Privacy Statement for more information.
In the past year, thousands of Auburn employees have displayed resiliency in many ways. This includes our 47 Auburn University Human Resources (AUHR) team members.
We began 2020 with several major projects on our agenda, along with our normal duties. From implementing a new talent management system and opening an onboarding center to conducting performance reviews and offering Open Enrollment, 2020 was going to be a busy year. Then in March, Auburn went into alternate operations due to the pandemic. Our lives – and our jobs – seemingly changed overnight.
Like other campus units, we dealt with the stresses of the pandemic, and learned how to perform our roles in this “current normal.” We hosted hundreds of Zoom meetings and modified our office spaces to make them safer for employees and guests. We also worked closely with our HR Liaison Network to answer questions and ensure that employees received needed COVID-19 leave. And, remarkably, we still completed many of our 2020 projects.
While 2021 will present its share of challenges, we have proven that we can tackle them with supreme proficiency and professionalism. We continue to move forward as we serve our valued customers – the Auburn Family.
-Unless noted, data shown on this page is from calendar year 2020 or recorded as of Dec. 31, 2020.
Student Employment and TES
HR Liaison Network
On March 16, 2020, Auburn announced that it was transitioning to remote instruction and alternate operations because of the pandemic.
“The Auburn Family faces many unknowns about this virus,” President Jay Gogue said in the announcement. “We are taking these unprecedented steps based on our utmost concern for the health and well-being of Auburn students, faculty and staff.”
While March 16 was a milestone date, university officials had been discussing contingency plans for several weeks. Our AUHR leaders participated in some of the first pandemic-related calls, discussing how we could continue campus operations while keeping employees safe.
We have helped shepherd Auburn’s pandemic response. We have answered hundreds of questions from employees and supervisors. In fact, we published some of the first Q/A documents for our campus.
We continue to partner with campus units on dozens of projects. Here are several of the groups that we have worked with:
The AU Medical Clinic
The AU Employee Pharmacy
Risk Management and Safety
Campus Safety and Security
The Office of Information Technology
The Office of Communications and Marketing
All three governance groups (the Faculty Senate, Staff Council and Administrative/Professional Assembly)
We led the initial development and launch of the COVID-19 Liaison Network. We also assisted units with federal laws related to pandemic-related leave. We helped employees and supervisors transition to remote work, and then worked with units to ensure that our eventual “return to campus” was safe and successful.
We have spent thousands of hours addressing the pandemic’s impact on our employees and their families. On top of our work, several AUHR employees have volunteered at the COVID-19 Resource Center or at the vaccination center.
Our work has been extensive, but our commitment remains steadfast. We have followed the university’s three Guiding Principles which Dr. Gogue stated last March:
Protect the health and well-being of students, faculty and staff.
Do all we can to continue the mission of the university.
Work in partnership with the university’s governance groups.
The following are just a few examples of our work.
By February 2020, we knew that campus life was going to change. Our leadership team began to think about potential scenarios and questions.
We spent hundreds of hours researching how these changes would impact our employees. There was a lot to think about – from ensuring that the university’s mission continues, to considering how the family lives of many employees would be impacted by the closures of schools, daycares, other employers, etc.
By March 16, we had compiled dozens of questions and answers for employees and supervisors. We posted them online, and updated information each day. This information was among the first pandemic-related resources for our campus.
One of our most important projects was spearheading the initial creation of the COVID-19 Liaison Network, in collaboration with the Auburn University Pharmaceutical Care Center (a special thank you to Dr. Kimberly Braxton Lloyd, Greg Peden, Dave Brackett and Paige Patterson). These COVID-19 Liaisons serve as the primary point of contact within their respective units for responding to all COVID-19 exposure issues. They also serve as the liaison between the division and the various campus entities and/or employees who may need to be contacted and informed.
Training and guidelines were created for the COVID-19 Liaisons to assist employees and supervisors with pandemic-related issues. The clinical team from the AUPCC took the lead on the training and answered clinical questions, while the HR team answered procedural and leave related questions based on HR policies and guidance. For much of 2020, weekly updates and direction were provided to liaisons via Microsoft Teams and email.
