Leaves of change

Clearing leaves on campus.

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

With an extensive tree canopy on Iowa State's 1,900-acre campus, it takes a team approach to remove leaves this time of year. Earlier in the week, this team used blowers and a vacuum to clear leaves near the Jischke Building.

In addition to grounds work, campus services crews are responsible for pest and wildlife management, and maintaining Lake LaVerne, the ISU cemetery and campus parking lots, sidewalks, bike paths and roads.

P&S Council asks for delay on improved service delivery plan

The Professional and Scientific Council is asking President Wendy Wintersteen to hold off on approving a proposed reorganization that would create new centralized teams of specialists to handle human resources and financial matters, saying P&S staff didn't have enough input into a plan that offers too little detail.

In a motion approved Oct. 31, council members requested the delay of the improved service delivery (ISD) proposal, saying it "cannot support ISD as currently proposed."

The motion recommends delaying approval "until the details and clarity necessary for employees to understand and support the implementation of ISD are provided to the university community." It also notes the council "commits, in the spirt of shared governance, to engaging in revising and developing additional details to clarify the models." The council's executive committee drafted the motion. 

The proposed models would shift human resources and financial services duties, often handled by staff with varied responsibilities, to new positions devoted to more defined tasks and supervised by finance or HR managers instead of leaders in the units they serve. Prompted largely by the move July 1, 2019, to Workday, a new enterprise software that will handle all of Iowa State's business processes, the changes also are designed to make service more consistent and improve training and career opportunities.

The council passed the motion the day before the Institutional Effectiveness Leadership Team (IELT), a task force of top administrators that created the proposal, was to meet Nov. 1 with its "super group" to discuss feedback from public presentations throughout October and via an online form. The IELT and the super group, which includes P&S Council president Stacy Renfro, is expected to make a recommendation later this month to Wintersteen.

Renfro emphasized that formally declining to support the proposal as it stands is the start of a conversation, not the end. However, feedback from P&S staff largely opposed the plan, as employees are uncertain how the changes would affect them.

"We know the impact will be far-reaching," said Renfro, who also planned to meet with Wintersteen Nov. 1 along with Amy Ward, the council's president-elect.

The council understands and supports the need to restructure finance and HR staffing, but it can't support a plan when it doesn't know how it will affect employees, council member Jason Follett said.

"It needs to be drilled down all the way. That's the details our constituents are asking for," he said.

Council members also were concerned that a proposal that would change the roles and supervisors for many staff was drafted without being vetted by P&S employees. Joy Stroud, an administrative specialist at Reiman Gardens, said she wasn't aware her position might change until she heard about it in a public meeting.

"Finding out at a forum that my personal job is going to be affected when I had not spoken to one person in the process, I'm over that-ish. But my concern is, going forward, who's going to come talk to me? That was a big deal for me. I still have that concern moving forward," she said. "I just don't want to be left out of the formula."

Stroud's experience shows the proposal was not developed with shared governance in mind, said Jessica Bell, the council's past president.

"We can’t go back in time and change that, but it’s one of the reasons why we’re having the issues and feedback we're getting today," Bell said.

Staff whose positions include some HR or finance work will have the opportunity to apply for specialist positions, but neither the descriptions nor the supervisors for those jobs are set yet. Employees with HR or finance duties who don't move to specialist jobs next spring could take on new duties in their current unit. The IELT co-chairs, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean Beate Schmittmann and vice president for research Sarah Nusser, have said the reorganization isn't intended to reduce workforce levels or demote employees.   

Nusser and Schmittmann, who were at the council meeting and spoke at points during the members' discussion, said they understand the concerns staff have about the uncertainty. But agreeing on the foundation of the changes -- creating teams of HR and finance specialists who report to managers who understand their work -- is a first step that's needed to sort out specific implications, Nusser said.

The IELT is continually addressing questions, both in live forums and in a growing online FAQ, but Nusser said they welcome any suggestions on how to share information better as the proposal evolves and advances.

"We feel like we’re in engagement with the community and hearing a lot of things that are modifying how we're proceeding. It would be helpful to us to understand what process would help," Nusser said. "This is just round one of a lot of rounds coming our way."

Though the council voted overwhelmingly in favor of the motion, three members voted against it. One of them was Whitney Grote, who said delaying approval of the plan wouldn't bring quicker answers.

"We can’t have what we want without having the process. Why delay having the process?" she asked.

Town hall takes closer look at service delivery changes

Improved service delivery

Top administrators in finance and human resources shared their visions for improved service delivery during an Oct. 25 town hall. Pam Cain, interim senior vice president for finance and university services, and Kristi Darr, interim vice president for university human resources, addressed a packed house in the Howe Hall auditorium and hundreds of livestream viewers.

