Over time, McMaster’s HR grew organically as a decentralized structure. In an effort to provide customized services, several faculties and departments developed their own processes, and often faced challenges to navigate HR issues. Unfamiliarity with legislative and regulatory matters resulted in many issues – HR was no longer seen as a service provider, but more of a blocker to departments to get things done – without providing adequate reasons why.
In tandem, HR Operations (formerly known as the HR Service Centre) worked in a generalist capacity, but specialists and subject matters in areas such as payroll or talent acquisition were needed to effectively serve employees.
These issues prevented services from being delivered effectively to University employees, resulting in inefficiencies with Human Resources.
Under the leadership of the Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) and her team, supported by the HR Review Project Management Office (HRR PMO), a new HR Service Delivery Model was shared with the HR Review Steering Committee (HRRSC) and received directional approval from the President and Vice-Presidents (PVP) in 2020. The Human Resources Service Delivery Model provides a framework for the delivery of HR services and programs across the university through a OneHR approach.
- Technology-enabled HR Self Service capability;
- New talent processes, and enhanced client/ candidate experiences;
- Keeping the future of work in mind; and
- Involving the McMaster community through community engagement and communication.
Operational excellence is achieved through partnerships among the faculties and departments, and within HR services teams: HR Operations, HR Strategic Partners and Centres of Excellence.
The HR Review focused on the need to have an HR organization design with sufficient numbers of HR professionals possessing the training and skills to ensure accuracy, efficiency and user satisfaction. The reviewers noted structural issues, such as unclear roles of responsibility between Central HR and FHS HR, that have existed for decades. Consistent themes emerged over the course of the review: a lack of standard operating procedures for many HR functions, a lack of role clarity both within HR and by the university community, and a lack of positional accountability for outcomes. Page 2 in the report notes “Stakeholders did not place blame on individuals and in fact there is sympathy for the staff in the Service Centre (SC) who were perceived to be working under extremely difficult circumstances.”
Specific recommendations were made regarding pay and benefits, the HR generalist role, FHS transactional work transfer to the HR Service Centre, talent acquisition and the introduction of an HR Business Partner role. Significant progress has been made in each of these areas which can be found on the Recommendations page.
The following are a few highlights in response to staffing in the areas highlighted in the report including pay, benefits, pension and talent acquisition.
HR Operations is the initial point of contract for all HR support to McMaster University staff, faculty and retirees. The new Service Delivery Model includes:
- Transitioning transactional work done from FHS HR;
- Clarified roles and replaced the generalist role with payroll specialists and HR data management specialists;
- Expanded “employee service centre” capabilities to assist faculty and staff with HR inquiries in addition to employee life event processing and general communications
- Developed technology roadmap and HR technology strategy and implementation, provide business support; and
- Tracks, reports and analyses people data to help division and community enable data analysis delivery and inform decision-making.
HR Operations Staffing – Objective 3
The HR Review noted that the role of the generalist in HR Operations by design couldn’t sufficiently support the complexity of inquiries regarding pay, benefits, pension and talent acquisition in addition to general process and policy inquiries. To respond to this recommendation, the HR generalist role was replaced with workforce data management specialists to focus on core processing items, separated from the advisory team.
Two positions overseeing payroll processing, compliance and workforce data management were staffed in 2020 and 2021: Senior Manager, Payroll, Tax and Data Compliance, and Director, HR Operations and Systems. These leaders have worked with the key partners and the HR Review Working Group to improve accuracy in payroll processes and obtain efficiency gains by streamlining the processes.
The payroll team is fully certified through the Canadian Payroll Association as having the knowledge and skills to ensure efficient payment to all stakeholders including banking partners and the CRA.
Pension and Benefits Staffing – Objective 3
The Senior Manager of Total Rewards assumed responsibility for the HR Pension and Benefits team and acquired additional expertise by hiring a new Program Manager, Benefits. The team shifted two critical external advisory teams: legal counsel and the pension consultants, thereby further improving pension expertise available to McMaster.
