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November 18, 2003

Panel fields questions about efforts to streamline HR and payroll

Noontime forum continues campus discussion about 'transformation' projects

By Jennifer McNulty

A standing-room-only crowd turned out for a question-and-answer session on Monday (November 17) about campus efforts to streamline procedures in human resources and the time-and-attendance system. The forum, sponsored by the Staff Advisory Board, took place over the noon hour at Stevenson College.

View the slide show of the HR transformation project, discussed at the November 5 and 17 forums.

The two projects are at the forefront of UCSC's budget-driven "transformation" efforts because activities in these areas are riddled with the fragmented, duplicative, and outdated processes that have developed under the campus's current decentralized business model. Dozens of staff members are currently serving on a total of 20 campuswide project teams, addressing business functions, information technology, resource management, and academic issues.

The human resources team expects to be the first to complete its recommendations, submitting them in January to Tom Vani, vice chancellor of Business and Administrative Services, who is overseeing both project teams. The group hopes to have new HR procedures in place by February or March.

Consolidating the HR operation is designed to increase efficiencies by replacing more than two dozen service centers with three organizations focused on academic, administrative, and student affairs activities. Staffing changes will result, but the goal is to fill new positions with current employees, said Vani.

Responding to questions from the audience, Vani acknowledged staff concerns about changing responsibilities, relocation of offices, and, especially, layoffs. "Layoffs are always a big question," he said. Planners hope retirements and attrition will balance out job losses created by streamlining, but a shortened timeline and budget shortfalls could make some layoffs necessary, said Vani.

Willeen McQuitta, director of Staff Human Resources, echoed Vani's determination to find affected employees other jobs on campus if at all possible. "In Staff HR, we've named a transition support coordinator to help any displaced employees," she said, adding that services could include job-hunting and interview-skills workshops. Asked if employees would have to apply for positions in the new three-pronged HR organization, McQuitta said that hadn't been worked out yet.

The campus's decentralized HR and payroll operations are overdue for an overhaul, according to Vani and team members, six of whom helped field questions from the audience of about 125 people. When the model was adopted in 1995, administrators envisioned 10 centers across campus, said McQuitta. But the number has soared to 26, creating redundancies, a lack of consistency, and such small work groups that one staff vacancy can cause major service problems and unacceptable delays, said Vani.

"We're way beyond decentralization," said Vani, calling the campus's business systems "fragmented."

By embracing the transformation process, UCSC will emerge as a more efficient organization. In some areas, technology may help the campus actually increase service levels, said Doug Carlson, assistant dean for academic planning in the Social Sciences Division, who is serving on the time-and-attendance team.

"Change is hard, and this is going to be a great deal of change at the individual level and at the institutional level," added time-and-attendance team member Peter McMillan, computing manager for the Office of Planning and Analysis.

Emphasizing that the state budget crisis overshadows the entire project, Vani pledged to give staff as much notice as possible as project teams complete their work and the campus acts on their recommendations.

"We're trying our best to move forward in some very difficult circumstances," said Vani, urging campus employees to "pay more attention" to the transformation projects, to seek out information and share it with others, and to minimize rumors.

The session was a followup to a November 5 forum sponsored by the Staff Advisory Board to inform the campus community about the work occurring under the Executive Budget Committee.

The next forum will take place on Wednesday, December 3. The subject will be purchasing. It will begin at 10 a.m. in Bay Tree Conference Room D. Workers compensation was initially to be included in the Dec. 3 forum, but has been moved to the forum at noon, on January 7, also in Bay Tree Conference Room D.

Related Stories/Links

Currents article: Staff forum focuses on HR transformation project; second forum to take place November 17

Currents article: Forum on budget process November 5

Currents article: Chancellor says budget planning will yield strategic cost cutting

Slide show on October 21 transformation projects update to managers/supervisors

Currents article: Campus "transformation" begins with info technology consolidation

Executive Budget Committee

UCSC Budget Update site

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