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Transcript | May 9, 2022


[Becci Menghini, Vice Chancellor, Human Resources and Equal Opportunity and Compliance]

00:00:00 | Bubble of normalcy in the classroom and being able to deliver whether, all of what we do, whether you’re at home, on campus or some combination thereof is really a remarkable feat. So, thank you. And with that, I’m going to toss it over, toss it back to Linc and we’ll keep on with our agenda.

[Linc Butler, Senior Associate Vice Chancellor of HR and Academic Personnel]

00:00:20 | Thanks, Becci. Yeah, it’s hard to believe we’re in May in that we’ve made it through another academic year. Just seems to be flying by. So on to the next topic.

I wanted to provide an update with you, for you, on a recent realignment of some academic personnel functions. Lachonya Thompson [Assistant Provost for Faculty Affairs], my esteemed colleague, is here with me, and so we’re going to walk you through what some of those changes are and kind of where we’re going. So, I’ll share my screen. All right, if you can see that, please give me a thumbs-up. All right, thanks.

So, we’re going to talk about the background of kind of how we got here. We’re going to talk about the transition period in the pilot phase. We’re going to talk about the new model as well as we want to hear from you, some feedback. And then we’ll also talk about next steps, as what we hope to do is just continue to work on refining this model to make sure that it’s definitely meeting the needs of the campus community.

So, beginning in early 2020, an opportunity presented itself to take a look at the functions and staffing levels within the Academic Personnel office. And that opportunity was that Lachonya had moved back over to her old stomping grounds in the College, and I took on the role as Interim Assistant Provost of Academic Personnel.

Fast-forward to more recently with the recent installation of a new Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost. A new vision was established to focus the role as the Chief Academic Officer of the University.

Many of you are familiar with Provost Blouin and his tenure. There were some operational functions that reported under that role, and so Provost Clemens wants to make sure that this role is really focused on being that Chief Academic Officer for the University.

So, from this effort, a few things became apparent. Those functions related to faculty affairs—appointment, promotion and tenure. They really needed to be continued to be aligned with the provost office. That was a critical imperative action item. We wanted to make sure that was preserved.

We also saw the opportunity for some better synergies for similar functions across APO and OHR, where possible. Generally in the areas of recruitment, hiring, compensation, executive searches and five-year reviews, as well as benefits administration.

And many of you know the APO team, although excellent, wonderful team, they are pretty lean in terms of being able to manage the workload that was assigned. So current staffing levels didn’t provide the necessary backup support for critical functions. We had some pockets of being able to provide backup, but not as fully and as deeply, I think, as we, we would like.

So, looking ahead into the transition period, what it did is it gave us visibility into the academic personnel functions to better understand where there were some similarities and where there are some nuances. We identified some opportunities for consolidation and leveraging of resources. And it highlighted opportunities for structural efficiencies and backup support.

So, to share with you what the new model is going to look like, you’ll see under the left circle OHR and Academic Personnel, things like background screening, benefits and leave administration, HR communications, compensation, executive searches, organization and professional development, recruitment and employment, retirement, work/life and wellness. On the right circle: Office of the Provost and Faculty Affairs, which is led by Lachonya, employment, promotion and tenure, faculty contract letters, personnel policies, faculty recognition, executive onboarding and structure credentials. And also our special hiring programs.

And then there were some congruent services that sort of overlap in the middle—where one office would take the lead, the other would support and vice versa: EPAP, employee relations, exit interviews, orientation and performance management, as well as some shared oversight over faculty retentions and faculty leaves.

A good example of that would be under faculty retentions. The conversations that occur between the school and the faculty member on negotiating the package, that would fall more on the Office of the Provost side—Faculty Affairs—and then the execution of whatever.

For example, if there was a base salary increase that was being given as part of the retention package, that would follow more of the OHR side of actually implementing the increase, doing the salary administration piece, facilitating and submissions to the System Office, if those are required, that sort of thing.

And then on the faculty leaves, another example there would be the research and study and professional leaves versus those leaves that are covering, like, family medical leave or faculty serious illness leave; there being a pretty clear dividing line there.

So, under the Faculty Affairs area, I’m going to pitch this over to Lachonya so that she can talk a little bit about the things she and her team are going to be working on.

[Thompson]

00:05:14 | So, thank you, Linc. So as Linc said, I’m going to be overseeing this role right now. I’m in an interim capacity as Assistant Provost for Faculty Affairs, and responsibilities that will fall under my purview include policy interpretation and guidance, performance and conduct concerns, the EPAP, instructor credentials as you saw in the earlier slide, onboarding for our deans specifically, faculty recognition—so that will be our distinguished professorships and awards—certain faculty leaves, as he described. And I think a good way to think about it is if it’s a leave that applies only to faculty employees like our competitive leaves and research leaves; those would fall under my purview. Leaves that are, that cover all employees, regardless of type, like FML, those would fall under Benefits and Leave.

We have some special hiring programs, like the Spousal and Partner Hiring Program in VITAE that will be with our office. Faculty exit interviews—so we are hoping to do a little bit more robust and nuanced offerings for that. Not that the current program is problematic, but just in keeping with the Provost’s vision for elevating the services and support for faculty. And then I also would serve as the HR officer for the Provost Division and some of the units that report up to the Provost’s Office.

Reporting to me is May Offutt, who you all know. And this enumerates May’s responsibilities. Not a lot is changing. She’ll continue to do the APT process, the faculty dossier reviews and routing that you’re all familiar with working with her on, liaison to our review committees, review of faculty personnel policies, handle and post tenure review and tenure clock extensions, and then approving certain ePARs that relate to tenured and tenure-track faculty, which I’ve spelled out here.