Transactional Work Staffing – Objective 4
Significant work between FHS HR and Central HR has been completed to transfer transactional work from FHS to HR Operations however much still needs to be done and activity will continue in the collaborative manner that these two teams demonstrated throughout the project.
Staffing levels in HR Operations continue to be a challenge and as transactional volumes and the impact of recent technology supports are better understood this is an area that will require regular assessment
Talent Acquisition Staffing – Objective 6
The Talent Acquisition team provides specialized hiring and onboarding consultation, and in partnership with our Employment Equity team and facilitators, provides the Selection Committee with training and supports administration of SPS A.
A Talent and Recruitment Strategist and a Talent Acquisition and Onboarding Specialist were added to this team to develop new recruitment resources, programming and support to leaders and administrators in relation to talent planning and acquisition activities, and review recommendations to enhance practices, processes and systems. It should be noted that volume continues to outpace resources, and a technology solution is critical.
An Employment Equity Specialist and Coordinator, in partnership with the Equity and Inclusion Office (EIO) support the Community of Practice that consists of 183 Employment Equity Facilitators across the university in the operationalization of SPS-A1 and other critical Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) initiatives.
HR Strategic Partner Staffing – Objective 5
HR Review recommendations regarding HR structure and accountability identified the need for an HR “Business Partner” role. At the time of this report, a job family is being finalized with the primary role referred to as an HR Strategic Partner, although some variations may apply dependant on role scope. The role is critical to ensure hiring managers have faculty or department-specific advice and coaching on workforce strategies, such as departmental organizational design, future of work considerations and staffing. The HR Strategic Partner supports senior faculty and department leadership with implementing HR policies and processes, aligning people strategies, workforce planning, change management, leadership development and succession/talent planning within their area.
HR Strategic Partners work closely with the CoEs to develop and implement HR programs and initiatives unique to a faculty or department’s needs.
Embedded HR roles have been in place for several years in University Advancement, University Library and FHS. Based on the success and learning from those models, the new framework was created and pilots were implemented in Housing and Conference Services, the Institute on Ethics and Policy for Innovation, and the Faculty of Science.
Discussions are currently underway with other faculties and departments including Student Affairs, MacPherson Institute, Facilities Services, VP Academic and other faculties regarding their specific requirements and opportunities for implementation.
HR Strategic Partners and other HR colleagues from across the university connect regularly through several forums:
- The CHRO hosts bi-weekly HR community meetings for all team members in HRSC, FHS HR and HRSPs
- The HR Network, organized by central HR, meets monthly to introduce, inform of and train on new HR processes. They are led by process experts in HR Pay and Benefits and attended by over 200 employees who perform HR tasks as part of their role.
- An HR Strategic Partner Community of Practice joins together HR Partners, HR Strategic Partners and Senior HR Strategic Partners with respective leaders and CoE representatives to align strategic priorities, share experiences and insights, collaborate on solutions, and influence university-wide planning, integration and results.
- A full-day HR Forum has been held twice annually since 2017 to provide an opportunity to learn from external experts on HR practices and trends, and to share best practices across the university. The HR Forum is for all employees who have HR responsibilities as part of their role and over 200 people attended the June 2021 Forum.
The future of Human Resources Services at McMaster will represent change, progress, and integration by:
- Enhanced collaboration and consultation with the McMaster community;
- Continued HR process improvement initiatives to reinforce accuracy, efficiency, sustainability, and the user experience;
- Expand the concept of OneHR to deliver enhanced, comprehensive support that reflects the needs of the entire university community;
- Programs, resources, and support to enable a safe, healthy, engaging, and inclusive work environment;
- Continued HR Network, community engagement and development;
- Establish a new HR Governance structure to enable planning and decision-making on key HR-related programs and initiatives supporting McMaster’s operational and inclusive excellence priorities; and
- Sustainability of implemented solutions.