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UW-Madison’s HR Design launches July 1

June 16, 2015

On July 1, HR Design begins to be implemented, initiating a host of new campuswide personnel programs and policies developed to meet the needs of a 21st century world-class public university. Four years in the making, with cross-campus work teams that included 150 campus community members and more than 20,000 instances to date of campus engagement through attendance at events, participation in surveys, and other activities, HR Design is perhaps the most comprehensive human resources system overhaul in UW history.

As part of the project, UW–Madison’s Classified Staff employee designation will change to University Staff. Chapter 230 of the Wisconsin Statutes, which applies to state employee relations and personnel, will no longer govern these areas; they will be handled by UW–Madison, giving the university more flexibility in areas such as recruiting, hiring and compensation.

The remodeled human resources system was initially scheduled to begin implementation on July 1, 2013, but was pushed back two years by state legislators. Despite the delay, work on many aspects of the project continued. The state’s Joint Committee on Employment Relations gave the project the green light in April 2014. The result is a revamped personnel system with more than two dozen new or revised components.

“We consider HR Design to be a unique opportunity not just to focus on what we’re statutorily required to implement on July 1, but to look at — and redesign — our system of talent attraction, development and retention,” says Assistant Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Bob Lavigna. “We believe the new system will be more efficient, transparent and adaptable, and support an engaged and increasingly diverse workforce.”

Some of the key pieces of the new system include:

New Recruitment, Assessment and Selection Toolkit and Job Applicant Tracking System: As of July 1, the university will no longer use the state Classified Staff recruiting and hiring process or the state’s Wisc.Jobs web portal. We are taking this opportunity to implement new recruiting and hiring processes. These new hiring approaches still incorporate civil service requirements (e.g., hiring based on qualification) but will also include more contemporary, timely and effective approaches.  

This includes creating a Recruitment, Assessment and Selection (RAS) Toolkit, which identifies new or enhanced resources for attracting, evaluating and selecting the right talent for each vacancy. The toolkit also gives HR staff and hiring managers access to job aids and training on resources such as sample job advertisements, candidate evaluation strategies, suggested interview questions, reference check “dos and don’ts,” and more. This new system will also provide supervisors, recruiters and job applicants with a more timely and efficient hiring process. Find the RAS Toolkit here: .

Performance Management Policy and Program: Currently, most campus units use varying performance management systems to coach, develop and evaluate their employees. Since every campus department is different, a flexible approach is necessary to meet individual needs. OHR has developed a new performance management policy and program with guidelines, templates and resources — a flexible, consistent resource that each department can use to improve current practices. The performance management program encourages professional development, provides more opportunities to recognize and reward high quality work, and focuses on helping employees do their jobs better. Learn more about the new performance management policy and the training resources available here:

New Employee Onboarding: Studies show that effective new employee onboarding programs significantly improve employee job satisfaction, retention and engagement — and reduce the time it takes for new employees to be fully productive. All UW–Madison schools, colleges and divisions are creating or enhancing onboarding programs that begin with the acceptance of the job offer and span the first year of employment. A common understanding of effective onboarding programs will help all new employees transition to a UW–Madison workplace where they feel welcome, have the means to succeed, and can reach full productivity as quickly as possible. Learn more about the new employee onboarding policy, including training opportunities and resources, here:

Employee Alignment with the Fair Labor Standards Act and Employee Choice: As of July 1, 2015, the Classified Staff category, including hourly positions that are covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), will become “University Staff.” The Academic Staff category will be expanded to include all salaried positions that are exempt from the FLSA. Beginning January 1, 2016, employees in permanent Classified exempt positions (“University Staff” salaried positions) will be given the choice to either stay in the University Staff category or move to the Academic Staff category. This alignment of employee categories will eliminate artificial distinctions between employees and provide a clearer, more consistent way to categorize jobs. Learn more about Employee Choice here:

Living Wage Adjustment: All permanent and limited term university employees earning less than the City of Madison living wage — $12.62 hour in 2015 — will receive pay increases to match the current living wage amount on July 1, 2015. This hourly rate will increase as the city’s living wage increases. Learn more about the living wage adjustment here:

Job Titling and Compensation Study: A job title and total compensation study is expected to begin after July 1, 2015, and take at least one year to complete. This duration reflects the size and complexity of the UW–Madison workforce, as well as the need to involve our stakeholders in the process. The analysis will result in a new set of titles and levels, with a corresponding compensation structure. In the interim, OHR has developed new policies to provide more compensation flexibility while the study is conducted.

As we prepare to go live with HR Design, we are also creating UW–Madison-specific policies to cover areas currently governed by state personnel rules. These include new policies for employee grievances, probation, layoffs and temporary employees. For more information on HR Design, visit or email