Key legislative panel approves UW-Madison personnel system

April 23, 2014

by Greg Bump

The state Legislature's Joint Committee on Employment Relations (JCOER) today approved the University of Wisconsin-Madison's HR Design personnel management system, giving the university an unprecedented chance to tailor its human resources system to the needs of a teaching and research institution.

"This new system will give us flexibility in some places where we need it, greater coherence in how we deal with staff across all positions, and should help us recruit more effectively," UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said at the JCOER meeting this morning. "Making sure we have the best talent is crucial if UW-Madison is to remain a world-class university, provide an excellent education to our students and help drive the economy of the state."

Blank thanked the legislators for acting on the plan.

"I am grateful to the legislative leaders and members of the Joint Committee on Employment Relations for approving HR Design," Blank says. "To attract, develop and retain the best employees, we must have a nimble human resources system. The flexibility given us in HR Design, and in accompanying legislation we will work to pass, is needed for this large and complex organization to manage its most important resources — its people — more effectively."

Read about more of the chancellor's thoughts on the HR Design passage at her blog, Blank's Slate.

The HR Design plan retains civil service protections and grievance procedures, and UW-Madison employees will remain state employees and participate in the same health plans and retirement systems as state employees.

It also includes a formal governance process for classified staff, which will be retitled university staff. While many provisions applying to university staff will not deviate substantially from the provisions currently governing classified employees in state agencies, changes will include implementing new recruiting and hiring processes, and rebalancing management flexibility with employee protections.

The JCOER approval allows the implementation of many elements of the plan on July 1, 2015. The committee also approved a separate personnel system for the UW System. See UW System President Ray Cross' statement.

Work began on the HR Design project in the fall of 2011. The development of the plan included extensive collaboration, including 11 work teams consisting of employees from across the campus, and a robust campus engagement process.

Implementation of HR Design was originally scheduled for July 1, 2013, but was delayed by legislators during the budget process last year. University officials are also seeking statutory adjustments which are needed to fully implement the new personnel system, and will pursue those as separate legislation in the next legislative session.

"We are extremely gratified and excited that we can now move forward to implement the important provisions of HR Design that required legislative approval. This is an important milestone for us as we redesign the university's HR systems to meet our talent needs in the rapidly changing world of higher education," says Bob Lavigna, UW-Madison's director of human resources.