Frequently Asked Questions — Service Excellence Transformation

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about the administrative restructuring arm of the University of Alberta for Tomorrow initiative.

Staff transitions

How will you manage the need for remaining staff to take on more work as positions are eliminated? How will you maintain service levels?

We cannot expect our support staff to continue to do more work with less support and fewer overall staff. That is why we are looking at how we organize and do our work through end-to-end analysis of every function. The process of restructuring will significantly reduce redundancies, simplify procedures and workflows, reveal opportunities for automation, and create more rewarding and specialized work opportunities for frontline workers. Our ultimate goal is to support our teaching and research mission in a sustainable way, rather than continuing to distribute cuts across campus in a way that is not strategic and results in added burden on remaining staff.

During the implementation period, it is realistic to expect growing pains. Based on the experience of other universities going through large-scale change, we expect that satisfaction with services will decrease during the first year, and recover over the following year as work processes are perfected.

[Updated  July 8, 2021]

Will my pay be reduced in my current role or if I move to a new position?

Redeployment or transfer to a position at a lower grade/evaluation will follow collective agreement provisions for the appropriate employment type. If an existing employee is the successful candidate for a new position through an expression of interest or recruitment, all terms and conditions of the new position will apply to them.

[Updated December 10, 2020]

What happens when an employee goes from a higher paid position to a lower paid position?

If an employee applies for a position posted that is a lower grade from their current position, then the band of the lower pay scale will apply. In other circumstances, the process will depend on the employee type and applicable collective agreement, compensation policies and past practice.

For APO/MAPS employees:

  • In the event that an APO/MAPS employee applies for a new APO/MAPS position that has a maximum salary range lower than the incumbent's current salary, their salary may be lowered to the maximum of the new salary range.
  • If an APO/MAPS employee applies for a position with a salary range greater than their current salary (ie: a promotion), their new salary should be equal to, but not lower than their current salary (or the minimum for the new salary range, whichever is higher); however, the appointing officer may provide an increase of one step to the new position.
  • If HR re-evaluates an APO/MAPS employee’s existing position to a lower grade/hay point, they would be retained at the pre-evaluation level on the current grade until they no longer hold the position in accordance with collective agreements.
  • If an APO/MAPS position is no longer required, then 'reorganization' (Article F10) applies. The employee may be provided an option of transfer, and if that transfer is to a position at a lower hay point, they accept the role knowing it is a lower salary.

For NASA employees:

  • If a support staff employee is directly appointed to a lower grade position, there is a process under the collective agreement that specifies their current salary level would not be impacted. This implies the work is similar/the same to their current position.
  • If the NASA employee is being offered a new position at a lower grade, the position disruption language applies and the employee would have the option to take the new position at the lower salary or choose one of the other options offered through the position disruption process (ie: severance, lay-off, and recall).

[Updated December 10, 2020]

What are the implications and process for an employee changing associations? [Does an employee keep years of service for the purposes of benefits and seniority?]

Typically, service is recognized in the NASA, AASUA and MAPS agreements as service with the university if service is unbroken and there is a direct transfer from one to the other. There is no language in the AASUA agreement regarding seniority. Benefits would apply according to the benefits applicable to the position the employee is transferring to.

[Updated December 10, 2020]

Will you allow contracting of work?

We understand that through restructuring, we cannot expect our support staff to continue to do more work with less support and fewer overall resources. There may be exceptional circumstances where a faculty or unit has a need outside the standard service provision. In such a situation, it is expected that the faculty/unit engages with the relevant AVP to discuss the function/need and determine how it can best be supported within the new structure. Should it be determined that contract work is required, in these cases, the university will follow the processes defined within university policies and the collective agreements and engage the unions in the necessary consultation. External contracts for that faculty/unit will be supervised through the central portfolio.  

[Updated October 7, 2021]

How will the transition take place if we are still working from home when it is implemented?

It is likely that the initial stage of the transition will occur in a period of time that people will be working from home. There have been many lessons learned on the capability to work from home during this period, and these lessons will be incorporated into SET planning in both the short and long term.

[Updated September 22, 2021]

How and when can staff expect to hear from their supervisors about the status of their position so they can assess whether they need to apply for one of the new central roles?

SET will share general changes, including what services are being centralized and the associated timeline, in The Quad and other channels.

As services transition from faculties and units to central units between now and March 2022, supervisors are responsible for reviewing the activities remaining with staff. Based on remaining workloads and restructuring requirements, supervisors will decide when positions are no longer needed.

Our overriding principle is always to meet all requirements within the collective agreement. Supervisors and leadership within the units will work with HR Partners to consider the options with the applicable employee agreement and advise you of changes to your role. Your position could be eliminated and lay off provisions under the applicable agreement would be applied.

One of SET’s goals is to hire from our existing staff complement. Our staff are exceptional, and despite the budget cuts required of us, we hope to retain as many people in new roles as possible. To get ahead of potential impacts to your role, please consider applying for the new roles on the Positions Opportunities Page (POP) [link] and Careers [link] website. We do encourage that you speak with your supervisors about applying for a new position and read this article for more information: Deciding to apply for new roles in the U of A’s New Structure.

