Ask SET Anything: Shared Services Edition recap

22 July 2021

Last Thursday, the SET team hosted another edition of our Ask SET Anything event series specifically for staff to learn more about Shared Services and the Staff Service Centre ahead of its July 26 launch. We had another great turnout with approximately 215 staff joining us for the live Zoom meeting and another 235 watching the livestream. Thank you to everyone who joined the event and were willing to engage in discussion.

I was pleased to be joined by our panel, featuring members from the Shared Services and SET teams:

  • Ria Ames — Associate Vice President, Shared Services
  • Fatima Mirza — Director, HR Business Services
  • Tawheed Sadiq — Manager, Staff Service Centre
  • Annette MacPherson — Senior HR Service Partner
  • Rob Munro — Executive Lead, Service Excellence Transformation

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


Shared Services launches July 26

Over the past two and a half months, the Shared Services unit has been busy hiring and planning for the phase one launch of its services on July 26. With the focus of this date being the opening of the Staff Service Centre and the associated HR services, much of the ASA event discussion and questions focused on what processes and activities will be moving and what this means for staff in those roles. Activities related to direct payroll, pension, benefits, and Canada Summer Jobs program questions will be directed to the Staff Service Centre, as well as some time and labour activities which will transition on August 15.

More details around specific services will be shared in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can learn more about these details including additional services planned to move later this year and how to access the Staff Service Centre, by reading this article and referring to this presentation.

Transitioning roles into Shared Services

We understand that as we move closer towards launch, many are wondering what this means for your job. If your current role involves HR, finance or IT related activities, it is very likely that your role will be impacted. We highly encourage you to keep an eye on the Position Opportunities Page (POP), as well as the Careers site and apply to roles that are of interest to you within central units, such as Shared Services.

Apply to any available positions that interest you or appear similar to your current role. Positions are changing and centralizing across the university. The new model allows the university to complete common activities centrally, with the intent of eliminating duplication in faculties and departments. If you see a position posting that is similar to work currently being done in faculties and departments, that work is moving centrally and you are encouraged to apply.

Clarifying generalist and specialist positions

It's important to note that a vast majority of roles that have been filled within Shared Services so far have come from faculties and staff who would identify as "generalists." If you are interested in a particular specialization within a central unit, please know that your breadth of knowledge of the university as a generalist—including people, processes and culture—is extremely valuable and we encourage you to apply for available opportunities.

Central groups have been downsized to allow space for faculty and unit staff to find roles. University Services and Finance has met all of its reduction targets in the first two years despite the need for growth overall in year three.

Accessing the Staff Service Centre

On July 26, Shared Services will launch a new Staff Service Centre web page, which you will be able to access from the Services tab at the top of the U of A homepage.

The web page will include links to information about the most common HR questions, as well as an option to fill out a web form to contact the Staff Service Centre. Staff are encouraged to use self-serve options by viewing the links on the web page to see if their question is already answered, before reaching out to the Staff Service Centre. Web links will continue to link to the Human Resources, Health Safety and Environment web pages at this time.

A new home for a new unit

In the fall, we expect the Shared Services unit to begin transitioning to working at its new home in Enterprise Square, which is currently undergoing extensive renovations to create collaborative spaces and improve security. A Building Readiness Committee is preparing safety, culture, and shared space guidelines; if you're interested in volunteering or sharing your input, please email AVP Shared Services, Ria Ames. The panel also indicated that faculty and staff will still be able to use their OneCard to ride the LRT to Enterprise Square at no cost. The university is currently working with the City of Edmonton on a different mechanism for the future.

If you'd like to learn more about the renovations unfolding at our downtown campus, read the spotlight here.

The future of Shared Services

This launch initiates a transition period that will take place over several months, and we will all have to learn and adopt new habits going forward. We want staff and faculty to access the Staff Service Centre within Shared Services as their direct contact for administrative queries, as opposed to going through their faculty or unit contacts. These adjustments are a massive undertaking and it will take time to optimize the new Shared Services unit to its full potential. Through collaboration with faculty and staff, and a bit of patience, Shared Services will become a powerful driver of service excellence, information, and process innovation.

Shared Services and SET

To keep you informed about ongoing changes and updates within Shared Services please refer to our dedicated web page. Here you will find the latest updates, learn more about activities that will exist within Shared Services, find information on consultation and engagement events, and more.

Consultation and upcoming events

As we continue through this process, we want to ensure that staff have their questions and concerns addressed and learn more about opportunities and roles in the new model. We will continue to host engagement events, so be sure to check the UAT consultation page for upcoming dates.

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 and Shared Services web page.

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



Questions asked and answered

What is the career progression for individuals who are looking to join Shared Services and will there be developmental opportunities?