Our liaisons have helped Auburn deal with many complex issues due to the pandemic. We are extremely grateful for their service.
As the pandemic started, we learned of employees who were selflessly serving the university and community. Many worked extended hours or performed tasks outside of their normal work. We quickly realized that we needed to recognize these employees. That is why we launched “Above and Beyond.”
This online program was a quick and easy way to laud employees and units. We recognized more than 200 individuals – posting their names and a brief explanation of why they were being recognized. We also shared many of their stories on social media.
As the pandemic progressed, we updated and added information on many topics – from travel to childcare. We quickly realized that the pandemic was also impacting the mental health of many employees. To address these concerns, we did several things:
We worked with American Behavioral, our Employee Assistance Provider, to double the number of free EAP calls available to employees – even those who are not on our health insurance plan.
We hosted multiple pandemic fatigue webinars for employees. Approximately 300 employees attended two webinars that we hosted in early 2021.
We spotlighted on-campus services from the Auburn University Marriage and Family Therapy Center, Student Counseling, Student Affairs, the Department of Psychological Sciences and other groups.
We created a series of Wellness Wednesday videos. These two to four-minute videos focused on mental health, physical distancing, community support, perspective and other relevant topics. Combined, these videos reached hundreds of employees.
At the request of several faculty members, we published a series of wellness articles entitled “thrive!” Topics have included stress, burnout and anxiety from COVID-19. Faculty members and other campus experts have been featured in several articles.
The pandemic also brought financial concerns to millions of Americans. We worked to mitigate many of these concerns for our employees.
By working with other campus leaders, we offered and administered leave benefits that were much more generous than required by law. This allowed many employees to care for their families while continuing their university assignments.
Our Records and Payroll teams ensured continuity of pay during the pandemic, even during alternate operations when many employees worked differing or reduced schedules.
We administered pandemic-related leave changes. One example was the university’s decision to increase the annual leave carryover maximum from 320 hours to 360 hours for 2021 only.
Our Benefits teams offered two special enrollment periods for our flexible spending account plans. For each period, approximately 200 employees chose to increase or decrease their health and dependent care elections.
Our Campus Relations (Employee Relations) team processed more than 2,156 unemployment claims in 2020 – a 649 percent increase from calendar year 2019 (288 claims). Many were from TES employees who were experiencing a lack of work due to the pandemic.
At least 80 fraudulent unemployment benefit claims were reported to our Campus Relations team. We contacted outside legal assistance to report the claims and assisted employees during this process. We also shared informational emails to employees, warning of this risk.
Our Compensation and Payroll teams established risk premium pay for those working in quarantine dorms, along with Tiger Transit and security employees who were working directly with those who had tested positive.
Our HR Communications specialist partnered with other campus communicators to write and edit pandemic-related materials for student and employee audiences. We also shared more than 125 “mass” emails and created more than 75 webpages that were pandemic-related.
One of the first projects that we created and shared after the transition to alternate operations was a remote work guide, which included tips for using Zoom. It was the first of many work-related projects that we led or assisted.
We partnered with various HR units and Facilities Management to develop a COVID-19 leave electronic submission form. We also coordinated the collection and submission of other employee forms related to COVID-19, such as the COVID-19 High Risk Household or Family Member Certification Form.
We hosted two webinars to help supervisors and HR Liaisons plan for alternate operations. More than 325 people attended the webinars.
Our Employment Services team launched, “Virtual Interviewing,” an interactive course on how to conduct virtual interviews.
Employment Services modified in-office hours to ensure that someone was always available to help complete I-9 forms – even for departments that were operating 100 percent remotely. They also developed and implemented an electronic appointment scheduling system for I-9 completions. The system promoted physical distancing, ensuring that individuals did not arrive at the office while others were also in the waiting area.
Our Onboarding team continued to complete I-9 forms in-person, with proper physical distancing. They also coordinated remote completions, ensuring that the university still complied with federal laws.
Our Records Management team kept entering employee data in university systems – primarily in the office while other units worked remotely. The personally identifiable information (PII) that they handled required team members to work in the office to ensure there was not a break in the service provided to campus.
Our HR Development team quickly shifted every in-person class to Zoom, supporting learners and facilitators alike.
