Part I - Narrative
The role of the Division of Human Resources, stated quite simply, is to provide the highest quality support services to constituencies of the Amherst campus, to attract, retain and develop employees, negotiate and administer collective bargaining agreements, ensure the timely and equitable compensation of employees, maintain and disseminate accurate information, propose and administer policies, and manage benefits.
More specifically, our major functions include the following:
As the Division of Human Resources carries out its role, there are three primary objectives which are at the forefront of all of our activities, programs, and services. We continuously strive to plan and provide the highest quality administrative support to faculty, staff, and students to facilitate the institution's efforts to attain academic excellence, enhance public service, and support economic development, while maintaining a productive work force with a keen sensitivity to multicultural issues; to provide an environment which enables students to complement their academic learning with work and life experience through participation and interaction with classified and professional staff; and to foster effective and efficient use of campus human resources, to promote and support an environment where dignity, ethical conduct, and diversity are valued, all employees are respected, their contributions recognized and their career development encouraged.
The methods that we utilize and the principal activities that we undertake to carry out our responsibilities consist primarily of the following:
As we review our role, our reasons for being so to speak, the general objectives and purposes of our unit and the key activities that we undertake to accomplish that which must be accomplished and that which we hope to accomplish, we are continually taking stock of our strengths and weaknesses to ascertain what further we can do to improve the quality of our services to better support the mission of the University and the emerging vision of the campus. We "walk the talk" in our commitment to the philosophy of Continuous Quality Improvement and, to a one, embrace the concept of constructive change.
We have a dedicated, hard-working, task-oriented, knowledgeable, multicultural staff. By the effective utilization of staff, we are timely and accurate in the payment of over 10,000 students and employees and in the administration of employee fringe benefits. We have an active outreach program which results in collaborative partnerships with several external constituencies in the area of training and development and employee education.
However, just as we have strengths, we also have weaknesses. We have inadequate interdepartmental and intradepartmental linkages to those involved in human resources action processing which hinders optimal customer service. In areas not governed by federal and state regulations or trustee policy, our interpretations are sometimes perceived as inflexible or too conservative. We also do not market our services to the extent possible.
The measurable performance indicators that we have used and propose to continue to use to tell us how well we're doing in what we do, as well as if what we are doing is all that we should be doing, include the following:
Benchmarking is defined as "the search for industry best practices that lead to superior performance" (Robert C. Camp). As indicated in a recent NACUBO benchmarking project, it is a process of looking within and across industries (or colleges and universities) for administrative operations that produce outstanding results. Benchmarking uses data from other schools, which, when compared to our data, will indicate to us where our operations are superior and where they could improve, particularly in terms of costs and outputs.
The executive area of Administration and Finance, as well as other areas of the campus, has embraced the concepts of Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) and its focus on a new level of service where quality is the defining feature. Key to this effort are periodic surveys of those constituencies that we serve to determine how well we are meeting their needs and what we should or could be doing better.
We have started and plan to expand our efforts to randomly survey employees who have had occasion to interact with our division in any manner of ways (e.g. employment processing, fringe benefits administration, payroll action changes, etc.). Such surveys will be an indicator of how well our processes and procedures are working and if there are those that should be changed or improved.
As a matter of practice, we routinely ask every participant at our programs, workshops, short courses and other learning activities to complete an evaluation. We then use the data gathered to assess the activities and to plan future offerings.
In order to assess the success of our recruitment efforts and success in placing applicants from protected classes in classified positions, the Employment Office maintains data concerning numbers of off campus applicants, numbers of minorities and women hired and their place of residence, etc. This data, when compared to availability data generated by the AA/EO office, is a primary indicator of our performance in this specific area.
Internal and external audits of the payroll process are conducted on an annual basis. Other audits, on a specific account basis, are routinely conducted from time to time. These audits include the entire payroll process as well as individual employee payments and are a primary indicator of our conformance to acceptable standards.
It should be noted that none of the above performance indicators is the sole determinant of our strengths, weaknesses, or quality and cost effectiveness of the services we provide. Each is but one of several components in what we hope will become a carefully arranged and systematic program of action to attain excellence in all that we are charged with doing.
