University of Wisconsin–Madison

Mark Walters Bids Farewell and Offers Parting Words of Wisdom

Mark Walters steering his boat on the lake.As we wrap-up 2021, I’ve been reflecting on the monumental accomplishments we achieved over the last two years. This included implementing all the employee HR health protocols related to COVID, finishing-up furlough activities, implementing the single payroll cycle, redesigning the remote work process, converting many of our course offerings to virtual, evolving the COVID testing and vaccination programs for employees, rolling out a vaccination mandate, implementing the complex title and compensation structure as part of the TTC Project, and much more. Wow – this is an impressive list! You, the HR professionals in our community, led all of these efforts in your organizations while navigating a global pandemic (both personally and professionally). Your achievements are truly phenomenal—and your efforts exceptional.

I am wrapping-up over twenty years at UW–Madison. As I transition to my next adventures in life, I’ve been thinking about all the things we’ve accomplished during my time here: aforementioned pandemic activities, implementation of the HR Design Strategic Plan (including TTC structure), instituting complex changes due to Act 10 legislation, restructuring of the Office of Human Resources, implementing complex payroll gymnastics (single pay, furloughs, etc.), and working on many other HR activities. I am proud of all this work and the great people across campus who made it happen.

In reflecting on this large body of work, the areas where we had the most success always had two key components – strong collaboration and solid relationships. Nothing gets accomplished in our day-to-day or project work unless we effectively collaborate with our colleagues and build trusting relationships, regardless of the role we have in human resources. These are simple concepts but so foundational for success.

The next few years will be groundbreaking at UW–Madison. The Administrative Transformation Program (ATP) and the new TTC title and compensation foundation will revolutionize our HR work in many ways. These changes, coupled with finding the sweet spot with hybrid work, will continue our path to increased productivity and efficiency. The transformation in these administrative areas will super-charge UW–Madison’s ability to continue to prosper as a world-class research institution. Your expertise and dedication as UW–Madison HR professionals are integral to driving toward this future-state reality.

With all these challenges and accomplishments, it is important to acknowledge the extraordinary amount of pressure and stress we continue to be under. We need to find ways to recharge and rejuvenate as we close out 2021. This could include taking some well-deserved time-off, rekindling friendships, volunteering for a cause you are passionate about, or just relaxing with a good book. You owe this to yourself – please take some time to do it.

The pandemic has changed our world in so many ways – this is true on both ends of our evolving environment (revolutionary but also polarizing). We need to channel and cultivate the positive aspects of our experiences and push out the negativity. I challenge you to catalog and reflect on the positive growth you experienced, both personally and professionally, over the last two years. Identify how that growth can leverage your future pursuits and campus change. This exercise will help you chart a path for continued prosperity in your professional pursuits and life in general. I have done this type of reflection multiple times over the last two years.

The Office of Human Resources (OHR) is well positioned for the future. The team has done an extraordinary job over the last two years. Like any organization, there has been turnover, including retirements. However, the foundation is strong to meet current campus needs and in the future. Patrick Sheehan is taking on the interim CHRO role and is well positioned for success based on his expertise and the relationships he has built over the last decade. The staff in OHR have done an exceptional job navigating all the pandemic issues, project implementations, and day-to-day service delivery functions. The creation of the new OHR Office for Equity, Inclusion & Employee Well-being sets in motion strategy to imbed DEI work in all aspects of HR and is an exciting and important initiative. I look forward to seeing what this team, along with you, the campus community, will accomplish in the future (ATP, TTC evolution, etc.).

Many have asked me, “What comes next?”  I plan on taking much of 2022 to travel, spend more time with family and friends, enjoy the seasons, and rekindle my hobbies. There will also be a healthy dose of recharging the batteries for my future pursuits. I do plan on watching how UW–Madison progresses over the next number of years. This does not mean I will doggedly pursue folks for the “real” story or regularly show-up at campus HR events to see what I have missed. Rather, I will continue my steadfast monitoring of the news, learn about activities through various publications (e.g., Inside-UW), and occasionally catch-up with colleagues (an adult beverage may be involved). Trust me, I will be cheering for the HR community behind the scenes as you achieve the exciting milestones ahead.

Thank you for your support over the years – see you on the water!

Mark