Skip to main content

HR Design work teams submit revised recommendations

May 23, 2012 By Greg Bump

Following a campus engagement effort that included participation by thousands of members of the campus community, phase 1 Human Resources Design project work teams have submitted revised recommendations that incorporate this feedback.

The work teams responded to the input they received from their campus colleagues, and in some cases adjusted their recommendations based on what was heard during forums, Web chats and through email correspondence, says Bob Lavigna, UW–Madison’s director of human resources and the leader of the HR Design project.

“We are pleased with the widespread involvement of the campus community in the process, and we are particularly impressed with the receptiveness work team members showed to the mountains of feedback they received to their earlier draft recommendations,” Lavigna says.

Transparency, engagement and collaboration have been points of emphasis for the project, he says.

“This project could well serve as a model for future large-scale campus engagement efforts,” Lavigna says.

The HR Design project originated with a mandate in the 2011-13 state budget bill that UW–Madison create a personnel system separate from the state of Wisconsin system. More than 150 members of the campus community were enlisted to serve on work teams and charged with developing recommendations to reform the personnel system at the university.

Since the beginning of 2012, the project’s website,, has received 78,000 page views and has been viewed by nearly 14,000 unique visitors.

There have been 17 separate campus engagement events, with combined attendance at the events reaching more than 2,300. An additional 1,500 people have attended special sessions with campus organizations or participated in Web chats or interacted via Web polls on the HR Design home page. Hundreds more have submitted comments through the project’s email address,

In a joint email sent last week to the entire campus, Interim Chancellor David Ward, Provost Paul DeLuca and Vice Chancellor for Administration Darrell Bazzell wrote, “This process is perhaps the most extensive effort ever undertaken on our campus to engage in a frank and open discussion about our work environment, including striving to understand how our colleagues hope this new HR system will function – and what it will achieve.”

Throughout the engagement process, a set of themes clearly emerged from members of the campus about what they would like to see in a redesigned HR system. Among the themes the teams heard were an eagerness by campus employees to continue to develop capabilities to lead and manage people, that excellent performance should be rewarded and developed, that governance and collective bargaining rights are very important, and that changes in benefits and compensation would make UW–Madison a more competitive employer. 

Based on the campus feedback, the work teams made a series of revisions to their draft recommendations. Among the highlights of the revised recommendations:

  • A proposal from the Employee Categories work team to combine academic and classified staff into one category has been revised after the team received considerable feedback from the campus. The new recommendation proposes seven employee categories. Five of these are similar to the current categories. These are executive-at-will (replacing the current “limited” category), faculty, post-degree training (replacing the current employee-in-training category), student hourly and student assistants. For employees not in these five categories, the team recommends two other categories. Academic staff would include employees currently in this category, plus salaried classified employees (who are categorized as exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act). A new category – university staff – would include non-exempt hourly employees. The team revised its recommendation to reduce the impact on collective bargaining and governance, while at the same time providing a more consistent way to categorize employees.
  • The Benefits work team maintained its original recommendation that vacation and personal holidays should be combined into a single system for all non-student employee groups to create a more equitable system and improve the campus work environment. In the revised recommendation, the team recognizes the importance of providing flexibility, particularly for employees who must schedule their vacation far in advance. The team also maintained its recommendation to cap leave banking and ending the annual cash-out for employees receiving more than 200 hours of vacation per year. In response to strong campus feedback, the team increased its recommendation for annual sick leave allocation to 16.25 days per year, which is equal to the current classified staff allocation. The team also proposes new benefits, including parental leave.
  • The Compensation work team recommends that UW–Madison implement a market-based compensation system, and periodically review and update the system. Relevant markets should be identified for all positions at the university, and many positions should also have compensation ranges. In the updated recommendations, the team clarifies that performance is only one factor to use to adjust pay. Factors considered in periodic pay adjustments should also include structural adjustments (market, cost of living, equity and living wage). The weighting will depend on the responsibilities of the position. For example, in jobs where employees have limited decision-making or control and therefore few opportunities to perform above job expectations, performance-based compensation may not be appropriate.

To view all the phase 1 work team revised recommendations, go to

The project’s phase 2 teams delivered draft recommendations last week and are currently engaging the campus for feedback on the proposals. The phase 2 teams will submit their revised recommendation in mid-June.

The next steps of the project will involve synthesizing the work team recommendations over the summer and analyzing impacts of the recommended options. This process will continue to be highly collaborative, including consultation with governance groups and other campus stakeholders. A draft proposal will emerge from these efforts. 

The draft proposal will ultimately be presented to the campus for review in the fall. A final proposal will then be submitted for approval to the UW System Board of Regents and, later, the state legislature Joint Committee on Employment Relations.