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November 12, 1998

New Human Resources info and reclassification systems are outlined

Two Human Resources initiatives designed to streamline services, integrate resources and eliminate paperwork were introduced at the Staff Association Council's (SAC) fall assembly held Nov. 4.

Both the Human Resources Information System (HRIS) and the job re-classification plan will take many months to be fully implemented, however.

Two "journeys" was how HR Associate Vice Chancellor Ron Frisch termed the initiatives. "We're moving in one different direction and continuing on the path of another direction," Frisch said. "We have enhanced the service in HR. We've established cross-functional teams. We've enhanced transfer opportunities, which have not been run as smoothly in the past. And this is important since about one of four positions are filled by transfers. "As you move up in your career, we're trying to narrow the range of time to fill open positions by expanding efficiency," Frisch said. The new direction involves implementing an information system that will provide comprehensive access to personnel data and Human Resources services and studying the job classification system, Frisch said. Currently, there are 155 job classifications. "Fewer classifications will make the system more manageable," Frisch said. "The most important thing to note is that we will be evaluating jobs, job titles, job descriptions, not individuals," he said. Jim Adamczyk, manager of Compensation, described the proposed HRIS as using new technology "as a way to integrate and consolidate employee services and records. Once the system is in place, the biggest impact on staff will be the self-service component, where staff will be able to update files on-line in certain categories, such as when a staff member changes addresses." Staff will also be able to access up-to-date information about benefits, compensation and HR's client services on-line, and, eventually, to fill out related forms on-line.

The HRIS will be implemented over 24-30 months, Adamczyk said. "There are about 25,000 changes in individual personnel records per year. The new system will just about eliminate 'shadow changes'; that is, those updates made by a department head on a personnel file will not have to be re-done by HR personnel, and vice versa." Adamczyk said that under the current system, if a file is pulled for any reason in one area, another unit cannot work on it. But "on-line tracking and tracing" is expected to eliminate much of the duplicate paperwork and speed up record-keeping.

According to Adamczyk, it takes about 23 pieces of paper and 12-15 signatures to hire a new employee. And with about 250 staff positions available on an average day, there are more than 1,200 staff recruitment requests each year.

"Regarding medical benefits, we have 9,600-plus people [faculty and staff] filling out forms in the open enrollment period, but there are another 3,500 or so forms to be filled out off-cycle: People get married, divorced, have children, and have to make changes. The easier we make the process, the better for all concerned," Adamczyk said. The new system also should help streamline and create uniform procedures for payroll functions. "With a significant lead time cut down, there will be a much shorter window needed for the payroll department. Employees should be able to be paid much closer in time to when payment is accrued," Adamczyk said.

Under current procedures, payment forms must be completed before the 10th of the month to receive payment at the end of that month.

"Right now, the HRIS is in the planning phase," Adamczyk said. "We're looking into the ORACLE and other software systems to see what will work best." According to Adamczyk, it is not yet known how HR personnel responsibilities will change in implementing the system or how much training will be required. Mark Burdsall, also of HR's compensation group, unveiled the job re-classification strategy. "Our initial goal is to create a classification system that is workable, simple, easy to use and understandable, equitable, market-driven and legally defensible," he said.

"We'll be looking at the total compensation package, which includes direct pay, that is, salary, and indirect pay: medical and educational benefits, retirement benefits and paid vacation.

"The current classification system has been in place since 1987. There is now one working title for every three employees. And 1992 was the last time salary ranges were adjusted.

"What we're planning is market analysis — what do others pay — by gathering relevant information from similar universities through published surveys, such as those from the Greater Pittsburgh Survey Group, College and University Personnel Association, the Hay Group, Watson/Wyatt and others.

"Second, we will be benchmarking jobs. We hope to cover 60 percent of job titles, which would be about 80 percent of the University staff population. We will benchmark by education level, experience, how much external contact a job requires and how much supervision is required.

"Then, we will consolidate classifications and create 'job families,' meaning jobs related by levels in a progression, that will be easily understood by administrators. What is the knowledge level required: high school diploma, degree, advanced degree; what are the standard tasks; what level of supervision; how much internal versus external contact is required; what level of decision-making is involved.

"Finally, we'll update guidelines for new hires and salary grades," Burdsall said. There are currently 25 ranges of salaries, he said.

In a follow-up interview, Frisch said, "I would anticipate that once we kick-off the classification project, the implementation will take approximately 12 months. One of the reasons for that is due to the commitment to review staff job descriptions.

"To the best of my knowledge, no staff pay cuts will occur as a result of the new job classification project. Staff salary increase adjustments would only be made under the current University guideline that staff are compensated at least at the minimum of their assigned salary range. It is definitely too early to tell if there will be any impact on salaries," he said.

Other issues Frisch touched on at the assembly, some in response to written questions from staff, included: * Health care plans. "We're already negotiating for health care plans that will retain the integrity of our available medical plans." (See story on page 1.) *So-called cafeteria-style benefits. "We will be looking into this in a number of areas, such as tuition benefits going to salary. Some companies provide the ability to pick and choose how to allocate benefits." * Training for new administrators. "There are no plans for mandatory training seminars for new hires, although attendance at the optional seminars has risen. The exception is that [Assistant Vice Chancellor for Employee/Labor Relations] John Greeno has taken on the task of developing a seminar for new hires, particularly of faculty rank, on sexual harassment. That will be in the very near future and will be mandatory." * Dissemination of a new staff handbook. "We'll have the staff handbook on-line by the first of the calendar year. We've gone through a process of challenging every rule and procedure. I think it will be a good nucleus, a good guide for staff." (The last printed staff handbook appeared in 1990.) * Pay every two weeks for staff. "This is not under consideration." * Staff input into HR initiatives. "There will be appropriate opportunities for input from staff though SAC. With the handbook, with the grievances procedures, and other things, we feel it's paramount to go back to you for input."

–Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 31 Issue 6

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