[Updated October 7, 2021]

A lot of support staff members are highly skilled. Will they have opportunities for other positions in the new operating model based on their skill set?
We agree that our staff are highly skilled and that staff movement must meet all of the requirements within the collective agreements. A number of new positions will be developed and posted, for staff to have the opportunity to apply for. When applying for these positions, staff members can judge if they have the necessary skill set and experience for the position, and determine if the position is of interest to them.

The SET team has created the Position Opportunities Page, an online resource which lists upcoming positions that will be part of the new operating model. Our goal is to transparently provide information on new positions that have been planned as part of the new model, and to the extent that we can, keep our university community informed.

[Updated March 1, 2021]
It's been mentioned that restructuring will help career advancement, but with fewer positions available, how will this work?

The new operating model offers individuals greater career potential and a clearer advancement path within a given function, which is independent of  the number of positions available. The move into roles with more of a speciality focus can aid career progression as well as provide valuable strategic support to leaders within the university community. In addition, staff will be able to apply for similar jobs in other areas of the university due to the greater standardization of administrative roles. The skills and experience learned in one job will have greater transferability to similar jobs rather than work in a unique position which has limited transferability.

[Updated April 21, 2021]

Considering all the movement of staff, how will we know who fills the disrupted roles that we work closely with in order to continue to work effectively?
Each unit is responsible for sharing the appropriate information with the units and faculties it serves, just as it does now. When a faculty/department/unit hires or moves staff to positions that deal directly with other individuals, as required, to provide the service, the clients will be informed of the appropriate employees’ names. This may be by direct email or by a combination of email and web site change/updates.

[Updated April 21, 2021]
How will seniority factor into decisions around layoffs and hiring?

Seniority is defined within the NASA collective agreement and must be taken into consideration when making support staff layoff decisions. When multiple employees are performing work in identical positions within a seniority unit (as defined within the collective agreement), seniority will determine the order in which position disruptions must occur.

There will be roles created due to the changes in processes and responsibilities. This will create expressions of interest which employees will have the opportunity to apply for, and will be determined based on merit.

[Updated September 22, 2021]

Job losses

How many job losses will there be and when?

As a result of government funding reductions in 2019/20 and 2020/21, in March the University of Alberta announced that at least 1000 full time equivalent continuing positions would have to be lost through layoffs, attrition, and retirements. At fiscal year end on March 31, 2020, approximately 400 of these 1000 positions had been cut. Since then, layoffs have continued, and through this year and next, we will need to continue to reduce our workforce and save $60 million. Consistent with our projection last March, the university must reduce its budget by $30 million by the end of the 2020/21 fiscal year.

The goal of both academic restructuring and SET is to help us restructure our administrative functions so that we can continue to provide high quality services with fewer staff. Without restructuring, we would be imposing an unsustainable burden on the remaining staff, to do the same amount of work with significantly fewer people.

[Updated December 10, 2020]

What is the timing of the layoffs?

We will provide as much clarity as possible about what we know and can anticipate will happen over the coming months. We know that the university must save $30 million by the end of this fiscal year; therefore, reductions are planned for January to March 2021. Further layoffs, equating to an additional $30 million, will happen in phase two (April 2021 to March 2022).

[Updated December 10, 2020]

Why are layoffs not contemplated for faculty members?

While layoffs of faculty are not possible under the AASUA collective agreement, the university has implemented enhanced hiring controls that restrict the hiring of new faculty members to fill vacancies attributed to resignations and retirements. Under the new operating model, faculty members will focus on the delivery of the university’s core mission — teaching, research and community engagement — rather than administrative leadership positions.

[Updated December 10, 2020]

You talk about compassion and empathy, but a friend/colleague of mine was recently laid off and the process didn't seem very compassionate. How can you explain this?

We recognize that a layoff of a staff member is an action that greatly affects that individual and their family and during the process. Choosing to lay off a staff member is one of the most difficult decisions a leader has to make and one that they will always remember. Many of the steps taken during a layoff process are defined in our collective agreements and are taken in the interest of protecting both the individual and the organization. Due to the current working situation — with many of us working from home— processes have been adjusted to be mindful of additional sensitivities. We have done so in consultation with NASA and AASUA to ensure we can support employees as best we can through a difficult situation.

[Updated December 10, 2020]

When will support staff be able to feel that their jobs are secure? Initially we were told that this would be an intense 18 month initiative, what is the timeline now?

 As you know, we are in a critical period as the U of A moves forward with the implementation of the operating model. The SET administrative workstreams are rapidly advancing through their functional reviews and are working to establish their new structures and the roles that will fit within these structures. We expect many new jobs to be posted in the coming months so staff will be able to gain a better sense of where they see themselves in the new model. 

Of course the reality is that we cannot ever guarantee job security. We know that the Alberta government is facing very significant financial challenges, so it would be prudent of us to anticipate more cuts. However we will do everything we can to minimize the number of position disruptions across our campuses. Through restructure we are putting in place the systems we need to manage these kinds of challenges, create opportunities for growth, and create financial sustainability for the future.

We understand it may feel like we’ve been in change and transition for an extended amount of time, but the end is in sight. In fact, we’re three-quarters of the way through the SET program and are focusing on an end date of March 2022. Throughout it all, we remain committed to finding solutions that make it possible for us to retain our skilled workforce to the greatest extent possible and to make the working conditions for those remaining as positive and rewarding as possible.

