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New Human Resources Center aims to streamline services, improve efficiency, and reduce costs

By Wendy Edelstein

In the fall of 2008, the leadership team of Nathan Brostrom, then vice chancellor for Administration, decided to make a test case of Berkeley’s sprawling human-resources functions, hoping to see if the campus could improve service and efficiency while reducing costs by centralizing redundant services.

The new human-resources center that opened July 1 grew out of that effort, consolidating services for more than 3,000 staff from three campus units.

At the Human Resources Center, located in 615 University Hall, a staff of 15 will now serve employees in campus administration, the Office of the Chancellor, Information Services and Technology, and the Office of the Chief Information Officer, part of IST. Its director is Theresa Richmond, who previously worked at Napa County Health and Human Services.

There were 51 people in the three units now being served by the center whose work included HR tasks, says Jeannine Raymond, assistant vice chancellor for human resources. Some had full-time support duties, while others handled HR-related tasks less than 5 percent of the time.

Among those staff affected by the transition, 12 applied and were hired for positions in the new HR center. External candidates secured two positions, while another is still being recruited.

Managers from each unit that previously employed HR staff will decide whether to assign affected individuals new duties, says Raymond, who adds that it will be at least two more months before it’s clear whether layoffs will result from this transition.

The center automates and streamlines former manual processes and eliminates some work, says Raymond. For instance, the campus’s administrative unit formerly used nine different timekeeping systems, mostly manual paper processes, says Raymond. “By moving all HRC clients onto an automated timekeeping system, we reduced the staffing needs” by the equivalent of about six full-time employees.

The staff at the HR center will benefit from working with colleagues with similar expertise at different levels, says Raymond. The new center will afford “many more robust opportunities for career advancement, growth, and development.”

Raymond, a team leader for Berkeley’s Operational Excellence initiative , says the Human Resources Center is separate from OE, a broader, more comprehensive effort to increase efficiency and reduce costs across the campus. But other campus units are also considering consolidating other functions, she adds.

A few, such as Information Services and Technology, have already taken similar steps.

A restructuring of IST in 2006 reduced its seven departmental HR groups to one. “The quality of service increased,” reports Shelton Waggener, associate vice chancellor for information technology and chief information officer. The consolidation resulted in more consistent services and the ability to automate many tasks, says Waggener.

At the time of its reorganization, IST employed 14 HR staff for 400 employees. During the past four years, the number of HR staff dwindled to six through job transitions and retirement. Of those six, three people were hired to work in the new center and one moved to a position at the UC Office of the President. It has yet to be determined whether the two remaining HR positions in IST will be eliminated, says Waggener.

“With automation and aggregation, we can do more of the work with fewer people,” observes Waggener. “In order to take advantage of technology, you want those technologies to be used by as many people as possible. It wouldn’t be cost-efficient if we had 10 small HR groups.”

For additional information, visit the Human Resources Center website.