HR completes several process improvements

09 December 2021

Under the U of A for Tomorrow initiative, administrative restructuring through the SET program has been a key component to support the university’s new operating model. One of the first administrative workstreams to begin restructuring was human resources (HR). The SET HR workstream set out to define the people and processes required to implement the new operating model for HR services across the university. Ultimately, a restructured and reorganized university-wide network of HR services will provide cost-efficient, responsive, professional, and effective resources and services.

Progress to date

Over the past 16 months, the HR workstream and several teams within the Human Resources, Health, Safety and Environment (HRHSE) unit have collaborated to reorganize HR services. Progress has been made to restructure the services in order to align them with the new operating model, and the following has been accomplished:

  • Created five HR Centres of Expertise
  • Transferred Human Resource Services to the Shared Services unit
  • Hired and/or transferred 32* HR partners including five senior HR partners and a Director of Service Partners (*this number is currently under review to ensure we can support our clients with the best level of service)
  • Created seven temporary HR Specialist roles to support the transition

In addition to creating new structures and hiring staff into the new model, the team has redesigned a number of key processes to improve administrative efficiencies and make the existing procedures less cumbersome, including time and labour, job design and evaluation, and introducing new onboarding resources. And while working diligently to implement all of these improvements, the HRHSE team was simultaneously managing the COVID response and its associated work and challenges.

Time and labour changes

In 2016, HRHSE introduced self-reporting for support staff, excluded student hourly staff, and academic hourly staff to track their hours worked, allowing supervisors and employees the ability to make time corrections or adjustments directly in PeopleSoft HCM. This self-service option expedites and streamlines both entry and approvals, granting employees and supervisors greater control over the management of time. 

As part of the centralization of HR services, time and labour auditing moved to Shared Services from faculties and units. Since then, Shared Services’ Time and Labour team has improved, and continues to improve, the audit processes and system functionality to ensure employees are paid correctly.

This year, IST, Shared Services, and the HR workstream collaborated to make improvements to PeopleSoft timesheets to make them more user-friendly and intuitive. In addition, SET and Shared Services’ HR Services team worked together to improve website guidance for the process, developed helpful toolkits and resources, and championed the use of self-service

Over the past six months, the team has delivered nearly 35 training sessions to support staff and supervisors to reduce the manual entry role previously required of timekeepers across the university. Throughout the training, feedback was gathered and the course was continually refined to ensure it met the needs of all staff. Since August, more than 1,000 staff have received training and by December we expect more than 5,000 employees to have access to self-serve options. 

Job design and evaluation improvements

This summer, the Job Design and Evaluation group within HRHSE set out to streamline and improve both job design and the job evaluation process at the university, with the goal of reducing overall job evaluation processing time. They began by identifying areas for potential standardization and proceeded to enhance the job system through the introduction of job cards. In addition, the team established a new service standard timeline for SET priority positions, which was necessary due to the large volume of recruitments that came as a result of SET and its short timelines. 

The implementation of standardized job cards for faculty and staff aims to simplify and accelerate the evaluation and recruitment process. While the addition of job cards is an ongoing change, it improves the client experience by making job descriptions simpler and easier to complete, reducing the burden on hiring managers. Job cards also foster consistency and transparency, and provide the building blocks for more equitable and better understood job evaluation decisions. The university community has started to notice the improvement, indicating their appreciation of the job cards in reducing stress for everyone involved in the hiring process:

I just submitted two positions for your unit's evaluation and in doing so, used the job cards uploaded into Alfresco and was so impressed that I wanted to pass along my commendations. From an HR perspective, the implementation and use of these cards was a complete joy. Furthermore, both of the incumbents linked to these position evaluations, as well as me, agreed that these cards did a spectacular job of accurately reflecting the full scope of duties and responsibilities within their respective portfolios. No more long hours writing job fact sheets; no long discussions with the incumbent as to what should and should not be in there; and an effective way to control increment and/or scope creep. I hope that it is just as easy and timely for your unit to conduct the evaluation as presumably, you already have an idea of the grade level for each position! Thank you for all of your hard work to get the UAlberta here and bring parity across like-positions on campus.

Since the beginning of August the team has completed nearly 500 job evaluations, and more than 80 per cent of requests are completed within the committed time frame. For SET priority positions in particular, the team has decreased the turnaround time from 10 days to 3 days, greatly speeding up the hiring process and helping move the university to the new operating model.

New onboarding resources

With restructuring and many preparing to return to on-campus work, it was evident that supporting our staff as they adjust to the university’s new reality was increasingly important. With this in mind, HRHSE and the HR workstream collaboratively launched an onboarding program featuring new and enhanced resources to support new and transitioning employees. While many units at the university already have comprehensive and effective onboarding programs, the intent was to create a university-wide program and opportunities to learn from each other’s best practices to improve resources overall. As a result, onboarding across the institution can be more consistent and comprehensive to better help employees integrate into the institution or their new team/department. Ultimately, the team set out to create an onboarding experience in which employees:

  • Will be equipped with the skills required to perform their role to a high standard
  • Will have the mindset to support and contribute to the U of A
  • Will feel a sense of belonging within their team and at the U of A

Because effective onboarding is a team effort, the new program not only provides information for new and transitioning employees, but also onboarding resources for supervisors, and peer coaches including guides, checklists, and performance development templates. The resources are categorized into timeframes outlining what’s needed for the employee’s first day, first week, first month, and first year; helping employees and supervisors plan ahead. Here is some staff feedback that’s been received so far:

Thank you so much for putting this resource together! I'm working on an orientation/onboarding right now and this will be extremely helpful.

Since the onboarding resources launched this summer, the team has gathered feedback from the community with the intent to continually improve the tools to meet staff needs. As a result, the onboarding resources are currently being reviewed and streamlined to increase effectiveness and enhance user experience. Stay tuned for updates on the revised resources!

What’s next?

The SET process redesign team and HRHSE continue to work on process redesign to ensure continued focus on enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of HR services. Next up, the HR process redesign team will focus on the salary and benefits adjustment process, with stakeholder workshops identified for the week of December 6. The team continues to review existing processes already in place to help refine service experiences and administrative efficiency.

In addition, as the university’s new structure focuses on enhancing the delivery of services, it’s imperative that all employees have common principles and practices to achieve the desired service culture. HRHSE is excited to provide the Service Excellence Training Program (SETP) delivered in partnership with Academic Impressions. With nearly 500 leaders, supervisors, and staff already registered for the program, HRHSE is looking forward to gathering feedback from the first participants in December.



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