[Updated June 24, 2021]

I’m (my co-worker is) feeling incredibly stressed out. What can I do for support?

It’s understandable that you may feel anxious during this time of uncertainty. Between budget cuts, restructuring, moving to remote teaching, and experiencing the pandemic, faculty and staff have encountered difficult, sustained change. Please reach out to one of the health and well-being resources available through the university for support. We also encourage you to read the article about building resilience written by SET’s change management lead, Megan McDougald, as it provides some context to the feelings we all experience during change.

[Updated September 24, 2021]

What options are there to enable managers to skillfully lead a conversation with a direct report so the layoff is tailored best to their needs?

Much of the layoff process is already defined within the collective agreements. That being said, supervisors and managers should review the nature of the conversation with their HR partners who will guide them through the process and will support you in developing communications and messaging.

[Updated March 1, 2021]

POP, career opportunities, and retention

Why aren't all new positions posted on the Position Opportunities page?
It’s important to note that the Position Opportunities (POP) page only posts SET-created positions. Most positions on the careers site are SET positions that were initially posted to POP to give staff a better sense of timing for postings. However, some positions are not SET driven (for example, some positions created by the faculties or that are academic in nature), and therefore, these positions would not be posted to the POP. For more information on the purpose of the POP, please read this article.

[Updated June 24, 2021]
Of the positions that have been filled to date, were all of them posted on the careers website?

All positions filled to date were posted on the U of A Careers site. The positions include leadership positions, new AVPs, Faculty General Managers as well as roles in new areas within the operating model including many positions in IST, HRHSE, Finance, Shared Services, and Student Services.

[Updated June 24, 2021]

Will career development and growth opportunities be available for entry level jobs, not just managerial roles?
One major objective of UAT is to create clearer career paths for opportunities across the U of A, enabling our employees to learn and grow. Historically, such advancement has often been limited to a specific unit on campus. UAT will help to open up opportunities for career advancement across the university, and will exist. at all levels of the organization regardless of where you are in your career. The new operating model offers individuals greater career potential, which means entry level jobs will have a clearer advancement path on where they could potentially take their careers at the university.

For example, Human Resources, Health, Safety & Environment has created the HR Service Specialist role, a developmental position to enable current U of A employees to develop new skills and gain experience to help further their HR career.

Overall, the new model creates a workplace that significantly reduces redundancies and simplifies procedures and workflows. This means all new roles in the model can experience more rewarding and specialized work, sustainable roles, and clearer career paths.

[Updated September 22, 2021]
What level of authority will the colleges/faculties/departments have as it relates to the recruitment of NASA positions? How do you see the role of the HR Service Partners fitting into this?
The budget owner (faculty) will have the authority to hire but they cannot duplicate services that are already provided by the centre. HR Service Partners will assist with recruitment as needed, leveraging the expertise in the Centres of Expertise and Shared Services to support the college/faculty/department/unit.

[Updated June 24, 2021]
How do you plan to increase non-academic staff retention during a time of budget cuts, position cuts, and increased workloads? How do you plan to attract new, skilled employees as staff leave the university for a more stable environment?
We do not expect our staff to continue to do more work with less support and fewer overall resources. The new operating model is intended to reduce staff workload, and through restructuring we are looking at how we organize and do our work through end-to-end analysis of every function. The process of restructuring will significantly reduce redundancies, simplify procedures and workflows, reveal opportunities for automation, and create more rewarding and specialized work opportunities for frontline workers. Our ultimate goal is to support our teaching and research mission in a sustainable way, rather than continuing to distribute cuts across campus in a way that is not strategic and results in added burden on remaining staff.

In regards to retention strategies, we have indicated that the new operating model offers individuals greater career potential and a clearer career path due to greater experience and exposure across the university. Additionally, with a central role, there is space to take your career in many directions that staff may not have contemplated before, including to a faculty, unit, or college. The university will also encourage staff movement through all administrative areas which will allow individuals to gain new skills. In addition, the new model creates a workplace that significantly reduces redundancies and simplifies procedures and workflows. This means all new roles in the model can experience more rewarding and specialized work and sustainable roles.

[Updated June 24, 2021]
The POP references Student Services and the Student Service Centre. Are they referencing the same area or are these two separate entities?
These positions are separated into two different categories on the POP as they will function in different areas of the new model, but all with the same goal of supporting students. Positions listed as Student Services will support the overall ecosystem and can work centrally, in a faculty, or within a Centre of Expertise. These include Service Partner positions or recruiters at the college level. Positions listed under Student Service Centre are those that will work directly in the Centre.

[Updated June 24, 2021]

Financial impacts

Why are there not more reductions of high cost salaries?

The SET program includes a review of the university’s organizational structure to ensure it supports the new operating model and integrates best practices. As part of the reorganization, the total number of layers within the organization will be reduced and the average number of direct reports for every supervisor will increase (with the exception of VPs, who had too many direct reports to be effective and whose direct reports were reduced by 33%). Overall it is anticipated that this approach will lower the total cost of salaries associated with university supervision.

