UC Riverside to host systemwide shared-service center for HR, payroll

UC Riverside has been selected as the location for a shared service center that will process routine transactions related to payroll, benefits, leave management and workforce administration for all 10 campuses and five medical centers, UC officials have announced.

The project is one of the key elements of UC’s Working Smarter initiative, a systemwide administrative-efficiencies effort developed to help preserve academic quality in the face of deep budget cuts from the state. In its first year, the initiative accrued $157 million in new revenue and cost savings from a variety of operational changes.

The UCPath Center will open its doors in July 2013, initially serving five locations: UCLA, UCLA Medical Center, UC Santa Cruz, UC Merced and the UC Office of the President. All other campuses and medical centers will make the transition by October 2014.

The center is part of an ambitious effort to transition the entire UC system to a single payroll and human resources system — a move that is expected to save the university as much as $100 million annually once the system is fully deployed.

“We think this project is likely to pay for itself within five years, and UC could be accruing over $100 million in annual savings by the eighth year,” said Peter Taylor, UC’s chief financial officer. “We also expect to deliver HR and payroll services with increased efficiency, accuracy and quality.”

In choosing UC Riverside from the six campuses that offered to host the shared service center, UCPath executive sponsors Taylor and Nathan Brostrom evaluated the proximity of a strong pool of UC talent to staff the center; local housing and cost-of-living considerations; the availability and condition of scalable office space; and the support of local leadership.

“UC Riverside emerged as the best choice, particularly when we factored in our desire to attract UC staff,” said Brostrom, UC’s executive vice president of business operations. “We hope to draw job applicants from across the university, but this central location will make it an especially convenient choice for staff at our four Southern California campuses.”

Taylor said he and Brostrom also were impressed by Riverside Chancellor Tim White’s commitment to the project’s success.

“UCPath is terrific economic news for Riverside certainly, but also speaks to the innovation of the UC system that holds promise to serve as a national model for other large public university systems,” said White. “We are known for our smarts inside the classroom and laboratories, but we want to be just as smart in how we manage the world’s greatest public university. It is the most efficient way to manage the business side of what we do, and gives us confidence we are innovative and proper stewards of the public dollars that support us.”

Once the UCPath Center is up and running, its executive director will report to Brostrom and Taylor. UC Riverside, however, will provide key infrastructure and management support for the facility.

“The move to shared services is a big change for UC,” Taylor said. “Chancellor White and his staff understand that this is an opportunity to do things in a more efficient and effective way. We can improve services and still save money. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.”

A core design team comprised of campus and medical center staff from HR, academic personnel and finance has been working since November on a detailed blueprint for how work will be integrated between UC locations and the center. That document will be finalized and ready for distribution in early May.

Many critical HR functions will remain at the campus level, including hiring and retention, performance management, employee and labor relations, and other non-transactional business activities.

Over time, the new payroll and HR systems will require fewer positions in the core areas of transactional processing and customer support for payroll, HR and academic personnel, but the impact on employees will vary by function, department and location, Taylor said. Most campuses and medical centers have only just begun the process of staff impact assessments.

“Our goal is to minimize involuntary layoffs through attrition, retraining and realignment of responsibilities,” Brostrom said. “To the extent that some employees are affected, we hope that they will consider applying for jobs at the UCPath Center. We want to provide job opportunities for as many of our people as we can.” UC staff will have priority for all UCPath Center jobs, other than a handful of top-level management positions that will be filled through a national search.

The center is expected to launch with roughly 140 to 160 employees, and will hire more people as campuses and medical centers transition into using its services. When fully deployed, it could employ as many as 500 to 600 people, depending on system configuration, business process design and other project related decisions.

About two-thirds of staff will work in the operations side, while another third will work in a call center fielding questions and assisting faculty and staff with payroll, benefits and other employment-related matters.

More details about staffing including roles, job descriptions and staffing levels will be shared with campuses and medical centers during July. Jobs will be posted and recruitment will begin for jobs in the UCPath Center by fall 2012. At that point, any UC employee may apply. Internal UC applicants will be screened and all qualified internal applicants will be interviewed before external applicants are considered.