Reorganization of Human Resources Underway at UB

By Sue Wuetcher

Release Date: December 1, 2006

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Faculty and staff soon will see a dramatic change in the way human resources are delivered to the University at Buffalo community as recommendations of the Human Resources Transformation Team are implemented as part of the UB 2020 strategic planning process.

Among the more visible changes taking place, beginning over the next two months, will be the reorganization of campus-wide HR services into three divisional units covering business services, student affairs and the academic enterprise; the creation of a new Organizational Development and Training (OD&T) unit to oversee training and development on the campuses; and the automation of key HR processes.

Scott Nostaja, interim vice president for human resources, said he expects the first of the divisional HR units -- business services -- to be up and running by the end of the year. The unit will be headed by Joanne Lantz Fletcher, who has formed a search committee to hire five HR "partners" -- the principal HR representatives in the unit.

The student affairs unit is expected to begin operations during the first part of 2007, followed by the academic HR services unit, Nostaja said.

In its comprehensive review of campus HR services, the Human Resources Transformation Team found that HR was delivered at 61 points across the campus. Reorganizing the 61 points of delivery into three divisional units will create consistency in HR policies and processes across the university, and improve HR services to faculty and staff, Nostaja said.

By creating the OD&T unit, the university will "build a robust training and development function," he said, noting the plan also includes adding a compensation department so compensation is set more strategically.

A national search is under way for the director of the OD&T unit, he said, noting among the goals of the unit are to build a campus-wide curriculum for professional training and development courses, regularly assess campus-wide training needs, create a standard process and system for an institution-wide employee performance management plan and provide career support and counseling.

UB will automate various parts of the HR process by implementing two new technologies, Nostaja said. The university will use the PeopleAdmin system to automate key elements of the recruiting process, including job descriptions, job advertisements, application acceptance and review, candidate response and tracking, and Equal Employment Opportunity reporting and compliance. The system, which is used by more than 200 colleges and universities across the country, including five in the SUNY system, is in the final stages of implementation and Nostaja expects it to be live by January.

In addition, UB plans to automate the use of Personnel Transaction Forms (PTFs). Nostaja noted that last year, about 23,000 PTFs -- initial appointment forms, forms for going on and off leave, termination forms and the like -- were processed across the campuses. Automating the system will streamline and simplify the process, improve timeliness and reduce the error rate, he said.

The electronic system, which was developed by a collaborative effort among CIT, University Business Services Technology Services and HR Information Resources and dubbed "ePTF," is due to be fully implemented by January, he said, adding that automation of time and attendance forms is expected to begin in 2007.

In addition to the physical reorganization of HR services, the HR Transformation effort involves a "purposeful effort to reprogram and reconsider the critical role HR must play to support goals of UB 2020," Nostaja said.

Tremendous growth in the number of students (10,000) and faculty (750) and staff over the next 15 years is among the goals of UB 2020, he said, adding that along with this growth will come a large, predictable number of retirements. The combination of both of these forces "has a lot of implications for HR," he pointed out.

"We need to make sure that our recruiting processes are excellent; we need to make sure that we have retention programs in place that allow us to meet our staffing demands for the future. We need to have succession plans in place so that we are transferring intellectual knowledge across the workforce. We have to be experts in compensation planning and we have to prepare the work force for competing in the 21st century, which means adopting new skills," he said.

"HR needs to play a role in helping lead the development of new and broader skills of people across the campus," which will be accomplished through the new OD&T unit, he explained.

HR also needs to recognize that UB is a "highly international campus," Nostaja said.

"The UB 2020 plan is to grow internationally; the implication is that we will have a more diverse faculty, a more diverse student population and a more diverse workforce," he said.

"We need to be taking the lead in ensuring that we respond well to a culturally diverse workforce, that we assimilate those with different cultural backgrounds into the workforce.

"It's an exciting time in HR," Nostaja noted. "On the one hand, we're starting to see the fruits of the last year and a half -- the physical parts of the transformation that set the new structure in place that improves delivery of HR services. And now we're entering into a new era of HR where we begin to layer on value-added activities," like more effective outreach in recruiting, specific retention strategies, succession planning, training and development, "that correspond with the growth of UB 2020."

The HR Transformation effort also involves a transformation in culture -- "a new way of thinking about the role of HR," Nostaja added.

"We're trying to transform the culture to recognize that HR should be about serving people. While we always have to ensure that we comply with various policies, rules and regulations, we want to make sure that we underscore our role of serving people in the university," he said. "We have to focus more on the concerns and issues confronting our employees than we have in the past," he said.

"HR has a dual function -- needing to ensure the compliance obligations are met, but also that we serve the needs of the people that work at the university."

Nostaja stressed that if UB is going to meet its strategic plans, it's "absolutely essential" that the university has a workforce that's aligned with those goals.

"We've got to meet (the UB 2020) staffing levels and competency levels. We need people with the right skills and competencies to do the things that are going to propel the university forward," he said. "While individual schools and departments and divisions might take a proactive lead, HR, we believe, needs to set the standard to guide, help and direct the university in addressing these questions and developing strategies for responding to them over the next 5-10 years."

While HR previously had reported to the university controller, it now reports to the university president.

"That is a significant change in the recognition of the role HR plays in the future of the university," Nostaja said, "and it reinforces the point that while compliance is an important function, establishing HR strategies that respond to the people needs of the future is a university priority.

"We've got to make sure the people part is right."