Earlier this year, there were changes to the executive team, which included reducing the number of vice-presidents through the merger of University Relations and Advancement, and reducing the number of presidential direct reports through the merger of General Counsel and University Secretary into one role. As a result of those changes, the executive team has decreased in size by 22%, with a savings of 25% as compared to 2018. These changes have resulted in reducing salary expenditures in the executive team by over $900,000 a year.

[Updated December 10, 2020]

Why are we not growing revenue as a means of dealing with the budget reductions?

The Government of Alberta has mandated that the university meets the expenditure target independent of any revenue generation.

[Updated December 10, 2020]

How are you going to cut more than $100 million from our operating budget, increase enrolment by 10,000 students, and still fulfill the teaching, research, and service mission of the university?

This is an ambitious plan given our significant financial challenges. We must act quickly and take a strategic approach. The U of A’s participation in UniForum, a global benchmarking initiative to advance effectiveness and efficiency in administrative services, has revealed that compared to Canadian, US, Australian and UK peer institutions, the U of A’s administrative and space costs are significantly higher, and services and processes less efficient. With significant restructuring of how we deliver end-to-end administrative processes and services, we can reduce expenditures and ensure that more funding directly supports research and teaching.

Through this process, each area has been provided a budget target and the corresponding FTE reduction at average salary as of March 2021 and March 2022 and each area is developing their plans on how to meet the targets. This process will result in $30 million of labour savings for the 2021/22 financial year and an additional $30 million of savings for the 2022/23 financial year.

Please see the SET Interim Report for a detailed overview of our challenges, opportunities, and the new model.

[Updated December 10, 2020]

Why do we not stand up to the government? [What happens if we do not meet our budget?]

In all of our interactions with the Government of Alberta, we always do all that we can to make the case for investment in post-secondary education as a means to advance educational opportunities for all Albertans, support research that will advance society, and drive economic growth and diversity in our economy. We further underscore the significant financial pressures facing the university. However, we recognize that the Government of Alberta is itself facing enormous financial challenges with a projected deficit of over $21 billion in this year alone. The Government of Alberta has also made it clear that we are not permitted to submit a deficit budget. If the university did so, further reductions would be required the following year. Ultimately, both academic and administrative restructuring will position the U of A for long-term fiscal sustainability and provide staff with greater opportunities for career fulfillment and growth.

[Updated December 10, 2020]

Student services

What is being done to ensure that the student experience is enhanced or maintained in the Student Service Centre?

The aim of the SET student services stream is to improve the student experience and prepare the U of A for growth and proposed change is guided by these objectives.

The Student Service Centre is already working to deliver improved student experience as part of an ecosystem that enables quality student services provided from many different locations, including the Student Service Centre, and to build a shared knowledge base that will help advisors placed anywhere in the ecosystem to advise and help navigate their students to specific services. We will work to ensure a closer connection between colleges, faculties, program-level services, and the university-wide services that we provide, while improving the holistic student experience. This approach does not necessarily mean that the service will be generic for all students; rather, we expect the Student Service Centre will support different pathways — for example, undergraduate, graduate, and international students. We also know that some student services, such as academic program advising, will best be delivered at the faculty level. Advisors will exist all over the university and although executing different purposes, they will all have a common mission to provide high level personal support to students whether in a faculty or central unit.

Since advisors need to be close to the programs and students, how will centralizing student services enhance the student experience?

The key objectives of our stream are to build an ecosystem that enables quality student services provided from many different locations, including the Student Service Centre, and to build a shared knowledge base that will help advisors placed anywhere in the ecosystem to advise and help navigate their students to specific services. We will work to ensure a closer connection between colleges, faculties, program-level services, and the university-wide services that we provide, while improving the holistic student experience. This approach does not necessarily mean that the service will be generic for all students; rather, we expect the Student Service Centre will support different pathways — for example, undergraduate, graduate, and international students. We also know that some student services, such as academic program advising, will best be delivered at the faculty level. Advisors will exist all over the university and although executing different purposes, they will all have a common mission to provide high level personal support to students whether in a faculty or central unit.

[Updated February 11, 2021]

Will the new Student Service Centre lose the personal touch staff now offer?

The Student Service Centre will provide personalized service as students will still be able to interact with  staff members.We will build on the service commitment to students that is already well-established within the Office of the Registrar and Dean of Students with a goal to enhance this already high level of service.

The intention is that students can easily find services, receive the advice they need when they need it, from one location, and with clear navigation paths for where they should be able to find support in different cases. The Student Service Centre will coordinate with the faculties and units on campus to ensure that knowledge based articles are kept up-to-date so that comprehensive and consistent information is provided to students.

In order to provide high quality service, we need more scalable services that allow for appropriate self-serve options and  workflow automations where possible, so that the people available can focus on customer service and manage the workload more effectively.  

As with any change, we know that there may be a period of disruption as we adjust to the new system, but data from other institutions who have experienced similar transition, shows that this period is temporary. As we navigate through the transition, we will deploy a student engagement plan, which will involve monitoring student satisfaction with service delivery, identifying gaps and issues, and ensuring continuous improvement.

[Updated February 11, 2021]

What will the student services look like for graduate students or students in professional programs?

