Wintersteen, Cain and Darr update P&S Council on service team proposal

Focus groups of front-line finance staff are helping map out in more detail what tasks will remain local and what will be handled by specialists under the improved service delivery (ISD) reorganization.

For more information

Interim senior vice president for finance Pam Cain outlined the plan to get direct input from finance staff as part of an update on the ISD initiative at the Professional and Scientific Council's Dec. 6 meeting. In a Nov. 27 town hall, Cain discussed what the new finance specialists -- including specific roles for general financial services, expenses and procurements, and grant finances -- would and wouldn't do. At the council meeting, she said those descriptions were overly broad and vowed a deeper look that includes input from staff who perform these duties now.

"I know this caused a lot of confusion," Cain said of the draft job descriptions released last month. "I want you to know we're truly committed to getting this right."

Historic changes

Resources available

Workshops through Learn@ISU

  • Inspiring Your Day Through Purpose (Dec. 18, 1-2:30 p.m., MU Cardinal Room)

Courses through

  • Coping with Change
  • Why We Dislike Change
  • The Change Curve
  • Know Your Thought Processes
  • How to Plan for Change
  • How to Develop Mental Toughness
  • Managing Organizational Change for Managers

Need someone to listen?

Don't forget

President Wendy Wintersteen and interim vice president of university human resources Kristi Darr also spoke to the council about the ISD restructuring, which will create service teams to handle most of Iowa State's finance and human resources work.

The reorganization is driven by the move on July 1, 2019, to Workday, a new software platform for Iowa State business processes that will replace numerous aging legacy systems. Currently, HR and finance often are part-time duties for staff who have other responsibilities. In Workday, much of that work will be done by teams of subject-matter experts. Managers with finance or HR experience will oversee the specialist teams, which should offer more consistency, workload balance, training and promotion paths.

It also will mean new positions and new managers for staff who move into the specialist jobs, which the university aims to fill internally. Position descriptions for many staff who remain in department-level units will need to adjust, too.

"I can't remember a time when there's been so much change that's involved so many people and that's created so much anxiety and concern," Wintersteen told the council. "But we are all in this together. So we're going to continue to have these conversations, continue to hear the feedback and continue to make refinement."

Wintersteen, who approved the broad strokes and phased approach of the ISD plan last month, said the software and service structure changes are critical. Iowa State was a leader in enterprise management in the 1970s when it had the state's first automated payroll system but has since fallen behind, she said. Having specialist teams report to subject-matter managers should promote work/life balance and address issues P&S staff often raise about supervision and performance evaluations, she said.

Candid feedback

Cain said one of the issues that complicates the finance specialist position descriptions is bridging the gap between how things are done now and how they'll be done in Workday, which will introduce a host of new terms and shift Iowa State to an accrual accounting system. As initially written, the job descriptions were based largely on Workday's processes.

"We had to step back and change our game plan," Cain said.

That involved reviewing hundreds of individual job descriptions for staff who have finance roles, identifying specific responsibilities to divvy up among local staff, service team specialists and central administration offices.

Focus groups held this week with finance staff -- groups the council helped assemble -- assisted in working through those long lists of financial processes, making sure that breakdowns are comprehensive and practical. The grants finance specialist is getting the closest look, including specific scenarios provided by the office of the vice president for research. Cain said forming a more permanent committee for front-line staff input is possible, as well.  

Finalized job descriptions in both finance and HR will be released next week. Cain said while the descriptions need to be detailed, it's important that employees without a background in finance understand them -- including current staff supervisors.

"They have to make sense to everyone," she said.

What's next

Important details about the service teams -- including staffing levels and what campus units they'll serve -- should be released this week, Darr told the council. Cain estimated the finance side of ISD, which will have more staff than HR, will involve filling about 150 specialist jobs.

Darr said HR staff are working on the employee interest survey which will be used to match interested and qualified staff with service team positions. The survey will be sent to all employees prior to a job showcase event scheduled for Jan. 8.

Additional information on transition teams should be available next month, Darr said. Transition teams will be department-level groups devoted to solving local unit issues created by ISD, like adjusting the duties of impacted remaining staff and making sure responsibilities both written and unwritten don't fall through the cracks.

Addressing the concerns of staff who have just a small role in HR or finance is important, said Tera Lawson, chair of the council's professional development committee. Lawson, program coordinator for the Center for Technology in Learning and Teaching, said staff are bound to be anxious when they're not sure how ISD will affect them.

"That is something I personally am tripping over. I can't see it at my front-line, local level," Lawson said.

It's difficult for supervisors to know how employees will be affected until they have more information about which staff -- if any -- will be taking specialist roles, Darr said. That time, however, is approaching quickly, she said.


Related stories