Responsibilities, reporting lines could change for some staff

Iowa State's move to Workday software will change the way transactions for finance and human resources are done, and an important part of improved service delivery is determining who will be doing that work. Proposed models for improving service delivery -- which may change reporting lines and position descriptions for staff who work with finance and human resources systems -- are being presented at campus meetings and open forums this month. 

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean Beate Schmittmann and vice president for research Sarah Nusser are leading the presentations. They are co-chairs of the Institutional Effectiveness Leadership Team (IELT) that collaborated with campus leaders and others to develop the proposed service delivery models for finance and human resources. Feedback will be used to finalize the team's improved service delivery recommendation to President Wendy Wintersteen in November.

Why change?

Improved service delivery is closely tied to other big changes scheduled to begin July 1, 2019. They include:

"We are undergoing a lot of changes to improve how the enterprise functions," Wintersteen said prior to the inaugural presentation at an Oct. 2 president's council meeting. "The motivation for this change is to have the tools we need -- the technology, the right training and really, in the end, the right system that allows everyone at Iowa State to make the best use of their time every day, instead of getting bogged down in what have been some of our old systems."

New expert roles

Town hall meetings

  • Oct. 10, 9-10:30 a.m., MU Cardinal Room (livestream)
  • Oct. 11, Noon-1:30 p.m., MU Pioneer Room (livestream)

Feedback and questions

Learn more

At an Oct. 3 open forum hosted by the Professional and Scientific Council, Schmittmann said the models do not eliminate positions. Instead, they reorganize and create them.

"We want to build on the knowledge we already have," she said. "We know that Iowa State is already a very lean institution. This improved service delivery effort is not an effort to reduce our workforce."

The proposed models form teams of "functional specialists" to support units while providing consistent performance. The new functional specialist roles provide expertise in certain areas, for example in accounting, procurement or employee onboarding.

"These new models recognize that services can be more effectively provided by employees who are experts in these areas," Nusser said. "People who are knowledgeable about HR, people who are knowledgeable about specific financial services -- when they're doing this full time, they have the capacity to be effective and efficient."

But that doesn't mean all HR and finance work would be moved out of units. Schmittmann pointed to the structure of the ISU Foundation, with development staff embedded within departments and colleges. Foundation employees work closely with unit-level staff and administrators -- many of them in the same physical office -- but report to foundation supervisors.

The proposed functional specialist positions would be open to current staff -- those interested in a specialized role and others identified as part of a talent pool to draw from. Position responsibilities of employees not interested in specialist roles also would be changed, based on their skills and units' needs.

"It's really going to be an important phase of the work, to work with the individuals whose job descriptions might change as a result of this transition," Nusser said.

Reporting lines

In both models, a collaborative approach is used for supervisory reporting. Specialist positions have direct reporting lines to central HR and finance managers while providing day-to-day support to units.

Reporting lines would match specialized staff with central supervisors who have similar knowledge and expertise. Central managers and specialist teams would collaborate closely with unit leaders and staff, and be familiar with unique unit needs. The units would participate in the hiring and performance evaluations of the specialist positions supporting their work.

Human resources model

As proposed, the human resources model supports units through specialized HR partners and coordinators who are experts in Workday's HR processes, with reporting lines to central HR managers. Schmittmann said the specialist teams could vary in size and number of units served.

"Sometimes, if a unit is large, it may have its own human resources team," Schmittmann said. "If units are smaller, they may share a team. The understanding is that the teams and the units work very closely together to get the work accomplished that moves the university forward."

Finance model

The proposed model for finance creates specialist roles in three central areas: procurement and expense, financial services, and grants fiscal management. Fiscal officers would remain directly affiliated with units, still responsible for unit-level budget planning. Central finance managers would oversee specialist teams. Again, the size and alignment of the teams could vary based on the units served.

"There are aspects of the models that look the same, but the finance model is different from the HR model," Nusser said. "The focus in the [finance] model is on specific types of financial actions. It takes good understanding and technical knowledge in order to get things right the first time -- and that's part of the goal of this whole system."

What's next

At least 16 presentations to groups and units are scheduled throughout October, including a pair of livestreamed town hall meetings next week (Oct. 10 and 11). Feedback and questions are encouraged at the presentations and online. Submissions can be anonymous.

Work will move quickly when finalized models are adopted, likely by December. That work includes developing new and revised position descriptions, identifying and filling new roles, training personnel, and having many conversations with affected staff -- all with the July 1 deadline on the horizon.

Schmittmann and Nusser acknowledged that the structures will continue to evolve after they're finalized.

"We are really committed to establishing a feedback loop," Nusser said. "We know this is not going to come out perfectly the very first time."

"We'll have to be very attuned to the concerns of the units and the functional specialist teams in order to make this work and iron out the inevitable wrinkles," Schmittmann said.