Quick to point out that the proposed service delivery models haven't been approved, Cain and Darr emphasized that change is necessary. How the university does finance and HR work will change when the Workday software system goes live July 1, 2019.

"Every single person that touches finance and touches HR will be impacted," Cain said.

"The president is committed to doing it differently. We have to figure out how," Darr said. "Defining the model is the first step. We have to decide what stays local and what goes into the model. People will have to decide if they want to go into the model or stay local. There are a lot of layers."

Roles and responsibilities

The proposed models call for more specialization and centralized management. Most human resources and financial services work, some of which is now done by employees who have a variety of other responsibilities, would shift to new staff positions devoted to more defined tasks and supervised by managers who report to top-level finance or HR leaders.

Cain and Darr provided a closer look at the responsibilities the positions in their structures might have.  

Cain summarized the three levels of finance responsibilities in the proposed model.

  • Specialist teams: Support units with expertise in Workday processes, regulatory compliance, federal uniform guidance and accounting
  • Unit finance: Oversee local strategic budget planning, analysis, reporting and training
  • Central finance division: Oversee institutional-level policies, procedures, training and manage complex accounting issues

"The strategic things for the units will all stay in the units," Cain said. "On the specialist teams are the things we're trying to pull out that add value to the [expert] teams. Our hope is with these teams -- highly functioning individuals -- we can continually improve our service, our punctuality and our timeliness on everything we do."

She said the finance teams would vary in size and composition, based on the needs of the units they serve. For example, some units have no grant funding, while other units may need multiple specialists with grants expertise.

Darr outlined four levels of roles and responsibilities in the proposed HR model.

  • HR coordinator: Support units with HR expertise and customer service
  • HR partner: Work with units to meet their needs with consistent HR services
  • Senior HR partner: Provide guidance and support for division leaders and HR teams
  • University and provost level: Oversee institutional strategy, policies, practices, training and compliance

"The HR coordinator role is that person who is helping that local unit -- day in and day out -- to make decisions," Darr said.

What's next

The Institutional Effectiveness Leadership Team that developed the proposed models is expected to submit its final recommendation to President Wendy Wintersteen in November. Pending her decision, the new year could kick off with a flurry of activity.

"The bulk of the work likely will come after the holidays," Darr said.

Cain and Darr said the top HR and finance positions would be filled first, allowing those leaders to help assemble their teams. Cain said they are working with the equal opportunity office to map out an appropriate hiring process for moving current personnel into new positions.


Summary of some topics discussed in the Q&A portion of the meeting

Job duties for financial specialists

Cain envisions two job families within a "red" team, referring to the color representing specialist teams on presentation slides:

  • Specialists highly trained in accounting, with entry-, junior- and senior-level positions. She also noted the university is converting during the Workday transition from cash-based to accrual-based accounting.
  • Specialists with compliance, policy and procedural expertise, also with entry-, junior- and senior-level positions.

As an example, she said five such teams could answer to a financial services manager, who balances work among the teams.

Cain said the goal is to have merit staff and professional and scientific staff on the finance red teams.

Job duties for HR specialists

Darr said an HR coordinator will handle "lifecycle" transactions such as job changes, hires, resignations and retirements. She said that includes problem solving and helping employees understand the tools available to them to solve issues. The number of HR coordinators needed to support a unit is not decided yet.

"I don't believe these are routine tasks. We employ humans and they give us surprises," she said.

In response to a question about soft/grant funding for jobs, Darr said the expectation is that functional specialist positions will be continuous (though it's not yet decided). The funding model for the specialist teams isn’t set yet, either.

Employees who don't want to be specialists

Department-level leaders will work with employees who had HR and/or finance responsibilities to redefine their positions, which may involve taking on new duties or those once handled by co-workers who sought specialist positions. Darr said it will be important to avoid demoting employees unless they choose that.

Where/how to find the new jobs

Cain said the process is being defined now, with assistance from the equal opportunity staff. Due to the high volume, it won't involve the "normal application process." Employees need a pathway to express interest in a new job or opt to stay locally. Cain said the goal is a streamlined process that isn't cumbersome to employees.

Darr said there will be lots of communication about when the jobs are known, application deadlines, etc. "You shouldn't be surprised when those jobs are available," she said.

What if no one wants to fill the functional specialist jobs?

Darr's advice is to learn more about the new jobs as they get defined and ask questions about what will happen to current positions. Jobs at the local level will change, too. Each person needs to evaluate what interests them, she said.

Darr said she believes employees will apply to fill the roles in the models. She has heard enthusiasm for "doing things right."

If no one moves, Darr said she'd have to conclude, "we didn't listen, we didn't design it right."

The option at that time is to "retool." Doing nothing is not an option because the president is committed to the change, Darr said.

Timeline for when units and specialist jobs are defined

Darr emphasized this timeline is "in pencil":

If the president's decision comes in November, work commences on defining jobs (some preliminary work has begun). In late November/early December, Darr said she hopes to talk very specifically about jobs. "We'll meet with all of you and answer your questions," she said.

