University of Alaska lays off 48 human resource employees in four offices, moves to consolidate

The University of Alaska issued layoff notices to 48 human resources employees Monday, the first step in what UA President Jim Johnsen says will be a total makeover of its hiring offices statewide.

Instead of three campus HR offices and a fourth for the statewide system, there will be a single office. There will still be HR employees at various campuses and the total number of jobs will not change much, but the plan is to save money by having fewer directors, a “new compensation structure” and streamlined services, according to this overview.

Employees will be able to apply for jobs in the new HR office starting Monday. A university spokeswoman first reported 51 layoffs, but said that three of the employees are students or work under contract and are not included.

“As a necessary first step to ensure HR employees have time to consider their options, all human resources employees received official layoff notice on May 6, effective September 14, 2019. Layoff provides the best benefits to those not choosing to be part of the new structure and allows those wishing to continue in the new organization time to seek a position in their area of interest and expertise,” Johnsen said in a memo Monday.

“This is not a merger - it is a complete redesign based on best practices in higher education, which will lead to increased efficiencies that ultimately serve you better. We want to make our search for new talent more efficient and our onboarding of new employees more effective. We are finding new paths for employee training and professional development. Under this redesigned structure, you will benefit from dedicated staffing and the opportunity for continual growth and development within the university.

“We are taking this step to improve UA system human resources services to not only offer you a better HR experience, but also because budget cuts have left fewer HR employees managing increased workloads. By dividing work into functional areas and distributing tasks, HR employees can gain expertise and efficiencies in their areas, reduce backlogs and pinch points in current processes and structures, and increase the level of service being provided to you.”

“For current HR employees who want to be a part of the new team, there are many opportunities for continued employment and contribution to the enhancement of HR services at the University of Alaska. The initial application period will be restricted to current HR campus and statewide employees only. If there are vacant positions at the end of June 2019, recruitments will be held.”

The challenge for the university will be to have an HR system that functions effectively statewide, one that can make good decisions on hiring and other matters quickly, which is no easy task.

Dermot Cole