Until now, UZH employees have received their monthly salary statement on paper by mail. This is about to change. From the end of July, UZH employees in some units will be able to log in to the new Employee Self-Service Portal (ESS), where they can view their payslip and download it as a PDF. They will also be able to update their bank details quickly and easily themselves.
The new portal is more efficient, more sustainable and more cost-effective than the previous paper-based method. Moreover, the new digital solution ensures a high level of data security – thanks to two-factor authentication and data encryption. “Letters or e-mails can be delivered to the wrong person or opened by third parties. The ESS portal is significantly more secure by comparison,” says Thomas Sutter, Head of Central IT at UZH.
The ESS will be gradually introduced in UZH’s various organizational units. Employees in the Vetsuisse Faculty and the Faculty of Business, Economics and Informatics as well as in Central Services will be the first to gain access to the portal, followed by the other faculties. The relevant heads and HR representatives as well as the employees will be informed directly.
The portal isn’t being introduced to offload administrative tasks onto employees, but to streamline our processes,” emphasizes Sutter. For example, instead of submitting your new bank details to HR by e-mail, as was previously the case, employees can now change them directly in the system. And this involves no additional work for them. The workload of the university’s administrative staff is reduced without placing an additional burden on the employees.
The vast majority of HR processes still require in-person, professional support and handling by HR experts
Students at UZH already have access to a range of tools that are comparable to the new portal, for example for semester enrollment or module booking. Additional self-services functions for employees will also be added step by step, such as an application for electronic expense reporting later this this year.
Overall, however, “self-service” only makes sense for a small number of HR processes. “Only processes that are simple and self-explanatory and for which employees have all the data they need are suitable,” says Sutter. “The vast majority of HR processes still require in-person, professional support and handling by HR experts.”
The introduction of the ESS portal is part of broad-based efforts to advance human resources management at UZH. These efforts are coordinated in the strategic project called HREvolution, which the Executive Board of the University approved in May 2023. “The project aims to help ensure that all UZH employees receive needs-oriented, efficient and – where appropriate – digitalized HR services, and that centralized and decentralized HR staff have the necessary know-how and tools to provide high-quality services,” says project manager Adrian Scheidegger.
Having both the Human Resources Department and the Professorships Department makes sense, because many of our tasks complement each other.
The jobs and employment relationships at UZH are as diverse as the university itself, making HR management a very complex matter. HR services such as consulting, admin and personnel and leadership development are handled and provided by the Human Resources Department, the Professorships Department and numerous decentralized HR representatives. In addition, the newly established Leadership and Governance Academy develops leadership and continuing education programs targeted at professors. “Having both the Human Resources Department and the Professorships Department makes sense, because many of our tasks complement each other,” says Jörg Kehl, Head of the Professorships Department.
One of the Professorships Department’s specific tasks is to provide support in professorial appointment procedures. This task changed as a result of the Governance 2020+ reform, in which the responsibilities of the Executive Board of the University and the deans were reorganized. “We now also need to sharpen and adapt the role of the Professorships Department,” says Jörg Kehl.
Streamlining the interfaces between the Professorships Department and other organizational units is also on the agenda. Despite the complementary nature of tasks, there are a lot of potential synergies to unlock, particularly regarding the Human Resources Department. For example, processing sick leave notifications for professors is handled the same as for all other employees.
Since the beginning of 2023, the Human Resources Department (previously part of the Directorate for Finances and Human Resources) has been under the remit of the Office of the Vice President Faculty Affairs and Scientific Information, along with the Professorships Department. “This makes it easier to continue developing UZH’s HR management in a comprehensive fashion,” say Jörg Kehl and Karin Bertschinger, Head of HR.
As is the case for other employees, UZH must also be an attractive place to work for HR specialists and offer exciting tasks and excellent career prospects.
Not all HR processes at UZH are managed by the Professorships and Human Resources Departments, however. Many tasks are handled by decentralized HR representatives in the individual organizational units (institutes/departments and offices), including recording personnel data or dealing with admin tasks when someone joins or leaves the university.
Of the around 9,900 employees at UZH, some 500 belong to a diverse group of decentralized HR representatives, including, for example, managing directors and administrative staff, teaching and research assistants or research group leaders. Some of these decentralized HR representatives focus on HR tasks and lodge more than 1,400 digital transactions in this area each year, while others are less involved in HR processes and complete no more than 50 digital transactions.
“In general, the system of combining central HR specialists in the Human Resources and Professorships Departments with decentralized HR representatives in the individual organizational units of UZH works very well. But it has its limitations in terms of professional HR services for UZH employees, because the level of HR expertise isn’t the same across the university, and because decentralized HR representatives have to deal with a wide range of tasks and sometimes do not work full time,” says Karin Bertschinger.
UZH has wanted to define the tasks, roles and responsibilities for all HR functions more precisely, strengthen HR expertise and establish a kind of “HR community” for some time. In 2019, the “integrated HR@UZH” project was launched to better align centralized and decentralized HR services, taking into account UZH’s overall HR organization. Throughout, the goal has always been to offer UZH employees the most professional and needs-oriented centralized and decentralized HR services possible. The HREvolution project has picked up and expanded on where the previous project left off, with an even greater emphasis on digitalization and getting the Professorships Department involved.
Digital tools enable us to make many processes simpler, more efficient and more user-friendly; in contrast, however, the full benefits of digital solutions can often only be unlocked if we first optimize the processes.
The launch of the HREvolution project coincides with the introduction of UZH’s Digital Strategy. The strategy provides guidelines for future digitalization measures at UZH, including in HR. “The Digital Strategy represents a boost when it comes to gradually digitalizing key HR processes,” says Thomas Sutter. The ESS portal mentioned earlier is just one of many examples here.
Hiring and leaving processes are another example where digital solutions will be improved, according to Sutter. When someone joins UZH, they need a workstation, a key, a UZH Card, a laptop and access rights to IT systems. Today, HR representatives and line managers have to trigger each of these steps separately and make sure that nothing is forgotten. “We want to join up these sub-processes and turn them into a seamless overall process through which participants are guided digitally,” explains Sutter. Personnel data then only need to be entered once. The same applies to processes when someone leaves the university.
This example shows how important it is to check existing processes before they’re digitalized. “We have to keep an eye on technology and process planning at the same time,” says Sutter. Project manager Adrian Scheidegger agrees. “Digital tools enable us to make many processes simpler, more efficient and more user-friendly; in contrast, however, the full benefits of digital solutions can often only be unlocked if we first optimize the processes. That’s why we’re linking the two aspects in the HREvolution project,” adds the project manager.
Further developing HR processes also involves defining the tasks, competencies and responsibilities of HR representatives at UZH in particular as precisely as possible. Other major topics include continuing education opportunities, transfer of know-how as well as career models and development opportunities in HR. “As is the case for other employees, UZH must also be an attractive place to work for HR specialists and offer exciting tasks and excellent career prospects,” says Karin Bertschinger. She attaches great importance to getting the HR community involved in the HREvolution project. “The project gives us an opportunity to integrate and strengthen HR at UZH,” believes Bertschinger.