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Strategies: Developing an HR Bootcamp

By Net Assets posted 01-09-2020 10:36 AM

HR Bootcamp

Human Resources |

Training administrators on hiring and performance management practices will protect your school from legal risk and improve the entire community.

Article by Dawn Lewis, Episcopal School of Dallas

From the January/February 2020 NetAssets magazine

Feature image courtesy of Episcopal School of Dallas.

Employees can be not only an independent school's greatest asset, but also its greatest liability. Supervisors who are not properly educated on basic employment laws and pitfalls are a particular risk. A human resources bootcamp can help mitigate these risks and ensure a better employee experience.


You may wonder why schools should train supervisors when they have an HR expert to handle employment-related needs and issues. First and foremost is to mitigate legal risk. While supervisors may be experts in their field, managing employees is about more than ensuring the quality of employees’ work. Many supervisors have never been responsible for monitoring and managing others’ performance, and it is critical that they are utilizing non-discriminatory practices in their routine disciplinary and recognition procedures. They must also be equipped to handle difficult conversations and real-time feedback; know when, what and how to document these conversations and meetings; and when documentation should be added to an employment file. To do all this, supervisors need a general knowledge of legal compliance and when to ask for support from appropriate individuals.

In addition to managing employees, a supervisor is often asked to handle or participate in the hiring process. To ensure hiring and recruiting are successful as well as consistent across the school, it is important to create and document standardized hiring guidelines and hold regular trainings to refresh those who are involved. Educating supervisors and anyone else who may serve on a hiring team on the basics of equitable and fair recruiting and interview procedures, including what can and cannot be asked of a candidate, will go a long way in insulating your school from an unwelcome EEOC or ADA claim.


While an organization chart may seem to clearly delineate the supervisor of a given employee, day-to-day operations sometimes present a messier picture. 

Before you begin working on the how, when and where of your training, you should inventory and identify who your supervisors are, as well as who may act on their behalf. While an organization chart may seem to clearly delineate the supervisor of a given employee, day-to-day operations sometimes present a messier picture. Often employees directly report to a division or department head but also receive direction from department chairs, team leads, auxiliary supervisors, teachers’ aides, program coordinators, shift managers and anyone else who might be asked to give direction or instruction to an employee’s job duties, handle scheduling, or simply be the one on duty that others look to for guidance. It is important to consider all of these individuals and include them in at least portions of the training that would cover applicable supervisory responsibilities.

desks together
Teachers participate in a faculty "in-service" professional development day at the Episcopal School of Dallas.


The concept of an HR bootcamp can be rolled out either as an all-in-one intensive program or through a series of trainings on several important topics. Given the cyclical nature of schools, a summer session just prior to the full faculty returning is an ideal time. Regardless of when it occurs, a regularly scheduled bootcamp or training series sets the expectation for participation and allows for ample notice to accommodate scheduling.

What and How

Setting out to design your training, develop presentation materials and collect proper documentation can feel overwhelming. It is, however, very important. Materials such as training slides, handouts and documentation forms provide training tools and resources for your supervisors that can be easily updated and shared, and also serve as a means to ensure you meet your goals.

Outlining the key components — such as interviewing and hiring practices; coaching, counseling or mentoring an employee who needs guidance; and proper documentation — is a good place to begin. Coaching and counseling may include not only regular performance management documentation such as mid-year and annual reviews, but also verbal and written documentation and even a performance improvement plan (PIP) when necessary. Ensuring proper documentation of performance related conversations is pivotal in avoiding legal risk as well as a best practice for the benefit of the employee.

Tracking who attends these trainings is not only a best practice for any professional development provided but can also serve as evidence that you are doing what you say you are, both for legal and accreditation needs.

Designing, implementing and maintaining a regular training process for managers requires a great deal of time on the HR director’s part and in some cases additional expense, which could include software and external speakers — not to mention additional time and labor for employees. The reward, however, is exponential. Not only will employees feel more valued knowing that they are being treated fairly and equitably, but regular performance management practices will also go a long way to improve performance in all areas.

Building Trust

Having started an HR bootcamp seven years ago, I have seen the benefits of these efforts firsthand. I enjoy the relationships I have built with not only our leadership team and supervisors, but all our employees. I now provide guidance and support through monthly meetings with division and department heads to discuss and address needs, issues and concerns, ensure proper follow up and documentation, and most importantly make sure employees are not blindsided by severe consequences. The needs portion of these meetings goes hand-in-hand with training in interviewing and hiring.

Division leaders appreciate regular training and refresher courses prior to each hiring season and those less regularly involved with recruiting and hiring appreciate guidance and direction during the process. The standardization and transparency of these processes and practices have created a stronger level of trust for everyone and improved our community as a whole. 

Dawn Lewis is head of human resources at the Episcopal School of Dallas, a 1,150-student preschool-grade 12 day school in Dallas, Texas.
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