There are many courses of action on which we plan to embark in the future to actively address the emerging directions of the campus. Some of these efforts are already under way; others are in the preliminary planning stages; and some are just now entering the early stages of dialogue and investigation. Such future directions and opportunities that have been identified for our division include the following:
With the increasing competition between the University and the private sector to attract, retain, motivate and reward a highly qualified diverse work force and with a realization of our shrinking financial resources, it is now more important than ever for the University to quantify the value of numerous benefits that are found only in higher education and, in particular, at this university.
Therefore, we plan to merge the areas of Fringe Benefits Administration and Classification and Compensation into one area to be known as Total Compensation. This will enable us to develop a philosophy of total remuneration which will encompass cash compensation, benefits programs, perquisites and non-economic organizational and psychological rewards in order to achieve a desired competitive position in all labor markets.
This plan will assist us in our objective to attract, retain, motivate and reward the highest caliber of personnel commensurate with our needs, goals, and financial resources. It will also enable us to "blur the boundaries" between direct and indirect compensation and to form one team reporting to one manager who will have the authority and responsibility to flexibly utilize staff to achieve objectives and to attain qualitative improvement in the administration of the campus' economic and non-economic reward structures for employees.
The proposed timeline for implementation of this plan is July 1, 1995. Total additional costs for FY96 to effect the implementation should be under $15,000.
In the past, the University has done little, if anything, to offer support to employees who were being reduced in force due to lack of work, lack of funds, or curtailment of programs. The primary emphasis has been to assure adherence to the provisions of collective bargaining agreements and/or University Trustee Policy which do not address many areas that may be of importance to affected employees.
Therefore, we plan to establish a program which will offer an extensive array of activities to employees who are laid off or scheduled to be laid off in order to support them as much as possible within the financial resources that are available to do so. The plan calls for having official representatives from AFSCME, SEIU, and USA/MTA on the program development task force because of the benefits their active involvement represents. In the first place, their involvement ensures that the task force in no way supplants ongoing employer/union negotiations. Second, it opens another arena for labor/management cooperation. Third, it offers a model for labor/management team building and collaboration. Last, it is clearly in the best interests of laid off employees to have both the employer and the bargaining agents working jointly on their behalf.
The proposed timeline for implementation of the plan is the fall of 1995. At this juncture, we do not anticipate any implications in human or financial resources.
The Division of Human Resources will establish and work with a small committee of non-unit classified staff, with representatives from each Vice Chancellor's area where there are a substantial number of such employees, to review all current policies and procedures that apply to non-unit classified staff. This committee should make recommendations for changes and/or new policies, with particular emphasis on developing and implementing a grievance procedure.
The non-unit classified staff is the only group of employees on the Amherst campus without a grievance procedure. This situation has been recognized as a problem for some time but has not received the necessary attention to be assigned a high priority. Now is the time to review all current policies that apply to such employees, with special attention on the establishment of a grievance procedure.
We plan to continue participation in the three-year Mellon funded Five College Supervisory Leadership Development Program with full implementation at the University by the third year of the program, 1997. This program will also serve as a catalyst for continuing ongoing activities based on collaboration among human resource and Training specialists within the Five Colleges.
The financial commitments for 1996 and 1997 are $5,000 per year in cash outlay and in kind contributions from each institution.
We plan to implement an Organizational Development Program which will provide educational opportunities for faculty and staff in three primary ways. Customized training will be provided to departments to improve job performance, support diversity, and enhance the quality of work life; organizational development interventions aimed at enhancing organizational effectiveness will be available; and Continuous Quality Improvement training and support for new and existing process redesign teams will be undertaken.
We propose to sponsor a series of open houses in order to better acquaint those employees who have job responsibilities for personnel, payroll or other human resources related matters, with the staff of the Division of Human Resources. An open house will be scheduled for staff from a particular area on campus, during which time key Human Resources staff people will be available to greet and converse with attendees. It is hoped that through this process employees will gain a greater understanding of the structure and function of the Division of Human Resources. Employees and Human Resources staff alike will benefit from meeting each other face-to-face, as working relations are strengthened through such interactions.