For generalized or transaction-based inquiries, the Student Service Centre will support students with different pathways, such as undergraduate, graduate, transfer, professional program students, as well as international students. We recognize, however, that certain activities such as academic advising or clinical placements is best done at the faculty or program level because the advisors have specialized knowledge; it wouldn't be in the student's best interest to centralize these services. Faculties will coordinate their individualized student supports with the Student Service Centre in ways that provide a more seamless experience for students. From a student perspective, there should be no change in specialized service from their home faculty.

[Updated February 11, 2021]

Can you provide more detail on how the breakdown of resources within student services in each faculty office will be redistributed with the SET initiative? What does it look like for job loss with consolidating resources with this initiative?
At this time we do not have any specifics on the movement of positions from the faculties to the centre. However, we are working to determine the breadth and depth of the Student Service Centre which will provide opportunities for new positions to be created.

[Updated March 1, 2021]
How can we ensure that students from other campuses are getting correct information when they contact the Student Service Centre?

Establishing strong communication lines between the Student Service Centre and our other campuses is a top priority which we are currently working on. We have established a new chat line between our advising team and the team in Camrose, that did not exist before. Establishing these connection points between our staff so that we can have robust feedback is important. In addition, a specialist has been assigned to serve as a connection point between the Student Service Centre and the Augustana student service team. Our specialists can update our knowledge base articles so that everyone on the team has the correct information to provide our students, knowing that different campuses have different schedules, add-drop deadlines, etc.

[Updated September 23, 2021]
There is discussion surrounding expanding FGSR, but there is concern that moving services from departments may result in a lower level of service. Will you consider keeping more services within the faculty/departments?
A series of functional reviews and consultations with subject matter experts in faculties and departments would need to occur before decisions are made regarding the movement of graduate student services. It is anticipated that the requirements of faculties and departments will be identified through these consultations.

[Updated March 1, 2021]
What is the timeline for the Dentistry-Pharmacy renovation, and when will staff be moving to the new Student Centre at that location?
The renovation of the Dentistry/Pharmacy Centre is scheduled for completion in 2023-2024. For more information on this project, including a prospective timeline, visit:
[Updated March 1, 2021]

Operating model

Are you considering the past issues in consolidations that were already tried and what did not work so as to avoid the same problems in the future?

Yes, we are looking at many other high-performing, research intensive universities internationally that have gone through similar restructuring — to learn from their experience. We have also looked at other Canadian universities who have used elements of this framework, including University of Calgary (service partners) and University of Saskatchewan (transaction processing hub).

This does not necessarily mean we are replicating any particular institution’s approach or operating model. No university has faced a funding challenge of this size, within these timeframes, that we know of, which is why we are considering a range of institutions so that we can take advantage of what has worked, and avoid what did not.

[Updated December 10, 2020]

How can you justify growth in the centre when the faculties are the core to success?

While the core mission of the university — teaching, research, and community engagement—is fulfilled by our faculties, administrative functions are critical in supporting them.

The SET program is designed to provide administrative services in the most efficient manner so as to maximize resources allocated to the core mission. The most efficient, cost-effective, and consistent way to offer administrative support across the institution is by allocating a higher percentage of administrative resources to the centre, which offers economies of scale.

However, the overall resources available for administrative services will be significantly lower than what currently exists.

[Updated December 10, 2020]

How are you making sure to address the inefficiencies at the university and remove bureaucracy?


As part of the transformation ,all processes that are moving to the new model will be reviewed through a functional analysis to determine if the activities are needed and if they can be simplified and improved. This analysis will engage individuals that are most familiar with the current processes and will identify and correct inefficiencies, as well as eliminate steps that do not add value. The design principles will include simplification and will ensure that control processes will be proportional to the risk (e.g. financial, reputational, safety, etc.), resulting in less bureaucracy.

The SET team will also engage internal audit and enterprise risk management for their opinion on processes that are overcontrolled compared to the risk of failure or non-compliance. Ultimately, we have engaged our community and will continue to identify unwarranted bureaucracy.

[Updated September 22, 2020]

Can you give examples of the type of work each of the centres or hubs would perform?

With the new services and activities offered in the different elements of the operating model, please recognize that this will be an iterative process with bumps in the process. We will be monitoring and mitigating to address these as we make these transitions.

  • Example of services offered at the Student Service Centre: connect students with counselling services, provide confirmation of enrolment, support student payments (e.g. tuition).
  • Example of services offered in Shared Services: respond to benefits and payroll queries, expense reimbursement, accounts receivable and payable, scholarship payments, job posting administration
  • Examples of Centres of Expertise: Within the AVP HR, Health, Safety & Environment portfolio, there may be Centres of Excellence such as Talent Management, Health & Wellness, Safety & Environment. Additional examples of Centres of Excellences will be updated in January 2021.
  • Example of Service Partners: An HR service partner embedded in the Faculty of Arts would work with the Department of Sociology to provide HR support, such as recruitment, and manage the work done by the team at the Talent Management Centre of Excellence. This service partner would report to the AVP Human Resources, Health, Safety & Environment.
  • Examples of faculty-managed roles: Academic student advisor in each faculty, farmhand at the University Farm/Ranch, dental assistant at the School of Dentistry, program administrator of the Engineering Co-op program. Additional examples of roles will be updated in January 2021.

[Updated September 22, 2021]

What is a service partner and can you define their roles and responsibilities?