We are committed to creating career progression opportunities within the new model, which includes prioritizing internal candidates whenever possible. The Human Resources, Health, Safety and Environment unit has developed a competency based professional development framework for university staff outlining transferable core skills. Defining competencies for roles in the new structure describes role expectations in tangible, observable ways, allowing staff to more clearly understand and grow the skills needed for a new career opportunity.

Shared Services in particular will offer ongoing opportunities for learning, growth, and professional development. This will include challenging assignments, developmental relationships, and professional development. Career journeys are individual and could include a progression such as moving from assistant to an advisor to a team lead to manager, or they may be lateral moves between teams to build subject-matter expertise.

Can you describe how you plan to ensure equity for employees from all faculties/departments/units in the hiring processes for Shared Services?

In the hiring that has been completed so far we have been able to fill the vast majority of positions with current staff, most of whom have come from faculties. Staff from faculties will not typically be directly appointed to the centre because the roles are more specialized and different from their existing positions. However, there were a few roles where the only change was who the function reported to and in those instances, these roles moved from their faculty/unit into Shared Services.

In either case, we are working through a series of different ways in which positions can be filled. We have put in place an Expression of Interest (EOI) process for SET opportunities that are NASA roles, restricted to current or recently disrupted NASA staff. In the summer, those competitions are posted for 10 days, and only when we are unable to fill those roles with internal staff, would we consider going to an external posting or a broader internal posting.

What types of queries are we going to have to direct to Shared Services and the Staff Service Centre?

As of July 26, any inquiries that staff have related to their payroll, pension and/or benefits as well as Canada Summer jobs program questions can now be directed to the Staff Service Centre. We will be providing more clarity and detail as we work to set up Shared Services, including additional services over time. On August 15, time and labour will move into Shared Services. If you would like to learn more about services that will be transitioning and how to access the Staff Service Centre, please read this article.

If individuals in faculties/units have pursued central opportunities and not been successful, what happens to them? How do we support them through transition?

As positions are posted, staff will need to make decisions about their own careers; they need to determine whether they can see themselves in those roles and if they want to develop their careers in that direction, and then apply if interested. Some staff members have been reaching out to hiring managers to get as much information about the roles as they're posted. In terms of support, if staff are applying and have not been successful, we have been able to provide feedback from interviews.

What type of student services work will move into Shared Services?

We have not yet determined what student services work will move into Shared Services. We are planning a Student Services Ask SET Anything for mid-August, so please stay tuned for more information to come, as this session will be able to provide more clarity.

Will my position be moved directly into Shared Services?

Typically, you will not see a direct appointment from a faculty or department to central units because those roles are more specific in nature, whereas positions that currently reside within faculties and departments are slightly more generalist. For example, when you look at HR staff in faculties, they do a little bit of everything—some payroll, some recruitment, etc. If you currently do HR activities in a faculty or unit, we strongly encourage you to apply for available positions on the Position Opportunities Page and Careers site.

Should we expect longer wait times or are there targeted turnaround times in Shared Services?

Shared Services is new, and it will take some time to transition people and processes. The unit will establish a baseline prior to setting specific service-level agreements and metrics. The team will endeavour to provide prompt service and appropriate turnaround times.

Are staff whose roles are moving into Shared Services being told beforehand so they have a chance to apply for another position?

The SET team works with the faculty general managers to review processes and understand the impact on faculties and units. As further information is known through the process redesign work within Shared Services, leaders will be advised of any work remaining within the faculties and units. They can then assess the needs of the generalist roles and the volume of work that will remain. We can then provide very specific answers about which activities will be moved or reduced. That detailed work has just started, beginning with HR. Faculty and unit supervisors are responsible for assessing the responsibilities of staff members to determine whether the work they do will change or has changed.

If you do transactional type work today HR, finance, communications/marketing, IT, student services, and research administration, there is a high likelihood that your work will move to a central unit; likely Shared Services. As work or a portion of a person's work (i.e. the 0.3 of HR work they do) moves to the centre, it doesn't necessarily mean the person will move with it. You will be formally advised of any impact to your role by your faculty or unit in alignment with the processes in your collective agreement. Central positions are being filled through expressions of interest. As a result, we encourage people to apply for the roles that interest them and meet their career aspirations.

How are you compensating for the disadvantage that a faculty generalist may face in a position competition compared to specialists?

Generalists still have valuable knowledge of the university including an understanding of our process, people, and culture. There might be specifics about a specialist role that generalists may not be aware of, but the breadth of knowledge of the institution and how we work is still a huge advantage over external candidates. In addition, SET has a training and onboarding stream that is looking at core competencies and developing detailed training plans for people moving into roles in Shared Services, allowing those people that come from more generalist roles to get up to speed and develop the skills necessary to to be proficient in those roles.



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