Also reporting to me would be Aretha Powe, and she serves as the HR rep for the Provost’s Office and some of our reporting units, like Institutional Research and Assessment, Academic Finance, Diversity and Inclusion, Carolina Performing Arts and Interprofessional Education and Practice. And she also is managing provost appointee actions. So, when we are making appointments out of the Office of the Provost, our goal is to have a central point person who can manage those end-to-end. And so we have already been working with units on some interim appointments and so on.

And then lastly, we have our Faculty Affairs Assistant. This role will replace many of the functions that Madison Wood had previously done in our office. And so that will mean it’s providing administrative support to our team, the faculty contract letters, monthly faculty retention reporting and then helping us to do some website maintenance.

[Butler]

00:08:06 | All right, thank you, Lachonya. Moving over to the OHR side to give you a sort of a picture of what’s moving over this way.

Vanessa Ragland will, under her new title as Senior Director of EHRA Non-Faculty and Academic Personnel. So, faculty position management, faculty compensation, you’ll see the different types of increases there, fixed-term faculty appointments and reappointments, and the Phased Retirement Program. Staff realigning under Vanessa’s team: Joining Vanessa’s team will be Laurie Boudler, Debra McLaughlin, Frank Lewis, and Sharon Glasgow. 

Under Employment/Staffing, work is already underway: planning work led by Noreen and Robin—Noreen Montgomery and Robin Willow-Johnson—around posting, recruitment and hiring for faculty, background checks. Of course, I-9 monitoring and completion and compliance will continue to be under, under their area.

We have established a new talent acquisition partner, which is currently under Recruitment, and again, Noreen is working very closely with Deborah and Vanessa to plan out what that transition needs to look like. We’re anticipating more information to be provided to you more towards the fall, probably around September, and some updates along the way on the work that’s happening there. There’s a lot of infrastructure work that needs to be done around PeopleAdmin—workflows, ePARs, that sort of thing. So, a lot of work being done in the planning stages right now with the HRIM team.

Joe Williams is our Senior Director for Benefits and Leave Administration. What he’s adding to his portfolio is our Total Wellbeing team. So Jessica, who you know and love from all the updates that she presents to this group every month, and Meriem Alqoh will be joining his team and becoming part of Joe’s area of responsibility.

Sarah Reese, who you know leads our Executive Talent Management team, will be reporting in to me. And of course, that’s executive searches and onboarding, executive professional development, also the five-year review process. Debbie Deese reports into Sarah, and we now have two vacant positions that we will be trying to fill. As Lachonya mentioned Madison Wood to you earlier today—she has taken a position with Cat Vorick’s team of the School of Education. Huge loss for us. Wonderful gain for Cat. She’s going to do great things over there, and she’s joining a fantastic team.

And then lastly, work is underway to transition the responsibility of faculty personnel file creation and maintenance under HR Records and Information, and Laurie Boudler has been instrumental in that work. She’s been managing that process for a while, and she’s working with David to help transition that over. And Callie Price will be joining David’s team to help with that work.

So, some key considerations for us. Our goal is to create organizational operational efficiencies that eliminate the need for duplicating services that are universally applied to all employees where possible. We want to optimize alignment of functions between OHR and Faculty Affairs to ensure appropriate oversight of faculty employees. Also want to give appropriate care and flexibility to that. We want to develop sufficient bench strength and depth of expertise across teams to ensure sufficient and expert backup support for all team members and to eliminate the risks of single points of failure in the business process and workflows.

We want to create as much consistency as possible in the business processes to reduce confusion. But we also want to make sure that we’re recognizing the unique needs of faculty-related actions. Faculty are different, and we want to make sure that we’re preserving that in every way we can. And we also want to keep the academic and scholarly mission of the University aligned with the Chief Academic Officer.

We want to do all of that in a way that doesn’t attempt to inappropriately align faculty employee processes, procedures and governance with staff employee processes, procedures and governance. That goes back to that, you know, preserving the need for some different things for faculty because of the unique needs. We do not want to create confusion regarding roles, responsibilities and areas of authority between OHR and Faculty Affairs. And we do not want to eliminate the nuanced approach to dealing with faculty employee interests and concerns in a way that constricts academic freement— freedom, eliminates flexibility in approach to problem-solving or attempts to impose unnecessary administrative burdens.

So, what happens next? We’re going to continue to engage with campus stakeholders, listening to feedback. You’re a big part of that. You know, as we navigate through this, those of you on the academic side, I think Lachonya put it best when you were presenting last week. We want to get as close to right when we get into this as possible from the get-go. But we understand that there are likely going to be some tweaks and adjustments we’re going to need to make along the way.

Working on developing a strategy for clarifying communication on the Academic Personnel and Provost websites. We don’t want to create web resources or web infrastructure that becomes more confusing. We want it to still be easy to find what you need but also easy to know who you go to for what. We’re going to be working on refining workflows internally and externally. And we want to bolster those collaboration channels between OHR and Faculty Affairs to ensure a seamless administration of faculty support functions.

So, with that being said, we want to hear from you if you have some initial feedback or questions. And I’ll just say one other thing, at least in the near term, really, nothing should be changing for you in terms of the service delivery. You’re still going to be connecting with the same folks that you’ve always connected with. We do have a longer-term goal and plan to do some cross-training. And so that we can create sort of that backup.

And Vanessa’s working with her team on developing a cross-training plan so that we have folks who can train on the things that Laurie has typically done historically. And the folks who worked on faculty, like Laurie, can train on the non-faculty things over time so we can create some necessary depth of the expertise.