With the implementation of the new operating model, we aim to ensure that we are consistently and uniformly delivering a set of integrated, discipline-specific services across the entire campus. Service partners are integral to the new model. They provide strategic support, ensure that policy and strategy is applied appropriately and facilitate connection to services in the central functions. The partners are in place to provide advice and guidance in their specific discipline at the faculty and department level. They will be supported in their activities by a senior partner, who will have their own clients at the college/portfolio level, but will also deal with escalated issues from, and provide leadership and oversight to, the partners within their area of responsibility. 

The premise of this job system is that if partners are provided with a formal structure that promotes regular communication and discussion on discipline specific matters, we can align our delivery and provide consistent and integrated service to the entire university.

[Updated September 24, 2021]

How will the services already within the central units be impacted by the centralization of services?
As a result of the more centralized operating model, there will be a significant shift of university administrative personnel from faculties and central portfolio units to the new central structures. It is important to note that central service units follow the same model as the faculties and will, therefore, transfer the corporate functions that are not core to their mandate to other central units.

While central units will be larger in the new model, they have also been provided budget targets and will be required to make reductions prior to consolidation to meet these targets. While consolidated staff numbers in the end-state are higher in the central units than currently, the intention is that those additional staff members will come from faculties and departments.

[Updated March 11, 2021]
I have a large project coming up and I am unable to hire any staff while the new operating model is being implemented. What can I do in the interim to ensure this project will be supported?
The SET project is divided into two phases, with the first phase largely driven by our budget imperative that we need to meet by March 2021. Phase two is when we start to see the transition of services in which we will encounter a period of bumpy road. During this time we need to make sure that we're not neglecting critical services, although it might mean that we have to make some conscious decisions that we won't be moving forward with some things, either deferring or stopping them altogether, if need be.

If you need help for a particular project during this period, please don’t hesitate to reach out so we can connect you with appropriate people to help with resourcing or alternative solutions.

[Updated March 1, 2021]
Why are so many more administrators required in the new model? How is appointing extra managers, specialists, directors, advisors, etc. saving costs?

The SET program adopts a holistic approach to administration and our outlook is at the scope of the entire university. While it may seem that we are adding more layers of management, we are actually redistributing those resources to be more efficient. Overall, the number of management layers will be reduced and the span of control of the managers will be wider and more focused. 

[Updated May 6, 2021]

How will we ensure that roles and services are not duplicated anywhere within the university (for example between shared services and the colleges)?
A key priority of the new operating model is that everyone will experience a reduction of bureaucracy and duplication. Therefore, the services provided will be determined through an evaluation process to ensure it is provided at the most appropriate level and that it is not duplicated elsewhere within the institution.

[Updated June 24, 2021]
The operating model report states that one of the guidelines of administrative transformation is to “elevate the level of responsibility for administrative staff across the university.” (p. 10) Why is there no mention of increased pay to coincide with the increased workload of this responsibility increase?

New jobs are being designed, and existing jobs amended, in accordance with the new operating model. Jobs are leveled* based on their accountabilities. We try to never make placement decisions in isolation as evaluation requires us to look at the whole job system in order to determine the proper evaluation for each position.

*Job leveling is a concept that works alongside organizational layers. It is a broader term than grade level or Hay Score and assists in standardizing jobs. 

[Updated June 24, 2021]

One of the stated priorities is reducing administrative and financial burdens at the faculty and departmental level. What steps are being taken to measure the effectiveness of this strategy?

The goal of the SET program is to create administration structures that focus the maximum amount of the university’s resources and energies on its core mission of excellence in teaching, research, and community engagement. The new operating model supports our university community at all levels and will be rooted in a new culture of service excellence and accountability; and this culture will be established through collaboration, professional development, measurement, accountability, and continual improvement. Measures such as service excellence surveys and other means will be in place to gauge the effectiveness of our strategy and the service quality following transitioning.

[Updated June 24, 2021]

In streamlining services, is there a commitment to ensuring equal access to services across departments and faculties?
Under the new operating model, faculties, departments, and units will all have the same access to services. One of the goals and resulting benefits of centralizing ensures equal access to services across the university, and new entities like Shared Services and the Centres of Expertise will make sure that commitment can be met. With services more centralized, faculties, departments, and units will all have the same place to go to and process to follow when requesting services or submitting an inquiry.

[Updated June 24, 2021]
Can you provide clarity on the six functional workstreams, as well as the status on each?

A significant amount of the SET program is focused on administrative transformation, which has been divided into six areas of focus, or what are known as functional workstreams. It’s important to understand that SET is not following a traditional approach to project management that would have us develop all the details in advance and then launch the new systems and structures at once. Instead, we have chosen a more iterative process and methodology, which has us doing the detailed planning as we go and transitioning services when they are ready. This approach can be uncomfortable, particularly for those that prefer to have the details planned in advance, but this approach enables us to change and move quickly. Therefore, it’s also important to recognize that each functional workstream is moving at its own pace through its own discoveries and processes, and therefore, each will reach milestones at different times.

Here is a high level overview illustrating the workstreams and their respective timelines for various activities. For more information on the six functional workstreams, please review their individual web pages, which can be accessed here.

[Updated September 22, 2021]

Consultation and engagement

What options do staff have to voice concerns or seek clarifications?


