University of Wisconsin–Madison

HR as Leading Edge

Our Leading Edge is You.

At the end of our first nine months of COVID, we can truly say that you, our HR Community, is the leading edge. You’ve moved mountains—again and again.

Here, we highlight the hard-working and successful HR partnerships that we’re aware of. We acknowledge that you’ve contributed in more ways than we know.

Whatever your work—whether recruiting, onboarding, payroll, benefits, compensation/titling, facilitating workforce relations, serving employees with disabilities, training, communicating, translating/interpreting, counseling, serving international employees, policy-making, providing HR administrative support, budgeting, strategizing, working with HR information systems, or creating HR/employee-facing websites—and whether your work is explicitly mentioned or not, we are grateful to you.

None of us gets through this challenging time on an island—even though working from home or alone in a largely-empty office building may feel just as isolating. Please join us in celebrating the work of this community that you and we are all a part of.

Early COVID-19 HR Preparedness

Friday, March 6: The Workforce Relations (“WR”) team in OHR partnered HR representatives from 12 divisions—Arts, Athletics, Continuing Studies, DoIT, Education, Engineering, Extension, General Education Administration, International Division, OVCRGE, SoHE, and UHS—to form a “volunteer” COVID-19 HR Preparedness Workgroup.

Within three days, all Divisions were expressly encouraged to have HR representatives participate in the “workgroup.”

Monday, March 9: The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was activated, bringing together representatives of many divisional HR offices and OHR for early COVID response planning.

That same day, WR created a Google document to begin tracking questions pertaining to the effect of COVID on employment. [By the end of May, there were 1,056 total rows of questions and answers.  The HR-facing document contained 944 total rows by the end of May. Both became obsolete within two months because of the speed of change.]

Friday, March 13: OHR’s web developer and communications specialist partnered with the HRIS and HR CoP teams to create initial structures for managing COVID-related websites, Box folders and what soon became categories in the Daily Digest.

Sunday, March 15: Employees who were able to work from home were instructed to do so.

Monday, March 16: The HR “workgroup” transitioned to the entire divisional HR community. The community met via WebEx for two hours, kicking off the first of what totaled 112 HR Reps COVID-19 HR Preparedness meetings in 2020.

Wednesday, March 25: The WR and HR CoP teams produced the Daily Digest from March 25 through May 11, until this format could no longer keep up with the ongoing flood of information.

Thursday, March 26: Divisional HRS Coordinators also began meeting via WebEx, the first of a total of 10 dedicated payroll-related virtual meetings in 2020.

Including prior in-person meetings between January and mid-March 2020 (five HR Reps and one HRS Coordinators); seven Special Sessions—Threat Issues in Workplace (February), TTC (March), International Telecommuting Agreements (May), Title IX Regulation Updates (June and August), Layoff Workflow and Resources (October), and Furlough Round 2 Deep Dive (December)—divisional HR Reps and Payroll Coordinators  invested time and attention in 135 total large-scale HR meetings in 2020!

Between late March and early May—and beyond—all of you in HR in departments and divisions scrambled to stay on top of fast changing information in order to do what you do best—serve our employees.

Tuesday, May 5: HR representatives from CALS reached out with ideas on how to improve furlough communications. Their outreach and subsequent partnering with OHR influenced OHR’s HR stakeholder engagement strategies moving forward—starting with the All Things Furlough Group and including the Smart Restart Workgroups.

Thursday, May 7, the All Things Furlough HR Advisory Group first met, bringing together HR Reps and HRS Coordinators from CALS, DoIT, Engineering, FP&M, Housing, L&S, OHR WR, OVCRGE, SMPH, and UHS (with support from OHR’s chief of staff and the HR CoP team) to ideate operational solutions. This prompted the creation of the Furlough Admin Guide and websites for employees/supervisors; later consultation on Reassignment processes, Return to Workplace (R2W) strategy/process planning, and information management (related to Box folders and websites); and rapid feedback for prioritization of so many competing and urgent items (e.g., furlough procedures and logistical issues; FFCRA/EFMLA and related leave issues; HRS issues for tracking/processing furlough).