But in the near term, really, the service delivery, who you’ve been working with should not be changing. But as we do get into the cross-training, there likely may need to be some shifts between who’s supporting what areas on campus and that’s yet to be determined.

So, I think I saw a question about can we get the slides for reference? Absolutely—be happy to send those out. Any other questions or feedback?

And if you don’t think of it now, you can always either continue to put them into the chat and we’ll try to address them, or if you want to reach out to Lachonya or me after the meeting we would be happy to answer any questions you may have or just hear any concerns that you may have about this. Again, we’re trying our best to get it right from the get-go, but we also know we need to be flexible and constantly evaluating how things are working, so that we can make the necessary adjustments along the way.

Lachonya, did you have anything else you wanted to share on this?

[Thompson]

00:15:14 | No, I don’t think so.

[Butler]

00:15:19 | All right. Well, if there are no other questions we’ll keep moving on the agenda.

I’m going to turn it over to Vanessa to talk about initianating— initiating an End-of-Appointment Request.

Vanessa? [several seconds of silence] Vanessa, are you there?

[Vanessa Ragland, Sr. Director of EHRA-NF and Academic Personnel]

00:15:41 | Sorry, I’m here. Was there a question for me?

[Butler]

00:15:44 | No, you were up. It’s your topic.

[Ragland]

00:15:46 | Oh, I am so sorry.

[Butler]

00:15:47 | End-of-Appointment Request. [laughs]

[Ragland]

00:15:50 | OK. All right. So, I just wanted to talk to you guys a little bit about initiating an End-of-Employment or Discontinuation of Appointment. We’ve kind of done that a couple of different ways—some folks call, some folks email—and so we wanted to get a process in place so that everybody would know how to do it and when to do it, so—I have, I think, I’ll see if I have sharing capability?

[Butler]

00:16:27 | You should be able to share.

[Ragland]

00:16:29 | OK. One…OK, and so you hopefully you all are able to see the, this is a form that you are already familiar with because we’ve been using it for a while. But just want to let you know that the process—any time there is a discontinuation of appointment—the process is going to be for the department HR officer representative to complete Section One of this form. Information that you all will have readily available—asking you to select whether or not you are looking for a Working Notice, a Pay In Lieu Of Notice or a combination of the two. Also asking you—and I think that you are used to this because you do it on the SHRA side already—any, any other employees in the unit that are affected, that are in comparable positions. And then, of course, questions about your knowledge of whether the individual is on Family Medical Leave or, or if there are any performance or conduct issues that you are currently working on with the person.

So basically just this top portion, Section One, and then this, of course, there is an opportunity for you to select a proposed reason. Most of them are self-explanatory with funding issues, of course, the— and the At Will notice. So, once you have completed this first section of the form, you simply email it to your consultant, your designated consultant. We will, in OHR, will take care of the rest. We’re going to take care of all of the Section Two and Section Three, getting those preapproval consultations that need to occur.

The form—and I know some folks have requested this—so the form is actually going to be located in the HR Toolkit under EHRA Non-Faculty Forms. So again, just making sure that if you are initiating an End-of-Appointment or Discontinuation of Appointment, this is going to be the starting point for making that happen.

So, if you have any questions, if you, with the form, any changes or edits that you think may need to happen, please let us know, but just want to make sure you are all up to date on this process.

Any questions?

[several voices at once]

[Ashante Diallo, Associate Dean for Human Resources]

00:19:12 | I’m sorry. This is Ashante. Just one quick question: Is that form now underneath the Form section on the HR Toolkit?

[Ragland]

00:19:19 | It is not there at this moment. It will be there, hopefully, by the time we finish our meeting.

[Diallo]

00:19:26 | Thank you.

[Butler]

00:19:30 | Thanks, Vanessa. All right, we’ll move on to our next topic. I’m going to turn it over to Adele Mayfield to provide our quarterly update on our Exit Interview program. So Adele?

[Adele Mayfield, Senior Employee and Management Relations Consultant]

00:19:45 | Thank you, Linc. Good afternoon, everyone. So, the information we’re first going to be reviewing is for the first quarter of 2022 and we were able to get information this quarter for SHRA/EHRA Non-Faculty and faculty employees.

So we actually came out at about 20% for terminated employees that actually completed surveys. From that 20% we had 130 that were SHRA/EHRA Non-Faculty and 23 that were faculty. Overall, as far as our turnover or terminations, we had 761 employees terminated for various reasons, which we’ll get to on the second slide.

If you are a designated HR officer and you would like to know if you have a divisional quarterly report, you can look here if your name is actually highlighted. You can see your division and department name. If it’s highlighted, that means that we have the capability of creating that report. So, if you would like one, please feel free to reach out to me and I can get that to you in about a week or so.

The quarterly breakdown shows as far as employment status, of course, SHRA is always the highest status that we have of people leaving and then voluntary resignation is always big, as well as retirement. And we also capture some additional termination reasons. So of course, when we say “termination,” it is not always something negative or bad. There’s several reasons that people can be exiting the University.

Of course, as far as the reports that I just touched on, if you want an actual report for this quarter, you can just reach out to me as long as you had sufficient enough data for us to be able to send you that information. It can be requested by the designated HR officer. And then also we review that information with UNC OHR leadership every quarter as well.

So, another thing I wanted to talk about, which is this is something new that I want to add in is the Annual Trends Analysis. As you all know, we implemented this program, or revamped it rather, in August 2019.

So for the last three years, as of today, we have 882 SHRA and EHRA Non-Faculty employees that have participated in the Exit Interview program, and we’ve had 121 faculty employees who have participated.

