Specialists improve service delivery in LAS

When Stacy Kilstofte and Venita Currie were introduced to the WorkCyte initiative, they saw how it would change the way finance and human resources work is done at Iowa State. As they learned more, Kilstofte and Currie, who lead the human resources and finance operations in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, also saw an opportunity.

"We were interviewing candidates for open jobs with both financial and HR duties," said Currie, the college's academic fiscal officer. "Stacy and I looked at each other. We had been in enough Workday meetings to know that we couldn't fill the positions as vacated -- we needed to figure out if it's HR or fiscal."

So, for the past year, they've taken a forward-thinking improved service delivery approach when positions with combined HR and finance responsibilities opened in LAS departments and programs.

"Most academic departments have a departmental coordinator [often administrative specialists]. They're the person who usually is doing administrative functions for the chair, some HR and some finance," said Kilstofte, the HR business partner in LAS.

Instead of replacing the positions as-is, the duo worked closely with department chairs to inventory the position's responsibilities. They were divvied up into three categories -- finance, HR and administrative. What they found were opportunities to move the HR and finance work to specialists, while keeping administrative support -- such as project coordination, calendars, meetings, events and receptionist duties -- in the department. Nearly half of the college's departments and programs have moved to the new structure.

"We talked about where we could put subject matter experts in place to facilitate business processes," Kilstofte said. "As attrition occurs, we're creating functional specialist roles."

The LAS structure for its HR and finance operations has similarities to the proposed university-wide improved service delivery models introduced last month. Those models also create HR and finance specialists who serve units locally and report to supervisors with similar expertise and knowledge.

Central HR support

The HR duties -- in many cases, a small portion of the department coordinator's responsibilities -- were moved to Kilstofte's central LAS team, which now has three human resources coordinators. She said the move actually eased some of their own work.

"In some cases, we'd hand-hold through every step of an HR process. That's more labor-intensive than having someone who is a subject matter expert complete the activity," Kilstofte said.

The HR coordinators work closely with their assigned departments to shepherd processes and manage HR issues. Kilstofte said having specialists focus solely on human resources has improved their effectiveness and efficiency -- for example, in the staff recruitment process.

Embedded financial experts

Currie has five fiscal coordinators and an account clerk on her central LAS team. Each coordinator handles a few of the 15 departments/programs that shifted their finance work centrally. The fiscal coordinators are embedded in the departments they serve, working directly with chairs while reporting to Currie.

"I've found that we're starting to standardize. All our departments are getting the same, consistent service," Currie said. "If someone is unavailable or will be out for an extended amount of time, their duties can be picked up immediately and handled."

An employee perspective

Currie hired Jessy Jackson as an account clerk in February, one of the specialist roles created in the new LAS structure. Jackson, who moved to LAS from ISU Dining, handles transactional support for LAS central administration and some programs and departments. She said the work -- and the variety of people she supports -- are ideal.

"I like working with all of the different departments and interacting with different people," Jackson said.

With her knowledge of guidelines and rules, she's become an expert resource for more than just the 10 departments she serves. Office administrators look to her for help with things she handles regularly but which may be infrequent for them -- for example, foreign travel. And Jackson said her tasks, which range from travel reimbursements to P-Card purchase verifications, are anything but tedious.

"I like doing this stuff. For me, it was a no-brainer when the job came up," she said. "It gives you the opportunity to really learn the area, have the expertise and know the rules. If you have to focus on so many other things, you may not have time to be as knowledgeable."

A departmental perspective

When psychology's departmental coordinator accepted a specialist role on the central LAS finance team, she took her fiscal responsibilities with her and picked up finance work for another department. Psychology chair Susan Cross said working with a fiscal coordinator who is familiar with her department's needs is key.

"It's fabulous because she knows us well," Cross said. "We are getting the service that we need. She's excellent."

HR duties assigned to the departmental coordinator moved centrally to Kilstofte's team.

"Because we hire relatively infrequently, it's really great to have someone who does that regularly. I'm very happy with how that has worked for us," Cross said. "Having someone who knows the rules and stays on top of that, who's not so overburdened that she can't respond to us quickly, that's worked. I feel like I have not just someone who's helping with the paperwork, but someone I can go to with other kinds of substantive questions."

With the HR and finance responsibilities moving into the LAS structure, Cross created a new administrative role for departmental support. The position picked up administrative duties that made up about half of the previous department coordinator's role, assumed some responsibilities from a position vacated last spring and took on newly created tasks.

"She's been able to absorb some losses all around, and she has the time to do some new things that we want to do," Cross said. "That's been good for us."

With its move to the new LAS structure, Cross believes her department likely is better prepared for the changes the Workday system will bring.

"I'm optimistic for us. We're going to be in good shape, given the arrangements we have," she said.

Better service

Kilstofte and Currie are energized by their changing structure and agree that a team of experts provides better, uninterrupted service to their departments and programs.

"That's the joy of it. We are able to provide expert, needed support. We have people who can step in and provide back-up support to make sure things move along," Kilstofte said.

"For the first time in my 19 years here, I didn't have to approve something while taking time off work," Currie said. "It was covered by my team while I was gone."

They said the LAS structure will continue to evolve, especially when processes change with the launch of the Workday system.


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