In an effort to further meet the needs of the University to attract a highly qualified classified work force, a CQI Process Design Team has been formed to investigate the current referral process for off-campus applicants. We anticipate that the process will be redesigned and will involve more creative usage of technologies available in the marketplace.
At this juncture, the implications in human and financial resources, as well as any changes in space needs, cannot be determined.
The Division of Human Resources will establish and work with a committee, consisting of representatives from a wide range of employee constituencies, to discuss ideas concerning the implementation of non-monetary recognition and reward programs for meritorious service to the University. Through a general survey, the committee will determine if any programs already exist, what non-monetary rewards are considered to be of value and what the interest level is for different types of programs. Based on the survey results, the committee will develop a plan which will outline the parameters of several suggested programs, recommend a level of jurisdiction for each program, determine the necessity for prospective changes to existing policy and provide a tentative schedule for program implementation.
Most employees are beginning to recognize that the State Retirement Plan and Social Security income will not provide sufficient money for their retirement years. Thus, the Division of Human Resources plans to sponsor workshops to assist employees and their families in developing other innovative strategies. Realizing that employees will be facing retirement with a myriad of questions, it is important that they start to deal with these issues early in their working careers. Workshops will be conducted to examine financial planning, early retirement, tax-sheltered annuities, mutual funds, estate planning, tax issues, housing options, long-term care, incapacity planning, Medicare, and health insurance coverage.
With new technology ever emerging, the paperless office is on the horizon. The changeover will be a slow process requiring an investment in hardware and software systems. The current systems that are now available use PC Networks to do the processing. The University is heading in the direction of having network capability to all areas but is several years away from attaining this goal.
One area that lends itself to a significant reduction in paper flow at this time is the Student Personnel Action Form (PAF). Currently in the month of September over 9,000 forms are processed. The procedures of paperless processing require electronic signatures and the ability to move the form to the areas requiring approval. The HRMIS system lends itself to development of a paperless process for the Student PAF. The Student PAF requires one signature and for work study funds, it requires approval from the Financial Aid Office. As the majority of appointments are non-work study, once the form is entered it would be able to be processed by HRMIS. The HRMIS system has a security data base which would allow establishing PIN ID's in addition to the current logon ID.
The requirements for system development would be:
The Student PAF does not generate a payment but it allows a student to be paid based upon notification from the department by a signed form of approval of the time submitted for payment. The majority of users that pay students currently access the HRMIS System. This proposal may not eliminate 100% of the PAF's but would certainly eliminate more than 90% of the forms.
As the forms currently are batched for data entry, requiring batch controls, the entry by departments would eliminate about 10-15 hours labor by students and employees in the Payroll Office. It would significantly speed up the clearance process.
The initial objective of this endeavor would be to allow employees to own and control their personal data information. For example, employees would be able to directly change records of their home address, marital status, person to be notified in case of emergency, home telephone number, etc. Also, employees would experience improved responsiveness from Human Resources by having access to a one-step source for a multitude of information. They would be able to readily access data including their personnel records, benefits, vacation/holidays and W4/M4 tax information. Employees would use a personal identification number to ensure security of information access. Responsibility and authority for executing the transactions would be put into employees' hands.
The interactive system would be expanded in the future to include job postings, training and development offerings, as well as answers to frequently asked questions.
The KIOSK operation requires that University networks be in place. Investment in computer equipment will also be necessary.
An estimated cost of initial development for software and hardware implementation, exclusive of network costs, is $400,000 to $600,000.
We propose to explore the possibility of establishing a flexible benefit program for employees of the University. Such a program would provide employees with a choice of benefits, empower employees to make their own decisions regarding benefits, control future benefit costs, and serve to help us attract and retain a first rate work force by making total compensation more tax effective.
Since the University currently administers a benefit program provided by the Commonwealth and does not control the benefit dollars attributed to the program, we are suggesting a two phase approach to establishing a flexible benefit program for the Amherst campus.