So we’ve done really good with getting the participation rate up. When we first started, we were at about 7%. Now we’re averaging 20% of employees that are completing the survey. Based on the Qualtrics data, for demographics, we’re showing some of the largest groups that actually participated in the survey are Caucasians, women, employees between the ages of 30 and 39. So millennials and those with less than five years of tenure.

We were also able to capture some of the top attractions to UNC. Like just the sake of being at UNC—it’s a great place to be. It’s a great place to work. Benefits program, work environment and research interests are some things that are attracting people here.

And then, of course, we’re also able to look at top reasons for leaving the University for each year. So we see things like compensation and benefits, lack of professional growth or better career potential. We see people taking the job close to home. Of course, within the last year, everyone knows, you know, lack of remote work or flexible work options. That’s been something that we’ve added in to try to capture that. And then some additional concerns I have listed here as well.

And one of the reasons I wanted to add this information in for HR Council is a lot of people have asked, “What are we doing with the data?” Well, on a daily basis, when I check the actual interview questionnaires that are coming in, if I see any concerns, I will send those directly to the EMR consultant for that area. And then if they see it as a trend, then they would reach out to the designated HR officer and make them aware. So that is one way that we’re using this data or we’re addressing concerns in the moment.

A lot of people have also asked, you know, “Is there a strategic plan for us to implement changes based on the information we have?” So this information showing you the Annual, Annual Trends Analysis and the percents as far as parti…participation, we want people to understand that right now we’re only getting 20%. So that’s where the designated HR officers—you all—come in because in order for us to really come up with the strategic plan and move forward with things or ways to use this data, we need to increase the numbers, because if you look at it’s only 20%, so that kind of skews the number. Everything wouldn’t be accurate for all of the employees that are terminated or leaving the University. It’s only capturing 20% of that on average.

So, we just ask that the HR officers, if you have any questions, you can definitely reach out to us. But we ask that you continue to make sure that people know about the Exit Interview. So when people announce they’re leaving or turn in their resignation letter, make sure you’re mentioning that. We’ve had a few people say, “Well, we didn’t receive the ‘Leaving the University’ document,” or “We didn’t know about the program,” or “We had an internal exit interview program, so we did that one. So we presumed that we had done all that we needed to do.”

So we just ask you to help us continue promoting the OHR Exit Interview Program so we can get the numbers up, get the percentages up, and eventually we’ll be able to make more use out of this data that we’re capturing.

Any questions?

[Butler]

00:25:38 | Thank you, Adele. All right, moving right along. I’m going to pitch it over to Adam, Vanessa and Rich to talk about the electronic position conversion timeline. So Adam, you want to take the lead on that?

[Adam Beck, Senior Director of Classification & Compensation]

00:25:48 | Sure. Good afternoon, everybody. So, we’ve been talking about the schedule for getting all these conversions done to the new electronic position description. And we know that since we went live with full position management and the electronic description on Oct. 1, we’ve had the end of the Pause, we’ve had a very complicated legislative increase, we’ve had an ARP, we’ve had the Future of Work.

So realizing that people’s plates are very full, we’re going to expand out the timeline to get this done. Originally, we had said that they all needed to be completed and in the new format by the end of December this year, 2022. So what we’re going to do now is say that we need to have 50% of them completed by Dec. 31, 2022.

The one caveat with that is that part of our settlement with, in terms of the Clery Act and the campus security authorities, is that we need to get that information in the position descriptions. So those need to be part of that first 50% that’s done by the end of December. And the other 50%, we’re going to expand the deadline out an additional six months to June 30, 2023.

So you have until then to finish the second half of what needs to be done. And to aid you in tracking this, Rich and his magical reporting folks are working on developing some reports to help you track this and see where you stand. So he’s going to give you a little bit of information about what’s going to be available for that.

[Rich Arnold, Senior Director, HR Information Management]

00:27:27 | Thanks, Adam. Well, I’ve got an example up today, but what we’re planning on doing is taking basically a straight line from May 1 until the new Dec. 31 deadline and then the June 30 deadline. And then how many positions that you have done and how many are not done to be able to show you a nice graph of where you are above and below. The other thing we’re planning on putting on that is just a comparison to University-wide to show how the University in general is doing it. The idea is that we don’t want you to necessarily look up in November and December and have a big surprise.

We’re hoping to be able to put that on a tile so that you’ll be able to run it yourself. If not, then we’ll send to the HR officers an extract, probably monthly, to show you how you’re progressing against that.

So I asked the question of some groups, is there something other than, you know, we’ll show you by position type? We’ll show you how many positions you have, how many are done, how many you need to be doing per month, quarter to, to be able to hit these deadlines. Is there anything else that this group would like to make a bid for before we finish this up in the next week or two and start sending you some stuff?

[Butler]

00:29:00 | All right, it looks like there’s a couple of questions in the chat which Adam is addressing, but I don’t think you need to jump on this, Rich.

[Arnold]

00:29:09 | OK? Nothing, nothing from a reporting standpoint.

Okay, we’ll, we’ll start putting those together. We’ll send the first set out and we’re always, when you look at the first set and you go, “No, you missed the mark,” be sure, just email me back and tell me how we missed the mark and we’ll adjust.

[Butler]

00:29:27 | Thanks, Rich. I think you’re up for the next topic as well: Future of Work.

[Arnold]

00:29:31 | Sure, I want to attempt to share my screen if that’s OK. Hopefully that will work. Can everybody see my screen? Hopefully. Looks like there’s nods, yes. OK.

Future of Work—we’re getting questions in. Everybody’s done their spreadsheets. Most have been approved. I think we got a couple that are still awaiting final communication back in approval. But the question has been, “Now what? We’re hiring people, people are leaving. Things are adjusting. How do we make those adjustments?” And so we’re going to have a multi-step approach, you know, short-term, mid-term and then a longer-term solution.