One of SET’s main principles is to encourage a transparent consultation process, as well as open and inclusive engagement. Throughout the administrative restructuring process, the SET team has been working—and will continue to work—closely with leadership teams and staff across faculties and units to hear their voices and ensure we abide by and honour our principles. Throughout the rest of this fiscal year and beyond, we will continue consultation and engagement on the implementation of the new administrative operating model through a combination of town halls, online input, faculty-specific meetings, targeted workshops, focus groups, engagement with unions, and discussions with Dean’s Council, the President’s Executive Committee—Strategic (PEC-S), General Faculties Council (GFC), and the Board of Governors.

While the development of the new operating model was determined by university leadership, the next phase of the SET program focuses on staff engagement to ensure the new administrative operating model is successful. We want to emphasize that the model is a framework and making it functional is a critical process that will require staff consultation and engagement from across the university.

To date, staff have been involved in the discovery phase of the six administrative workstreams' functional reviews. To learn more about the discovery process, as well as how staff are being engaged during this phase, visit this articleIn addition, we welcome feedback and questions through the SET Feedback Form, and other channels, which can all be found on the consultation page

[Updated September 27, 2021]

Can we get specifics and/or an example of how staff consultation changed a decision?

Service catalogues are a prime example of how consultations with staff directly impacted decisions within the SET program. Developed in consultation with subject matter experts and leaders in faculties and central units, service catalogues provide an expansive list of activities and services in a particular functional portfolio (like IT, HR, or finance), and record where those services would be best placed within the model (college/faculty/unit, Centre of Expertise, Shared Services, etc.) The SET team is using the catalogues as a resource to inform organizational restructuring, drive the discovery process, and shape process redesign with the workgroups. They are an invaluable resource to SET, providing insight into how the new administrative operating model will function.

Another example are the workgroups that are providing input into process redesigns. The workgroups help define future state processes, consult with colleagues for feedback, identify opportunities to leverage technology to streamline and automate processes, and provide support with implementation activities. During the process design phase of the functional review, each stream issues a call for workgroup members. The open call is issued to leaders in each functional area to identify and nominate staff that have knowledge of the processes as well as the time to dedicate to the redesign. Through the formation of workgroups, staff working directly with these processes will have the opportunity to be engaged and provide input into how they are redesigned.

[Updated September 27 2021]

Equity, diversity and inclusivity (EDI)

How are we going to address gender pay equity issues as part of SET?

Gender pay equity for academic staff groups is currently a bargaining issue. However, through SET, one of the objectives and priorities is standardizing position descriptions, which will create consistent and equitable application of salary bands while supporting career progression and growth. If gender pay inequities are discovered for other staff groups, HR will review these on a case-by-case basis to make appropriate corrections.

[Updated December 10, 2020]

How are you going to ensure EDI issues are addressed?

As we develop plans for administrative transformation with the SET program, we are continually guided by our commitments to equity, diversity and inclusivity (EDI) as outlined within the university’s EDI Strategic Plan. We recognize that as the university’s workforce is reduced due to budgetary constraints, these reductions are likely to negatively impact the progress made in providing a more inclusive work environment. As we implement new administrative structures in the future, we will actively follow established EDI practices with the desire to increase/maintain representation from under-represented groups in our decisions regarding new appointments and role recruitment. EDI has been, and will continue to be, important to the university and the SET program.

We have also asked all members of the SET team to complete the federal government's GBA+ training, so that we have a better understanding of unintentional biases and all EDI issues as we're designing the processes.

[Updated February 5, 2021]

Service culture

How are you going to ensure satisfaction with services provided centrally?

Establishing a new culture across an organization requires that we first acknowledge our current limitations before we can improve. In the past, we have fallen short of service satisfaction targets, partially due to inefficient processes.

Through the SET program, we are collaboratively working towards a culture of service excellence within the University of Alberta. This starts at the top of the organization.

As part of the new model, service excellence is instrumental to achieving success in the future of the university. The SET team will engage with key stakeholders (ie: deans, students, etc.) to establish the following, among others:

  • Service-level agreements through consultation with faculties and units to set standard levels of service.
  • Measurement processes (also known as Key Performance Indicators/KPIs) to gauge our service levels against the standards. Measures are likely to include client satisfaction surveys, cycle times, response times, error rates, etc. and will include a formal service complaint process.
  • Service training and professional development programs, required for all administrative staff.

Accountability for service quality will start with university leadership and all administrative staff will have a clear understanding of acceptable service levels.

[Updated December 10, 2020]

Will Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) be used to monitor individual employees as they strive to meet an unrealistic workload?

One of the reasons the university has undertaken the SET program is to ensure staff have a reasonable workload within the funding envelope mandated by the government. It will not be possible to maintain our current administrative services with a significantly reduced workforce without re-organizing the methods by which that service is delivered.

KPIs will instead be used to measure client satisfaction of our services provided.

[Updated December 10, 2020]

How will service levels improve with fewer people?

We know that we have excellent staff. You are providing the best service you can within the systems currently in place. However, many of those systems have simply evolved to their current state rather than being systematically and strategically designed from start to finish. With a detailed design approach and by embracing technology where appropriate, we will be more efficient and have the potential to improve service levels with fewer people.