From May through the fall: The College of Engineering HR and Payroll staff went above and beyond to assist OHR’s Payroll team with the review of furlough presentations and materials. They reviewed multiple drafts and provided constructive feedback—always with quick turnaround.

From May 11-15: the Internal Operations unit in OHR processed Round 1 Furlough Letters for over 20,000 employees—a task for which the Payroll team in OHR is particularly grateful. Throughout COVID, this unit also:

  • Implemented and continue to staff the Virtual Front Desk (VFD) to continue providing on-demand assistance to UW’s employees in our remote environment.
  • Took meeting minutes for countless meetings—including the 135 large-scale HR Community meetings.
  • Assisted with processing 445 emergency loan applications—including verifying eligibility, preparing/delivering/receiving promissory notes, communicating (and logging communications) with employees and Business Services.
  • Is currently preparing to support divisions with pay plan notifications (up to17,000 letters).

In Spring: HR professionals from  DoIT, FP&M, Engineering, Housing, OHR, and SMPH came together to form OHR’s Smart Restart Workgroup. This group created and implemented policies, communications, engagement, and workforce planning to ensure a successful return to campus.

During summer: FP&M,  OVCRGE, and SMPH conducted town hall-style events to actively engage in communications with employees.

  • FP&M has 1,200 full time staff operating 24/7 across the Physical Plant, Environmental Health Services (EHS) and Transportation Services. To meet the needs of its employees, the FP&M HR team implemented town halls for frontline supervisors, as well as weekly calls with employees when COVID first struck.
  • OVCRGE held town hall-style meetings with administrative units and conducted targeted training for employees and supervisors on topics such as furlough and FFCRA.
  • SMPH provided regular updates to employees through email newsletters three times per week. In addition, they presented information on the SMPH smart restart plan, furloughs, work/life balance and leave options at SMPH all staff meetings. They hosted training sessions for supervisors to explain the SMPH smart restart plan and presented information on employee leave options. Additionally, they held multiple town halls for all employees to discuss the campus-wide intermittent furloughs (these sessions were very popular!).

Beginning July: Housing, Pharmacy, and OVCRGE collaborated in major ways on the COVID+ Reporting Workgroup with campus stakeholders to ensure a variety of perspectives were considered and taken into account in planning.

In September: The Law School revealed its success with ADAM Bot—a virtual greeter to assist onsite employees who had Help Desk questions. Law School HR reps partnered with HR CoP to be able to share this innovation with the divisional HR Community.

In September: OHR partnered with the UW System Caregiving Task Force on resources for, and feedback on, caregiving needs of employees. The outcome was the creation of support resources for employees and supervisors and OHR’s family caregiving website. The October Employee Survey included a focus on caregiving needs to inform additional resources needed, as well as spring plans. A total of 3,500 employees responded to the survey, 42% of whom indicated they have caregiving responsibilities and 78%  of whom indicated that the resources were beneficial.

Ongoing COVID-mitigation efforts

The Benefits team in OHR shifted Annual Benefits Enrollment to an entirely paperless process, including offering 22 virtual sessions, in partnership with CLS and LTD. Nine of the 22 sessions were supported by the CLS team, which provided interpretation and translation of both presentations and Q&A into other languages. The OHR Benefits team also transitioned their classes (Benefits 101, Ready to Retire, Starting to Save, and Mid-Career Benefits Check-in) and Benefits at Retirement appointments to virtual platforms.

The Cultural and Linguistic Services (CLS) team has worked hard in partnership with the wider HR community to keep up with the urgent translating and interpreting work brought on by COVID. They’ve also continued to promote Plain Language—more important than ever!

EAO and LifeMatters partnered to offer myriad sessions, including “Self Care During the COVID 19 Pandemic (for HR professionals)” and “Assisting Employees During Difficult Times: Supportive Language and Strategies,” while continuing to support the wider community with individual support sessions.