So that the immediate is, hopefully everybody is familiar with both on this HR Work Center that I’m showing and then also on the Self-Service page for supervisors, there’s a Forms, and then there’s an Add Work Location form. This was designed and put out so that the form, you may be, let me get this to see if I can show you this form, that the supervisors are, it’s not coming up. Hang on one second.

This form. Should be familiar to folks. So the idea was that the supervisor and the employee would have a discussion; this would be filled out. It would, may go through some internal process in divisions—on-site, hybrid or remote. Just to be sure that the communications were happening with the employee as to how the decisions were being made.

So we created an ePAR. I’m just going to close this up—so that that form could be uploaded to the system, and that’s what I launched here—Add Work Location form. So, what we’re asking is, I’m going to use my [stops talking, typing sound]. This one you can search by a person, person name or everybody that reports to a particular supervisor. And then you can choose the employee that you’re, either it’s a new employee or you’re changing the work location for an employee.

And then we display and ask for some basic information. The most important of which is, “What is the work location decision for this particular employee? Is it remote? Is it on-site or is it hybrid?” “Remote” assumes 100% remote, “on-site” assumes 100% on-site. “Hybrid” is where it actually gets more exciting in that a box opens up and you can choose between 10 and 90% for the percent on-site. And so which corresponds to the spreadsheets that we sent out where you said, Rich was hybrid: he is 50% on-site. And so we’re going to use this mechanism for gathering updates.

What we will do is periodically probably either per pay period or per month—most of our reporting requirements are monthly—is go interrogate these, the forms that have been submitted in the, in the past period and then update the system with, you know, “Dave Turner is hybrid 50%.” You can upload these multiple times. If you do it on today and you say it’s, it’s 50%. If you submit one tomorrow and say it’s 70%, when we pick it up, we’re going to pick up the most recent form for the employee within the period as being that’s the standard for now.

And so that’s how we’re going, that’s how we’re going to gather that. We’ve created a quick reference card that is still under editing that kind of goes through this process. You know, you will do this when there’s a new hire or transfer into your division, department or division, or if there’s a decision to change whether, what, it’s hybrid or the percent of the hybrid or that it’s on-site or not.

And then there was a request. We’re going to, I’m going to fix the wording on this, but this is not performance review, but it’s just asked that, you know, people look at their work location decisions, at least annually.

So 12 months from now, you should be re-evaluating, you know, “Is this working or is this not?” And do that. But basically, this is saying either the supervisor can download, the supervisor, can download the form, meet with the employee, complete and design, sign and update.

Different divisions may have internal approval processes, so you’ll need to say—maybe the supervisor’s requested a change—and then you’ll have some internal processes to say, “Does a supervisor upload the form? Does an HR rep upload the form?” And that’s a divisional decision.

For us, once the, once that form is uploaded and those percentages are put in, that’s what we’re going to use to update the spreadsheets, amounts that we’ve gotten from people.

And there’s some notes here about, you know, how to navigate and where to find the forms and then some references as to whether it’s the Flex Work Options Playbook—go in and actually find the form. Things like that.

So that’s the plan for the short- to mid-term for getting updates in there. What we’re hoping to do is through the summer and into the fall, be able to update probably the Position form so that you can just do that: make those decisions at a position level and have that write directly to the system. So we’ll have some more information forthcoming on that.

But if you’ve got some new hires or you’re making some changes to what was submitted in the spreadsheet, the, rather than central H, OHR reviewing each individual request as they are coming through, the plan is to kind of do more of an audit-type function to look through and see, you know, from the plan that you submitted to how the data is currently sitting are you, are you basically still operating the same way within positions and general plan or have there been major shifts? So we’re not asking to approve individual forms once your initial plan was approved.

So I’ll stop there, see if there’s some stuff in the chat or see if there’s other questions. So there was a question about if we haven’t received Future of Work spreadsheet, will that notification come soon?

Linc? I think that, that’s, there’s, that’s going through your area as they come in, right?

[Butler]

00:36:27 | That’s right.

[Arnold]

00:36:28 | You’re meeting periodically?

[Butler]

00:36:29 | Yes, we are. And I know that we have three areas pending, and hopefully we’ll be able to send those out in the next day or two.

[Arnold]

00:36:36 | Yeah. Any other questions?

[Butler]

00:36:49 | Right. Thanks, Rich.

[Arnold]

00:36 | OK. Did I manage to stop sharing because I can’t tell? Oh, no, I did not. I will stop sharing. Now I can turn it back over to you.

[Butler]

00:36:57 | [laughs] Thanks, Rich. OK, I’ll turn it over to Joe Williams and Walter Miller to talk about the Educational Assistance Program.

[Joe Williams, Sr. Director of Benefits and Leave Administration]

00:37:05 | Great, thanks. Hi, everyone. So Walter Miller and I want to have a little chat about Educational Assistance programs. There are sometimes some confusion around this program, and I want to just sort of, kind of differentiate just a little bit about what’s available to employees.

Certainly one of the nice valuable perks we have here as UNC employees is the, the UNC Tuition Waiver Program, which allows, again, full-time benefits-eligible SHRA, EHRA Non-Faculty and faculty, allows them the opportunity to take up to three classes per academic year at any of the 17 UNC system institutions.

And so again, great benefit, very valuable benefit. We also have a program called the Educational Assistance Program, or EAP—not to be confused with the Employee Assistance Program, but the Educational Assistance Program.

And under the Educational Assistance, this program is designed for folks perhaps who are taking some classes but not necessarily at a UNC system school where they could utilize that tuition waiver benefit. So maybe they’re at a community college here in North Carolina, or maybe at a private institution or even an online accredited institution. And so there comes these, this opportunity for an employee to talk with their department and apply for this educational assistance.