We will also focus on continual process improvement, ensuring that functions are operating optimally and that staff can best deliver the services required to support the university’s core mission.

[Updated December 10, 2020]

Will automation reduce service levels as there is not a personal touch?

The government funding reduction necessitates the university reduce its budget by $110 million. To continue to provide (and improve) services as planned, we are investigating opportunities for automation for some services. This will allow services that need the personal touch to be provided face-to-face. In some cases, however, introducing technology and automation can directly improve service delivery by speeding up the process or making answers available to clients with greater ease. It also has the advantage of taking over routine and repetitive tasks, so that staff can focus on the more interesting and complex aspects of their job, which creates a more fulfilling work experience overall.

[Updated December 10, 2020]

How can these changes be made in this short time frame without something breaking?
Ideally we would complete this transformation over two to three years but unfortunately in order to meet our budget requirements, we will have to complete phase one of the transformation in approximately nine months (June 2020 to March 2021). There is risk of failure during the transformation that needs to be tightly controlled; the first step is to complete a business impact assessment to ensure the control process is proportional to the potential consequence of failure. Other mitigation measures include the following:
  • Complete process impact assessments to determine the consequences of failure.
  • High-consequence areas will be reviewed more thoroughly.
  • Faculty FTE reduction priorities will be reviewed in detail to determine phasing of new processes within the center.

Phase 2 of the transformation will be completed in a longer period of time (March 2021 to March 2022) which will allow for better control.

The university will adopt a continuous improvement process to correct inefficiencies in the long term. For more information, the transition plan can be found here.

[Updated September 27, 2021]

In streamlining our services to be efficient, how will we foster creative problem-solving and outcomes, especially in the near future when COVID-19 and this restructuring will call for innovation?
The university will develop an approach to service delivery that will first and foremost, begin with a service culture vision. This will help develop a problem solving culture throughout the entire organization.

The functional review process will create teams of subject matter experts that will be asked to improve administrative processes and will consider people, processes, technology, and best practices from other organizations. Our operating experience during the pandemic has demonstrated the ability to work from home and will also provide input into the redesign process.

[Updated March 1, 2021]
What does "service excellence" mean? What proportion of our efforts are targeted at cutting costs, versus achieving "excellence,” and what does this say about our priorities?

The two issues shouldn’t be conflated. The cost cutting is a result of government imposed reductions and will happen with or without SET. The “excellence” comes from trying to make the best of a bad situation by creating a new operating model that can succeed with 1000 less staff.

[Updated April 21, 2021]

How do we plan to continue to be an employer of choice for all staff (NASA, APO, TLAPS etc.)?
We understand that the pressures facing the U of A today are significant and we must take urgent action in order to remain a top university and employer of choice for our current and future staff. With fundamental systemic reform, we can set a bold new direction for the university of tomorrow. We continue to strive for an accessible, equitable, and inclusive community of students, faculty, and staff that supports our learning environment shaped by curiosity, rigorous inquiry, evidence-based decision making, respect, and a culture of human rights.

One of the primary ways the U of A continues to be an employer of choice is through the career advancement opportunities that staff are provided, especially under the new model. The new operating model allows for greater experience and exposure across the university, therefore offering all staff, regardless of employment type, greater career potential and a clearer advancement path. New systems will also allow individuals to work in a dynamic team environment. Additionally, with a central role, there is space to take your career in many directions that staff may not have contemplated before, including to a faculty, unit, or college. The university will also encourage staff movement through all administrative areas which will allow individuals to gain new skills.

[Updated June 24, 2021]

Space and facilities

How do you plan to reduce our building footprint by almost a third to maintain the sustainability of the university?

In June 2019, the university Board of Governors, on the recommendation of the General Faculties Council, approved an Integrated Asset Management Strategy to maximize the use of good space, minimize the potential for critical failures that would affect the core mission, reduce operating costs and start to reduce our significant deferred maintenance burden. This strategy will guide any future decisions over the closing or decommissioning of facilities.

For more information, refer to page 19 of the SET Interim Report for more information on how SET plans to better optimize space usage across our campuses and keep an eye on the space and facilities page for further updates.

[Updated September 27, 2021]

Is shifting people to under-utilized spaces not simply making another space less utilized?
The space management function within the Integrated Planning & Partnerships (IP&P) Department is focused on providing faculties and departments with space that supports their needs, while aiming to make efficient use of space and facilities across the university. Space Management works collaboratively with each faculty and department through time-intensive processes to develop functional space programs, which helps define their space needs and ultimate space allocations, as well as layouts and utilization.

The SET space and facilities review is still in progress and plans to improve space utilization has not been fully developed. It is likely however, that through this review, a plan to consolidate underutilized space in order to repurpose these areas will be developed. As a result, it may be necessary to move people to create this consolidation.

[Updated March 1, 2021]
Where will the staff and student service centres be located?

As transitions are already unfolding and the U of A is still preparing for a return to campus, it’s likely that aspects of the staff and students service centres will initially be delivered online. Eventually, the Staff Service Centre will be located at Enterprise Square – you can read about the renovations currently underway here. The Student Service Centre will have a physical location on North Campus and will initially be housed in the Administration Building until it takes up final residence in the new Dentistry/Pharmacy centre once refurbishment is complete

[Updated June 24, 2021]