Phase 1 - Initially establish a flexible benefit program composed of core benefits and optional benefits. The core component would include legally mandated and state provided benefits and the optional component would include benefits that can be purchased by plan participants.
Pre-tax contributions for premium payments for the optional component would be provided through flexible spending accounts.
Phase 2 - File legislation to authorize the University to establish a flexible benefit program under Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Code for active employees of the University. This could probably be accomplished by amending the Pension Reform Bill (Section 131 of Chapter 697 of the Act of 1981) which authorizes the Executive Office for Administration and Finance to establish a cafeteria plan for Commonwealth employees.
Offering a limited flexible benefit program as described in Phase 1 could be implemented within a reasonable period of time, probably less than one year. The cost would depend on the number of individuals who participate. One time costs for consultants, education and administration would be about $6.00 per participant.
Implementing a full, flexible benefits program could take a considerable amount of time and costs would vary based on the number of participants and the number of options made available to employees.
The Division of Human Resources will continue to explore the possibility of expanding benefits to domestic partners of employees. Currently, the Division carries out the registration process for existing campus benefits to domestic partners of employees and provides training sessions for those responsible for administering benefits. Accordingly, the Division will play a major role in the event that additional benefits are proposed and/or secured through the collective bargaining process. Finally, the Division will support legislative change efforts that are required before health care or retirement benefits can become available. For a more thorough analysis of program implications and fiscal projections, please refer to the Report on the Extension of Domestic Partner Benefits at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, compiled by the Domestic Partner Benefits Subcommittee of the Chancellor's Task Force on Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Matters and dated November 1993.
For the immediate future, the Division of Human Resources will review written materials which are distributed through this office as well as the information disseminated during informational sessions and will include references to domestic partners where appropriate.
Efforts will be made to approach the Commonwealth's Department of Personnel Administration in order to explore the possibility of gaining autonomy for classified position evaluation, in concert with the other four campuses. If the University succeeds in this endeavor, it might allow for a further study to be carried out on the feasibility of implementing a merit award system in conjunction with the performance evaluation process.
Currently the allocation, or reallocation, of all classified positions is the responsibility of the Commonwealth's Department of Personnel Administration, as set forth in Chapter 30, Sections 45 and 49 of the Massachusetts General Laws. In order to amend the process it will be necessary for the University to approach the Commonwealth's personnel administrator, and jointly to petition the legislature to amend Chapter 30, Sections 45 and 49 of the MGL.
Any results of such action will need to be negotiated with the labor unions before necessary plans can be made to adapt the current system, or create a new system, to meet the five-campus needs.
Since these proposed actions will take an inordinate amount of time to implement, it would not be realistic at this point to project the implications in human and financial resources or space needs.
The Division of Human Resources proposes to establish a voluntary partnering program for new employees, through which a more senior employee in the department/work areas would be identified as a resource for a new employee during an initial period of employment. The partner would be available to answer questions and help orient the employee on an informational basis as need dictates. It is suggested that this program be implemented for classified employees, and expanded as interest develops. A simple recognition mechanism for partners, such as an award of sporting event tickets or other inexpensive items, may be desirable.
The Division of Human Resources will seek to work with labor units to prepare a proposal to implement career ladder systems for professional and classified staff members. Our aim is to empower these employees by enabling them to better plan their career growth and ultimately their future at this institution.
Committees will be appointed to determine those positions which more readily lend themselves to career ladders, and to conduct a pilot study to test the viability of such a project.
As more and more departments are connected to the campus wide computer network, the Division of Human Resources proposes to create a site for all Human Resources policies and procedures to be electronically available to departments via Internet and World Wide Web. Departments would also have the capability of producing hard copies of the policies and procedures, if needed, without having to contact the Division of Human Resources.
We envision the implementation of this plan to occur in three phases:
Phase 1 - Create a computer network among all Human Resources staff and connect this network to the campus wide network.
Phase 2 - Work collaboratively with UIS to create a Web site and electronically move documents of all policies and procedures to the Web.
Phase 3 - Enhance the system to permit transmittal of forms between departments on the Web.