Now, some of the confusion comes in that I probably several weeks ago received an application for education assistance, and they were requesting like seven or eight thousand dollars of reimbursement. And the department apparently had some sort of misunderstanding that we, not say we as OHR, we in OHR were going to just give them that seven or eight thousand dollars in reimbursement. In OHR, the program that we have will reimburse up to $500 per academic year for tuition and up to $100 in book fees per academic year.

Anything above that is on kind of the backs financially of the department where the employee works in. So that’s why there’s this approval-type of process that’s in place. So of course, the supervisor manager will need to kind of do their approvals approving this piece. And then again, the department has some determination on, on if they will be supporting this or be able to pay if there’s any moneys or budgets for this.

Occasionally, a department says, “We’ve got a small amount of money, we can help, but we really want this $500 from OHR, the $100 for the book fees as well.” And again, we can kind of combine these things together to help, you know, do some reimbursement back to the employee.

One of the things that comes into play—and recently we’ve had some pretty big issues and Walter could perhaps speak to that in just a moment—is the taxability pieces of this. So there are laws sort of in place that say, “Hey, employees can be reimbursed for up to certain dollar amounts per year and then anything kind of over that it becomes taxable, a taxable benefit.”

Now, I’m not a tax expert. My colleague [laughs] Walter Miller is a almost tax expert, [laughs] but he’s got tax people that he certainly, that we work with here at the University—Ben Davidson being one of those people—and we are really kind of working on trying to help make this a clear sort of process or path so that employees are not sort of hit with this unexpected, “Oh my gosh,” you know, “what is this taxable amount now that I’m responsible for?” Because occasionally it can be a pretty big chunk of money.

And so one of the things that we are doing is we are redoing this Taxability Checklist so that employees and us and payroll and everyone will all sort of be on the same page, same expectation. Is this a taxable event or not?

The other piece is we are sort of redoing the process. In the past, there was a preapproval kind of form that would be submitted to the Benefits Office. It was signed off again by the employee, the department, supervisor, manager, Benefits, we would sign off on it. But taxability wasn’t determined until the reimbursement phase, and that’s where, again, some of the surprises happened. So we’re sort of flip-flopping that. Taxability now will be determined at that pre-approval level.

Right now, unfortunately, it’s all still paper form that we’re utilizing. Our hope, certainly just like many other things, is to sort of automate this process at some point. But for now, again, it is paper forms that we are kind of moving back and forth on this.

So I’m going to pause just for a few moments, and we’ll let Walter kind of share his kind of perspective of sort of the issues we faced with this, this program and then some opportunities for how we can kind of go about it in a better way.

[Walter Miller, Director of Payroll Services]

00:42:01 | Yeah, thank you, Joe. And I’ll add a distinction. Tuition Waiver tends to primarily be for undergrad courses. Once you get in the grad programs, a lot of those are handled by the Educational Assistance process.

So the, to the question of taxability, there’s a number of checkboxes on the form. A lot of those have to do with whether or not the courses being taken are related to the current job or preparing you for another job. And even those, there’s—well, and I guess I’ll say—this is probably not one of my favorite parts of the IRS code. Undergrads, pretty straightforward. Graduates, not so straightforward. And so they, in some of the cases that we’ve been talking about in the grad program, determination of taxability, it came down to the exact courses being taken and whether or not those courses were job-related. And the IRS has ruled a couple of different ways when it comes to these kinds of matters.

But so we’re going through, we’ve got the Taxability Checklist, which carries the questions about essentially whether or not it’s job-related or not.

Another key factor, and this is a—I think you’ll hear more and more about this—is contemporaneous reimbursement of expenses. So what does that mean? Well, that means that the IRS tends to have very defined parameters from which, at the point at which the employee become either incurred the expense or becomes entitled to the expense, and when that can be reimbursed. So the policy actually says this particular type of reimbursement needs to happen within 30 days of the end of the course.

Now, you know, I appreciate—this why I say incurred expense versus become entitled to basically the property of the expense—because a lot of students may have had to have paid for their tuition up front, they take the courses. So at the point at which they finish the course, there’s 30 days to get that reimbursed—30 calendar days—for it to remain in whatever determination that the form states. And I can’t remember, Joe, if you shared? We have, we have been working on an update of the form. I’ve got a few, a few finer, a few minor tweaks left to do before that gets published.

So what happens after 30 days? Well, then it becomes taxable income if it is going to be reimbursed. Well, what happens when it becomes taxable income? Well, then it actually becomes subject to the OHR Non, Non-Salary Compensation Policy. Because that policy actually states when it can be non-taxable, then it’s given actually given some, some latitude there.

But, but when it comes taxable, it, it’s just like any other piece of compensation. And so departments need to be aware of it when they’re offering it, that depending on how the timeliness of reimbursement, et cetera, it can become a compensation event.

We are historically, most of these have gone through AP, but we—much like we’ve seen with like, moving expense reimbursements—whenever you have a taxable item, especially a significant dollar taxable item, going through AP and the taxes happen on payroll, well, employees’ checks might be wiped out and we never like to be in that kind of case.

So when it becomes a taxable event, there’s going to be a ePAR available to process that to get the appropriate approvals, and then it will be issued through payroll so that the taxes and reimbursement can happen at the same time. We’ve actually added it on the form update. There’s, there’s a note at the top that really talks to the 30-day piece of it to make sure people are well aware of the 30-day expectation. And then toward the end, there are some processing notes about, “Well, if it’s non-taxable, it’d be done this way, if it’s taxable it’d be done another way.” So.