The Employee Disability Resource (EDR) Office, which in February was thinking about forming a DDR Community of Practice, shifted focus in early March to COVID-related accommodations—and has been busy serving our employees ever since. They’ve worked hard, alongside all DDR’s across campus, to address new challenges around accommodations and leave needs due to COVID, and are performing duties related to COVID that were not typically in their job descriptions, including leading the guidance on positive COVID testing and approving COVID-related accommodations/workplace flexibilities. The WR team in OHR extends huge thanks to the members of the EDR Office for their continued expertise, collaboration and partnership, availability, and much needed humor as they’ve worked to provide guidance, support and training to the HR community, including especially DDRs.

In order to partner effectively with employees at UW–Madison during COVID, Learning and Talent Development (“LTD”) quickly shifted all of its professional development offerings to virtual platforms, and supported emerging COVID-related needs, including COVID-related training and cybersecurity learning modules.

The Payroll team in OHR navigated near-constant challenges of furlough implementation; processed an increasing number of unemployment claims; and also implemented COVID-19 Student Scholarships. This work relied on partnership with the entire payroll community who gave input along the way.

OVCRGE partnered with the Office of Postdoctoral Studies to navigate myriad issues affecting Research Operations, Education, and Student Employment.

The Talent Recruitment and Engagement (TRE) team in consultation with LTD, and with input from Onboarding Coordinators from across campus, successfully converted NEO to VNEO.

UHS, in partnership with OHR and Medical Services employees, quickly implemented hiring and onboarding processes in an effort to recruit different positions to support campus testing needs for fall. Positions included, Nurses for COVID testing and tracing, Health Technicians for COVID testing and tracing, COVID-19 Hotline Nurses, Nurse Managers, COVID Response Support, and COVID Response Administrative Support. Between the middle of July through to the middle of October, 201 projects/TE staff, and 50 students were successfully hired and onboarded. 50% of those hires were on- boarded by the first week of September.

Beyond COVID

Throughout the year, ASU provided invaluable resources and input to the OHR Collaboration team leads via through “OHR Collaborative” meetings meant to inform “best practices.”

The Telecommuting Workgroup was formed to bring together members of our community—from the offices of Business Services, Cybersecurity; Compliance; Export Control;  Legal Affairs; Risk Management;  Research and Sponsored Programs—and including HR Reps from CALS, DoIT, L&S, OVCRGE, Pharmacy, and SMPH, along with OHR’s Chief of Staff, HR CoP, HRIS, Payroll, and WR. The group drafted a new policy (intended for beyond COVID but informed by COVID); a procedures manual; high-level workflows; agreement templates; and is now working on automation processes, including telecommuting request and response workflows.

The Compensation & Titling team in OHR partnered with SMPH on the Non-Tenure Track (NTT) Professor Titles; partnered with the wider HR Reps community on preparations for furlough and pay plan letters; and played a big part in TTC (see below).

The HRIS team supported the early release of DoIT’s Cloud Faxing implementation to the HR community, and partnered with many division HR and campus units to develop and implement the Furlough Obligation Report and three new dashboards with key HR metrics.

IFSS facilitated the migration to HireRight in partnership with the campus-wide HR community and transitioned J-1 Orientation from in-person to Webex (orientation is mandatory within the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program per the U.S. Department of State).

The Payroll team in OHR implemented a Foreign Source Income reconciliation process, the Nonresident Alien lump sum payment process, and new W4s.

The TTC Project has had more than 33,600 engagements with campus to date. Additionally, it has:

  • Developed the new market informed salary structure;
  • Released the Title and Standard Job Description (SJD) Library, which continues to evolve;
  • Launched TTC Project 2.0 activities; and
  • Created a new Compensation unit within OHR, which includes the Compensation Administration team and the Compensation Strategy team, to focus on sustaining the new salary structure and compensation program.

And last but certainly not least, the WR team in OHR, while concurrently handling the increasing flood of COVID-related challenges, partnered with many of you in our HR Community to provide CBC process support, FMLA training and leave programming support, sexual harassment/ violence and mandatory reporting training, special sessions related to Title IX, the Clery Act, etc., youth compliance guidance, and ongoing workplace assessments, consultations, and investigations.

As a reminder, this is just what we on the HR CoP team are aware of as we think about the last nine months. We know that this is not an exhaustive list. We are honored to work with all of you, and wish you all some well-deserved rest over the holidays.