University of Wisconsin–Madison

Reception of the Inaugural HR@UW 2016 Conference

UW-Madison’s first HR@UW Conference for HR and Payroll professionals on campus took place on Monday, December 5, 2016 at Union South, drawing over 250 members of the university’s HR and Payroll community as well as a few participants from UW System Administration. Registrations reflected over 130 different departments across campus, and represented more than 75 different job titles.

The conference highlighted nineteen speakers across sixteen topics ranging from transformational leadership to ‘breaking the bias habit’ in recruitment and hiring. Sessions drew an average of 40 attendees.

Early feedback suggests that over 92% of participants felt they got what they expected from the conference and over 94% felt the conference was a good use of time. A whopping 96% of participants said they’d recommend this conference to colleagues. Not bad for an inaugural conference!

Qualitative survey feedback echoed the numbers:

“I found this to be one of the best conferences I’ve attended.”

“It was fun!”

“This was exceptional.”

“I really enjoyed the conference overall; the sessions, the opportunities to engage with other HR professionals across campus both formally and informally – it was kind of cool to see how many of us there are.”

“I have been to multiple [HR professional organization] conferences, and I thought this conference was more informative and it applied to my job more. I really enjoyed it.”

“It was great to have a venue where HR professionals from all over campus could connect, learn, and share with each other.”

This was an “excellent opportunity to network with colleagues and get an appreciation of the complexity of issues facing different groups on campus. I appreciated hearing from campus leaders and…industry speakers who bring additional expertise missing on our campus.”

“All attendees had the common background of working in the unique HR environment at UW-Madison – this made it actually enjoyable and certainly more helpful to discuss topics than at other broader conferences I’ve attended…. Also, [it] was nice in general to meet and connect/re-connect with HR colleagues from across campus.”

“The conference was WONDERFUL! I really appreciate all of the time/effort that was spent to make this work and am looking forward to next year.”

“I hope this becomes an annual event.”

Good news! The Office of Human Resources will be offering the HR@UW Conference again next December!  Please hold the date: Monday**, December 4, 2017.

**The feedback reflected several requests to offer the conference on a day other than Monday, which was not possible given Union South’s availability. The planning team was careful, however, to schedule around payroll calculation dates, and will consider the suggestion to start the conference day later than 8 a.m.

For next year’s conference, the planning team will consider topics that participants who have given feedback have suggested. These include:


  • Employment law developments
  • An overview of the “personnel file” (e.g., what belongs in it and what doesn’t?)
  • How to make job advertisements unique
  • How to partner effectively with managers for successful recruitments
  • Techniques for improving employee retention
  • Best practices for conducting effective performance evaluations
  • Best practices in compensation administration
  • How to write policies and communicate new policy effectively


  • More on transformational leadership
  • More on recognizing bias, in service to embracing diversity and working effectively with wider groups of people
  • How to manage bullying in the workplace
  • How to have difficult conversations
  • How to run effective meetings
  • Time/ priority management
  • Additional techniques for coping with stress
  • How HR professionals can deliver more effective training


  • Representation from (and how to get involved in) University Staff Congress and Academic Staff Assembly
  • An overview of the services that Cultural and Linguistic Services (CLS) provides
  • A panel of HR Leaders on Campus to share advice (perhaps at lunchtime?)
  • An opportunity to test and be certified for certain competencies
  • Repeat this year’s topics (As one participant noted: “There was a wide range to choose from – I would have liked to be able to attend more of them!”)

If you attended the conference and haven’t yet completed feedback, please find the link on the HR@UW Conference Website (under “Give Feedback”).  You can also find session PowerPoints and any accompanying materials on the site.

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