Setting a new course for Human Resources



David Moers

09 October 2002 |

When Assistant Vice Chancellor David Moers arrived on campus a year ago to lead the Office of Human Resources (OHR), he found a unit operating on shaky ground. While his predecessor, Sandra Haire, laid the foundation for improvements there, her departure from the campus for personal reasons prevented the completion of this work. Moers picked up the reins and, in a recent conversation with Berkeleyan reporter D. Lyn Hunter, outlined the steps he’s taken to continue turning things around.

What are some of the challenges you faced when you got here last October?
I quickly learned that while Berkeley is clearly one of the top universities in the world, it has a number of human-resources--related administrative problems that needed work. For example, a simple task like trying to find out which employees work for which supervisors was impossible. So was was trying to track the use of many positions over time, because the position control systems tracked only permanently budgeted positions. There were many other areas where it was difficult or impossible to get data that would help us manage OHR.

Our employment office, meanwhile, was widely criticized for not providing necessary support. Indeed, some departments were bypassing the office because in their view it created bureaucratic hurdles for them to jump over. The performance-evaluation system was very hit-and-miss, with some staff working here for years not being evaluated. The campus had no formal professional-development system to help employees move forward in their careers. And I could also see that we were an institution with an aging staff, but without overall succession planning to ensure that, when employees retire, other staff are ready and able to fill these positions.

What have you done to address these issues?
One of the first steps was putting a firm July 1, 2002 deadline on implementation of the Human Resources Management System (HRMS), which replaces the paper-based Personnel Action Form, and assigning the resources necessary to help project director David Scronce meet that deadline. While HRMS was in the planning stages for years, it had encountered many delays, and campus leadership was frustrated. HRMS is up and working well now, and more enhancements will be added during the next year. We’re already generating reports about personnel actions that we weren’t able to before. Errors have been reduced significantly, so our data on staff are much more accurate and timely. We can turn things around in moments that used to take days or weeks.

Because our HRMS customer-service representatives get so many general HR questions from staff, we’ve decided to develop a comprehensive customer-support center for employees to call for information on all facets of HR, such as labor, compensation, and benefits, as well as HRMS. This should be ready by early next year.

In addition, we hired Kimberly Miller as Employment Services Manager. She’s extended the employment office’s hours of operation to make it more convenient for people who work full-time, hired top-level recruiters to help departments find the best possible candidates, and streamlined the application-tracking system. She’s also expanded the office’s online functions to reduce paperwork and increase the speed at which applications are processed. She is currently working to improve how we advertise jobs, and to put in place improved customer support to hiring managers.

The work produced by the Staff Infrastructure Steering Committee (SISC) is intended to be an important tool for improving the work environment for staff. What is the group looking at, and how will its findings be implemented?
SISC was initially charged with overhauling the campus’s compensation and classification system, per the recommendations of the Compensation Advisory Committee. While that’s certainly a major effort, we felt the committee’s scope should be broadened to improve the overall experience for staff at Berkeley. Staff are concerned about salaries and job classifications, certainly, but they also want improved communications with their supervisors, clearly stated job expectations, and more opportunities to further their careers at the university. So SISC is looking to implement a new performance-management program, so that job expectations are easily understood, as well as a career-management program that will establish paths staff can use to move from one position to another.

What about SISC’s initial charge?
Creating a new compensation and classification system for Berkeley is a major and immediate challenge. What we have now is over 50 years old and just doesn’t work. SISC has already researched numerous class/comp systems used around the country, and is testing systems that we believe may meet our needs. What we are building is a class/comp system that is market-sensitive for all Berkeley jobs, that will be easy to administer, and that will help us make appropriate decisions.
In an ideal world, we would launch all three programs by January 2004. But if that isn’t possible, just the compensation and classification portion will be implemented then. SISC will be touching base with everyone on campus over the next several months to understand what we are building and to hear their comments.

The state’s weak economy has already forced cuts in the university’s research and outreach efforts, and some speculate that there may be layoffs to come. If that does happen, what will HR do to support those staff?
We don’t have specific information yet about further cuts, and probably won’t until after the November elections. But, given the huge deficit the state is working under, we have to be prepared for the possibility of further reductions. While this could lead to layoffs, we’d hope they would be minimal and not across-the-board. But OHR is preparing now to provide enhanced assistance to departments and employees should layoffs be necessary. Our plans include activating a lab that staff can use to look for jobs both on and off campus, to learn interview techniques, and to brush up their resumes. We’re also looking at vacancies we currently have on campus and will try to find ways to match laid-off workers with these jobs, where possible.

Why are staff being asked to pay more for their medical insurance?
It’s disheartening to see these increases, but I think staff need to know that the university has kept employees from feeling most of the significant industry-wide rises in health-care costs for the last several years. While rates continue to increase this year, the university is continuing to absorb the vast majority of the cost while preserving flexibility and choice. The university continues to have one of the best benefits packages in the world. Our retirement system is unparalleled, and the options for health coverage are amazing.

A 1.5-percent merit increase has been approved for Berkeley staff. How will that be distributed?
Berkeley has given each control unit two options: They can choose to give a percentage increase across the board to all eligible staff, or they can provide differential increases based on differences in performance. OHR does not make these decisions, but we’re happy to provide control units with guidance and advice on how to allocate merit increases equitably.

Staff are facing minimal salary increases, rising health-care costs, and possible layoffs. Is there any good news to share?
The Career Development Oppor-tunity Program gives each staff member 40 hours of release time per year, and up to $2,625 per semester, to pursue training and development that will help them further their careers at UC. So far, we’ve received 550 applications and awarded 260 grants. It’s now a pilot program, but if we can demonstrate to the chancellor and his cabinet that we’ve used this money wisely, I’m hopeful we’ll be able to continue the program next year.


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