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A transformational change to HR services

“The role of Human Resources is to support faculty and staff in the work they do across the university, offer strategic advice and support the leadership in achieving their goals,” explains Carolina Willsher, associate vice-president of HR.

“As our mission statement says, we assist in recruiting, developing, engaging and retaining our workforce and in building sustainable capacity. We provide programs and services to fulfill Concordia’s HR management needs.”

In 2019, for the fourth year running, Concordia was named a top Montreal employer by the editors of Canada’s Top 100 Employers — a reflection of the HR team’s stellar work.

While tackling larger projects, many of HR’s tasks continue year to year.

“We’re responsible for labour relations. Concordia has 13 collective agreements, so we’re always negotiating. We reached agreements with many groups last year. Each December we celebrate Concordia retirees and employees who reached a milestone year at the university, starting with their 20th anniversary. We honour over 200 staff, which is a significant number,” Willsher says.

“We also manage the learning and development calendar. We continue to expand and evolve our offerings,” she says. One recent example is the Change Resilience Development Program, which helps prepare managers and directors to lead change projects arising from university initiatives. “It’s a huge undertaking for the university and its employees, and we get great feedback” she adds.

“We partner with others, such as Health Services and external providers, but we use our internal expertise to deliver many of these courses. It’s nice that we’re able to use our own resources.”

Project UNITY will enable us to support the university’s strategic directions in ways we haven’t done in the past

During 2018-19, Concordia employed 6,387 people, which requires considerable management effort. HR produced 17,654 year-end tax statements. “Every payroll is a large effort and, as we know, takes place every two weeks — that requires an enormous engine,” Willsher says.

HR also posted 479 positions and received 26,442 job applications. We hire about 500 people a year, just on the staff side. Once we hire people, we enrol them in our benefits and pension plan, orient them, and take other appropriate measures to successfully onboard them as part of the community,” she says.

“We also provide strategic advice. Counselling, problem solving and conflict resolution is a lot of what we do.”

Willsher reports on other 2018-19 projects. “We implemented an online time-entry system in April 2019. There was a need to move to a new server and so we used the opportunity to enhance the process for uploading timesheets and provided a better experience for users of the system,” she says. “The payroll team worked with IITS to develop the enhanced offering and certain departments to test the new environment prior to its implementation.”

Project UNITY

HR’s most significant accomplishment last year was the launch of the Human Resources and Financial Services Renewal Project, known as Project UNITY, in May 2019. “It’s a partnership with financial services and IITS colleagues, functioning as one team,” Willsher says.

“We started thinking about this at least seven years back and began actively planning four years ago. We are replacing a legacy system in HR, one that is at best a payroll system. By definition it will be transformational. It’s a huge credit to our staff that we’ve been able to do what we do with the tools we have,” she says.

“The new system will make a big difference in our ability to provide new analytical and reporting tools to our managers and staff,” she says. “This will enable us to support the university’s strategic directions in ways we haven’t been able to in the past.”

Concordia will implement Project UNITY’s first and second phases in 2020 and third and fourth phases in 2021. While the university is working with external providers on the project, much of the job is being done in-house.

“We’re really fortunate to partner with external experts, but it’s really important that we have strong, knowledgeable internal staff, and we’re able to rely on our stakeholders as well,” Willsher says.

“It’s an exciting time.”

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