[Williams]

00:46:52 | Yeah, and we’ve had, you know, like in the past, we had a department that submitted like, two years’ worth of tuition because they wanted this person to get through this two-year kind of program and they just submitted it sort of all at once. And again, the problem is it runs up against kind of this IRS guideline for the taxability. And that’s why, again, it’s going to have to be on this 30-day basis.

So if someone is on a quarter or semester system, certainly at the end of that semester, end of that quarter, again grades are issued, copy of the grades, a copy of the actual bill, the payment, all of those things—those are all required on that sort of second half of a reimbursement piece as well.

And again, all this is just being done to help us certainly better make sure that we’re adhering to the law. [laughs] We also want to make sure that employees really kind of have a good understanding of this.

You know, this, this form, the way kind of Walter and his team have sort of developed this Taxability Checklist, it really does try to get very specific. There are a lot of gray areas in sort of the tax code, if you can imagine. [laughs] And, you know, Walter and his team have really tried to hone it in. So we can certainly be, if anything, were ever challenged by the IRS on why we didn’t tax it or not kind of a thing that we’ve got a good leg to stand on. And so that’s kind of the purpose of why we’re redoing this.

So we will be adding some, that form out. We will probably send out maybe a notification to this group once the new form is online. We’ll make some changes onto our Educational, Educational Assistance website as well, just with some additional instructions about that. Any questions for myself or Walter?

[Butler]

00:48:35 | All right, thank you both. Appreciate it. Before I pitch it over to Jessica for her updates, wanted to throw a question out to the group; you can just answer in the chat.

Our communications team is doing some work on cleaning up our website, and we do have archived on the website some materials that go back [laughs] several years. And so we’re trying to gauge what’s the appropriate amount of time to leave resources or leave information from the HR Council meetings posted, for example, on our website. So if you have any suggestions on that, we’re thinking around 12 months, but if you have other ideas just pop them in the chat, and Hilary and I’ll just keep tabs on that and use that feedback to make a decision.

So, all right, Jessica, it’s all yours.

[Jessica Pyjas, Work/Life & Wellness Program Manager]

00:49:27 | Thank you, Linc.

Good afternoon, everyone, I wanted to remind you that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so with that, I’m just going to offer some tips for you that were provided in the WorkWell that went out last week.

So for yourself, make sure that you’re taking social media breaks and limiting your time to news. Make sure that you’re taking care of your physical self, which includes getting plenty of sleep, eating a healthy diet and staying active when possible. Taking those breaks. Take time to unwind and schedule time for yourself every day, whether it’s to take a brief walk, read a book or what other, whatever else activity you enjoy and make sure that you’re continuing to connect, connect with others as things get busy.

We continue to promote the wonderful resources that are provided throughout all the schools and divisions promoting wellness, including the School of Medicine, with their mindfulness sessions every Monday. There is a 30-minute virtual meditation session provided by the School of Medicine. And then every Wednesday afternoon at 12:30, there is a brief 15-minutes “Inhale Positivity” meditation session provided by Mindful UNC committee member Meenu Tewari.

So these are very brief opportunities to schedule those and get those in your calendar to participate, and those details are on our HR calendar.

We kicked off things with our webinars last week with a general session on Mental Health Awareness Month, and we are moving forward with more practice-type of sessions to give employees, including yourself, tools to help be present in the workday and re-center yourself throughout the day.

So again, these sessions are always held during the lunchtime hour at noon and they range from 45 to 60 minutes. But this Wednesday, we’ll have a session on using guided imagery to reduce your stress, on the 18th our session will be on mindfulness and how to be present in your work and life. On the 25th, we’ll have a session on resiliency and on June 1 there will be a session on using laughter and humor and play to reduce stress.

This is a great month to continue to remind folks of their Employee Assistance Resources provided by Guidance Resources that are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And then Gillings School of Public Health is continuing with their virtual yoga sessions every Monday afternoon, a 30-minute session at noon and every Monday and Wednesday evening at 5:15. Those are all virtual.

I am very happy that some things are coming back together finally in person this semester and including an outside yoga session at the Botanical Gardens every Tuesday morning at 10 for a small fee of 12 or $13 per session, depending on if you’re a member.

And then last week, we continued to grow our “Wellness on Demand” library. If you remember this on-demand library really took shape last year as our Wellness Expo event was completely virtual. We again share that this year and we’re continuing to grow it. So I’ll drop that link in the chat box after this to share with you all. But it is on our Employee Wellness Day webpage, which is still active at the bottom of the page.

So if you visit the Mindfulness and Self-Care section, we recently added some ComPsych podcasts that are very brief to listen to and those are all less than 10 minutes. And then some other resources provided by the Department of Psychiatry and the UNC Wellness Centers.

We have been partnering more with the UNC Wellness Centers as they’ve been very active in our Employee Wellness Day and Wellness Expo in the past. So with that, they’re inviting and opening up all of their sessions to UNC University employees. So those happen on a little bit of a sporadic schedule, but every week, so Tuesday, tomorrow they have a session on “Fresh and Fabulous Cooking,” Thursday on the 12th, a “Twist and Shout: Common Knee Injury Explained” webinar. And then they have a caregiver support group on Wednesday, May 18, that meets every month and that support groups brings together folks that are particularly caring for loved ones with dementia or any other kind of memory problem.

We have this, we participated in the Spring Fling that was last Friday that is held annually by Campus Recreation. We saw close to 100 people there and it was a brief walk that took about 30 minutes to get a mile and a half or 2.7-mile run in. So it was great to have that event in person again. This is the first time it’s been back since the start of the pandemic.

