,” Chabal said. “They don’t have to study outside of the course, it’s right there for them.”

Human Resources wants to support supervisors in their professional growth and development, Chabal said, and make them understand how important they are.

“If they really embrace this learning and do the very best they can, they can further engage their teams. They can help develop their teams,” she said. “And we’re really looking at retention too. A good supervisor is someone that someone wants to stay with and work hard for and with.”

The supervisor training was offered as a pilot program during the 2020-21 school year with about 150 participants. So far, three upcoming sessions have been scheduled. Each has room for about 500 people.

Registration is already closed for the session this fall. Chabal said several hundred had signed

up for the Sept. 15 to Jan. 15 training. The next two sessions will be from Jan. 15 to May 15 and May 15 to Sept. 15, 2022. You can register now for either of these sessions. Each responsibility center is assigned a specific number of seats, based on size and number of supervisors in each area. Those who are unable to register for their first-choice will be waitlisted and enrolled automatically in an upcoming cohort.

The training is required, but there is flexibility. You won’t be forced into participating during a specific cohort if it doesn’t fit your schedule, and the work is all done at your own pace.

“We want people to have a great experience. So it’s at their own pace over a four month period, only seven hours,” Chabal said. “We’re hoping that this triggers in everyone an interest in being the best supervisor they can be, and they want to continue learning and they look for other opportunities to do that.

“This can be a launching point I think for people that feel kind of alone in their jobs sometimes, and this is a way to really know that there’s good support available.”

There also will be three optional live Zoom chats for one hour, once a month, Chabal said. The chats were “wildly popular” with the pilot group, she said, “because it gave people a chance to think about how they want to apply the learning and to share best practices in a live setting.”

Two optional information sessions will be held before each cohort’s instruction begins.

Contact Chabal at for any questions you may have.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 724-244-4042.


Have a story idea or news to share? Share it with the University Times.

Follow the University Times on Twitter and Facebook.