Decisions about units is a separate process.

The highest-level positions in each model would be posted first so supervisory roles are filled. January and February is when most people would be assigned positions. Darr's goal is to have people slotted into jobs and know where they're going by the end of March. This would align with Workday training.

Cain said they've talked about a job fair or a "speed dating" type of format where people can learn quickly about a variety of jobs. The goal, she said, is to get people comfortable with what the new jobs are so they can make the best decisions for themselves.

Darr noted that "unpacking" what tasks and responsibilities stay local also will take time. Realistically, that will ebb and flow over the next year.

Transition period (January to July)

Darr called this the "messy period" when employees shift to new positions and train for them while still performing their current jobs. She said this period is one of her concerns, and she said "we have to figure out" how to support employees dealing with a lot of change.

Impact of the service delivery models on compensation

Compensation is individual, Darr noted, but she spoke more generally about transitioning not only to new service delivery models, but a new P&S classification and compensation system, scheduled to roll out in September 2019.

"We know inequities in compensation exist now on campus. There's a wide variety of compensation practices," she said. "July 1 is a milestone, not a destination. Everything won't be settled by then."

She said no P&S employee knows where he or she will sit in the salary ranges in the new system, and the service delivery models won't solve that question.

Relationship of new jobs to new P&S classification system

Darr said the new classification system isn't completed yet. Job families are still being created and defined. From a practical perspective, it may be too big a leap to put the new jobs in the new system initially.

Defining a unit

Cain said units won't be determined until the models are approved by the president. "Once the models are approved, we fit the model to the needs," she said.

Darr pledged it will be a very collaborative process, including input from senior leaders and the president.

Cain said those discussions will need to assess the complexity and the volume of things that a unit does -- for example, do employees do lots of international travel or is there a lot of grant funding. She gave this example:

"A very large unit could have 25 people on a red [specialist] team, but they might not be sitting in the same location. They will work as a team, but I don't see a huge pool of people in one location. We're trying to get those teams embedded in the units so they have a clear understanding of the needs so they can be proactive in the problem solving that needs to happen, and they can be there as experts, a resource for the unit."


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The provost's office seeks nominations and applications for the next director of the Study Abroad Center. Candidates should be tenured Iowa State faculty with a track record of experience and success in study abroad, as well as an exemplary record of scholarly research, teaching and service.

This is a B-base (nine months) fulltime appointment. The guaranteed consideration date for applications is Nov. 12, with an expected start date of Jan. 1, 2019. Position details are available on the university's employment website.

Questions may be directed to associate provost Ann Marie VanDerZanden, 294-9591.

Former director Trevor Nelson left Iowa State last December. Scott Grawe, associate professor of supply chain management and an associate dean in the Ivy College of Business, has served as interim director since January.

ISU lands in top 17 percent in global ranking

Iowa State University is ranked 212th among 1,250 colleges and universities around the world in the fifth annual U.S. News "Best Global Universities," which was released Oct. 30. That places Iowa State in the top 17 percent of the ranked universities in 75 countries.

Iowa State is ranked in 13 of the 22 subjects included in the global rankings. Iowa State’s highest rankings are 23rd in plant and animal science and 32nd in agricultural sciences.

Other top rankings include:

  • 139th in physics
  • 185th in engineering
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Twenty-five percent of the Best Global Universities ranking is based on international and regional research reputation. Other elements include research citations, most cited publications, books, conferences and international collaborations.

U.S. News & World Report also provides separate annual rankings of best undergraduate and graduate programs.

Take a raucous trip to the underworld with 'Orpheus'

Rayna Morano as Eurydice in ISU Theatre's "Orpheus in the Underw

Senior Rayna Morano portrays Eurydice in "Orpheus in the Underworld," a collaborative production by ISU Theatre and the opera studio. Submitted photo.

ISU Theatre partnered with the music department's opera studio for its production of "Orpheus in the Underworld," which opens tonight, Nov. 1, at Fisher Theater. The operetta -- a mix of music and dialogue -- runs this weekend only.

Based on a Greek myth, the satirical comedy follows Orpheus (senior Ian Butler) from Mount Olympus to the underworld in a reluctant search for Eurydice (senior Rayna Morano) -- his wife, who doesn't wish to be rescued. Both have other love interests, but Public Opinion (junior Samantha Schmitz) pressures Orpheus into the rescue attempt. His travels lead to encounters with Greek gods and a conclusion that breaks into, of all things, a raucous cancan dance.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Audience members are invited to meet the cast and crew and enjoy refreshments at a post-show reception on opening night. Tickets are $25 ($16 for ISU students), available through Ticketmaster, the Stephens Auditorium ticket office and at Fisher Theater prior to the show.