And then Mindful UNC—they’re also having an in-person event later this month on May 18 to bring everyone together on that Wednesday from 3 to 4 to practice mindfulness in an outdoor setting. There will be a virtual session available to those who aren’t comfortable or aren’t available to come in person as well.

And again, all this information is on the HR Events calendar at the bottom of our home page.

We have opened up our Helping Heels registration for summer. So again, this is the volunteers and paid-for service: child, pet and senior care and companionship care provided by UNC affiliates. So that was posted in the newsletter as well as on our Helping Heels website.

And then I want to take a moment to congratulate our two nominees that received nominations this year for the Governor’s Awards for Excellence.

We had Tammy Samuels from Kenan-Flagler Career and Leadership, MBA Programs and Alumni. She was nominated for the Human Relations Award for inspiring to build stability and increase employee morale during a very high turnover time and continuing to build partnerships within the school, University system, community as well as corporate relationships. So congratulations to Tammy.

And we also had Evelyn Cook from the School of Medicine’s North Carolina Statewide Program for Infection Control and Epidemiology program, aka NC SPICE. And she was nominated for the Award for Outstanding Government Service for her work and dedication over the past two and a half years during the pandemic, and recognizing and quickly responding to infection control and prevention of over 1,000 long-term help, long-term care facilities. And she provided on-site and virtual assessments of over 100 facilities and led over 60 specific trainings, educating over 6,000 health care workers throughout North Carolina. So congratulations to Evelyn.

And then this month’s features for ways to save include reminding people of the great opportunity of The Produce Box. Your first-year enrollment is free as an employee, and you get $10 off your first box. There are 13 locations across campus that are open to have your box delivered directly to your building if you’re participating. If you’re not, contact me and we can add you to that list.

And then the American Dance Festival pick, tickets have been, the schedule for that has been posted. That festival season begins June 3 and runs through Sept. 11, and as an employee, you can receive 20% off of single tickets with code EDU22ADF for “American Dance Festival.”

Does anyone have any questions for me? [laughs] Yes, Jo Ann, that would probably be easier. I’ll send you I’ll send out the list of notes for folks to share with the group. It’s probably pretty obvious that I’m reading off of something. [laughs]

[Butler]

00:58:23 | All right, thank you, Jessica.

[Pyjas]

00:58:25 | You’re welcome. Take care.

[Butler]

00:58:27 | You, too. All right, folks, we’ve reached the end of the agenda. Are there any questions or topics we didn’t talk about that you’d like to hear about or questions you’d like for us to address before we call it a day?

[Ragland]

00:58:42 | Linc, can I just point out that Hilary has posted the link to the End of Employment form? So it’s in the chat.

[Butler]

00:58:52 | Yep. Thank you.

[Ragland]

00:58:55 | Oh, I would ask folks, please use the link because we know that staffing changes happen. And so make sure that if you’re using the link, you always have the most up-to-date version of the form.

[Tabitha Alston Massey, Director of Human Resources, UBC]

00:59:10 | Hi Linc, I’ve got a quick question, my vice provost mentioned in the Directors meeting last week that the 19.99% for EHRA Non-Faculty has been lifted or is going to be lifted. Do we have any official communication about that?

[Butler]

00:59:32 | So Tabitha, the Board of Governors has adopted new salary administration policies, but we are waiting for the System Office to provide the new salary administration authorizations to the local campuses so that we can actually roll them out and communicate them to you. So nothing to share at this point. And the model, maybe Becci could talk a little more on the details; I know she’s been a little closer to it.

But in general, we will be moving away from that 20% rule, so to speak, and also using the June 30 salary for the basis of determining which and what kind of increases will require System Office approval. Instead, it will be based on penetration into the range, I believe, and that should greatly reduce the number of actions that we’ll actually have to send down to the System Office to get approvals on. Becci, did I miss anything?

[Menghini]

01:00:29 | No, you’re right on, Linc, and the Board of Governors did approve this. It is scheduled that, that my understanding is they are now working on guidance to all of us. The way the approval was made was that the delegation of authority goes to the Board of Trustees. So we now need to get the Trustees to delegate the authority to the Central HR Office such that we can allocate those approvals in line with what, what the guidance says.

So we’re hopeful that we’ll have something—last I talked to Matt it was maybe this week, but probably next week. And then if we can get something in front of the Board of Governors we—or Board of Trustees—at this meeting we will. I have a hold on it with hopes that we have some additional guidance such that we could put it in place as quickly as possible. If not, we will either do a mail ballot with the Board of Trustees or wait until our July meeting for approval.

I also see some questions about any instructions yet for the next 2.5%. And the answer to that is no, not yet. The Legislature is in short session, and there have been discussions about whether or not they would move forward doing anything in addition to what is scheduled for the standard 2.5%. But we will not have instructions until that authority is granted from the Legislature to the System Office to give us the nod and then that guidance is provided to us. So no guidance yet.

We’re told that the short session, everybody in the General Assembly has made it clear that they have no intention of staying past the end of June, so we’re hopeful that everything will be on time and scheduled as usual. But as I’ve said before, I know better than to forecast the activities of the General Assembly.

[Butler]

01:02:19 | And to answer Lachonya’s question. Yes, that’s correct. So we’re still using the current rules. So if there are situations that may warrant an increase over 20%, all of the same external review triggers will apply. Until further notice. [laughs]

[Menghini]

01:02:38 | And I see a question about ARP, I’m assuming. Jo Ann, you’re wondering whether we’ll have the authority to go above and beyond the 2.5%. Again, we don’t know, but we’re hopeful. So more to come.

[Butler]

01:02:53 | All right, any other questions? OK, folks, have a great Monday. Go out and get some fresh air.

 
 

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