Recap of Ask SET Anything: HR Edition

Todd Gilchrist - 21 January 2021

On Tuesday, the SET team hosted another edition of our Ask SET Anything event series specifically for staff that work in HR related roles to raise questions, concerns, and share feedback with regard to HR administrative restructuring and transitioning. We had an impressive turnout with 145 HR staff joining us for the live Zoom meeting and another 140 watching the livestream. Thank you to everyone who joined the event to make it so successful.

Along with myself and our HR workstream sponsors, Demetres Tryphonopoulos (Dean & Executive Officer, Augustana Campus) and Wayne Patterson (Associate Vice-President, Human Resources, Health, Safety & Environment), our panel was rounded out by members of the SET program team:

  • Rob Munro — Executive Lead, Service Excellence
  • Brian Stewart —Program Director, Administrative Transformation, Service Excellence Transformation
  • Susan Underhill —Project Manager, HR Functional Review Stream
  • Annette MacPherson — HR Specialist Lead, Service Excellence Transformation
  • Cheryl Earle —Shared Services Initiative Lead, Service Excellence Transformation

For those who weren't able to attend the event, a recording is available to view:

Transition and career opportunities

Much of the discussion and questions focused on the transition plan, moving to a centralized unit, and how these changes will impact HR roles. The panelists emphasized that the new operating model offers individuals greater career potential and a clearer advancement path. While there may be fewer roles that are responsible for many different functions (such as HR, finance, procurement, student services), there will be more opportunities to specialize in a specific functional area and gain more specialized skills. Generalist roles will continue to exist within the model where necessary as they fulfill a vital role in the University. 

As expected, layoffs and the future of positions were discussed, and while we do not have exact numbers for how many HR position reductions to expect, the “discovery process” will help create a better understanding of the number of people who may be affected. That being said, it is anticipated that the new human resources delivery model will include up to 55 new roles, including Service Partner positions,  roles in the Centres of Expertise, Staff or Student Service Centres, or the Transaction Processing Hub. 

We have prepared a presentation that offers more detail on the operating model for HRHSE, the HR Service Partner structure, and a further overview of the HR workstream.

HR workstream web page

To keep you informed about ongoing and upcoming changes within the HR stream, a dedicated web page will be launched next week. This web page will track progress and provide updates as HR functions transition to the new administrative operating model developed under the U of A for Tomorrow initiative. Here you will find an overview of the HR stream's approach, working group members, upcoming consultation events, FAQ's, and more.

While we do not have all of the answers yet, and many steps are still being discussed and thought through, we plan to share what we can, when we can, and answer as many questions as possible to help alleviate confusion and provide clarity. Information will be shared through the UAT website as it becomes available, and on the workstream web page when appropriate.

Consultation & upcoming events

As we continue through this process, we want to ensure that staff have their questions and concerns addressed and learn more about the opportunities and roles in the new model. We will continue to host our Ask SET Anything events over the coming weeks and months, including a monthly event open to the entire university community, six events focused on staff within the different functional workstreams, an event for Shared Services (i.e. Faculty and Staff Service Center and the Transaction Hub), and an event specifically for students. Be sure to check the UAT Consultation page for upcoming dates and further details. The next event will be the Ask SET Anything: Finance Edition on Feb. 1 from 2-3 p.m.

Below, you will find answers to some of the questions asked during the event. Stay tuned for these, and more that were submitted to be answered on the SET FAQ web page.

Todd Gilchrist
Vice President (University Services and Finance)
Chair, Service Excellence Steering Committee (SESC)


Questions asked and answered

What is the career advancement trajectory within the new model?
The new operating model offers individuals with greater potential and a clearer career advancement path. While there may be fewer “generalist” roles, there will be more opportunities to specialize in HR, Finance, Procurement, etc. and gain specialized skills with a clear trajectory within each area. In addition, by working in the centre, you are working for the UAT vision of one university,  with the opportunity to learn more business operations across the entire university bringing exciting new opportunities to move horizontally with that whole of University perspective. 

The introduction and use of a Job Family approach will also support career development. Jobs are grouped logically into families based on similar characteristics, similar purpose, and the requirement for similar but progressive knowledge, skills and abilities. This allows for a broader view of work and career progression. 

Are you using the GBA+ tool and can you share any discoveries made while developing SET program's Human Resources Principles. If you are not using GBA+, why not?

It is important that our staffing is equitable, diverse, inclusive, and representative of the community we serve. We will be working with the University's EDI unit to identify opportunities to gather disaggregated data so that we could conduct GBA+ analysis going forward, but at this point, our staffing data does not include that level of detail. However, even absent of the data, we will be applying a GBA+ lens as we develop new processes, policies, and procedures to ensure they are not gendered or reinforce bias. 

One tangible step we will be taking towards this is to confirm that the working groups that will be assisting us with the Functional Reviews are diverse and represent groups that are traditionally marginalized.

What procedures will be put in place to facilitate the transition of personnel records, processes and procedures, both physically and electronically so HR professionals can hit the ground running in their new roles?

We are working closely with the records management office to create standardized practices within Alfresco. Everyone will move to an electronic format, which will reduce duplication. This was piloted within HRHSE and we'll share more information in the weeks ahead.

Do you have any sense of how many HR role layoffs there will be?
The ongoing “Discovery process” will help us in determining how many positions will be affected.  There are many roles across the university where a portion of the work is related to HR, and therefore we cannot do an exact calculation. Layoffs at this time continue to be up to each faculty and department to meet their reduction targets. We anticipate that the new HRHSE structure will include up to 55 new roles in the centre (including positions at the Centres of Expertise, Service Partners, and the Shared Services team).

Has there been any consideration in reviewing our technology and systems during this restructuring?

Yes, we are looking at technology as a component of the greater SET program. We have invested a lot of time and funds into our ERP (PeopleSoft) system, so it isn't something we can change easily. However, we are working to build front-end systems using simpler applications that would enable complementary workflows to HCM and make sure that we are streamlining that work.

How are you determining priority for transitioning to central roles and whether an employee's qualifications fit the new role?

At this time, we are still determining the timing of posting and moving positions to ensure everyone has opportunities to apply for positions that they are qualified for, or have interest in. We are currently working on creating more generic job families to work from in the future. This way we can standardize roles, and each time a position needs to be created, it doesn't have to be from scratch and individualized. 

We are in discussions with NASA and AASUA about this and hope to post Expressions of Interest (EOI) on the general career board (currently, they are held within a department, faculty, or unit, which restricts them to that particular area) so everyone has better visibility.

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