HRD created five “QuickDive” videos for employees and supervisors on performance management, including how to conduct reviews during alternate operations.
In late 2019, Auburn retained the services of Mercer, a consulting firm, to help review every non-faculty job on campus as part of a compensation analysis project.
Over the past five years, our university has been on a journey to improve our approach to careers and recruiting. We have changed how we make decisions about pay and how we measure performance. Now, we are partnering with Mercer, along with dozens of campus stakeholders, to look at how we align our pay compared to the marketplace.
This is not a one-time change project or a cost-cutting move. Instead, this is an investment in our university’s most valuable resource – our employees. It’s an important step that builds on the updates we have made and establishes how our career development programs can grow.
We wrote or revised more than a dozen policies in 2020. Several of them are listed below.
This policy is designed to help employees who are retiring from Employees’ Retirement System of Alabama and are not eligible for health insurance under PEEHIP to continue their insurance after retirement. Additional information
In 2020, we upgraded to the PeopleAdmin 7 talent management system for non-faculty and temporary positions along with student positions.
The applicant tracking system (ATS) is used to post positions and facilitate the hiring and recruiting processes of non-faculty, temporary and student positions.
With these improvements, we now have an electronic system that is quicker, easier to use and more sustainable.
Applicants can now view all posted positions, as well as apply, in one central location.
Departments can also post and receive applications through this system.
In June 2020 we also launched a new onboarding module. (PeopleAdmin Employee Records) This module is used by our Onboarding Center to facilitate new hire tasks and activities including document submission, I-9 verification scheduling, orientation, etc.
Our HR Records and Payroll teams also utilize this module to collect and input employee data into Banner.
Additional upgrades are planned for performance management and position management.
Good News for Parents: We helped implement Paid Parental Leave (PPL) for all benefit-eligible employees. (This initiative was spearheaded by a faculty working group.) With PPL, eligible new parents may receive up to six weeks (240 hours) of paid time off at 100 percent of their salary following the birth or adoption of a child. There were 29 requests in the last 2 1/2 months of 2020. Additional information
Going Virtual: Due to COVID-19, we worked closely with HR Communications to develop a Virtual Benefits Fair website for employees. Approximately 30 vendors participated. Several vendors also hosted live webinars on retirement, financial wellness, the Employee Assistance Program and more. There were more than 750 unique visitors to the website. Attendee feedback was extremely positive.
New Retirement Plan Option: Auburn University is now offering a Roth retirement plan option in the 403(b) and the 457(b) voluntary retirement plans. The Roth 403(b) or the 457(b) Roth is an additional way to save in your plan where you contribute after-tax dollars from your paycheck.
Among the Best: Four employees were recognized as Employee of the Year recipients: Michael Cobb, Facilities Management; Janeva Cole, Veterinary Medicine; Richard Feuerriegel, Alabama Cooperative Extension System; and Jenny Sconyers, Engineering. We organized “COVID-safe” celebrations for each recipient. The AU Foundation also contributed cash awards. Additional information.
AU Meets Deadline: We worked with other campus units to ensure that Auburn complies with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. In 2020, all regulated drivers at Auburn were required to complete the Fast-Train course, “FMSCA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.” The course explained the new FMCSA regulations.
Emergency Contacts: We are advising employees to review their current emergency contact preferences, and to update or provide new contact information in Banner. We have also implemented a process where all employees will receive a notice in Self-Service Banner every six months to review emergency contact information and make changes if needed. Additional communication was shared with employees during Open Enrollment.
Simpler and Sustainable: We streamlined several processes for HR Liaisons, supervisors and other users. For example, we now have electronic form submission for most of our processes. These improvements make it easier to review important information, while reducing our department’s annual paper usage by several thousand sheets.
Tools of Our Trade: In 2020, we conducted 253 position reviews to ensure the job classification and salary grade were accurate. We used these reviews, along with other tools, to help ensure our pay grades align to the marketplace. We also used the Pay Evaluator© tool that we developed to help determine appropriate salaries that are fair and fiscally responsible.
Cybersecurity Focus: We collaborated with the Office of Information Technology to review cybersecurity jobs on campus. Together, we have developed a new set of job descriptions and pay structures for these jobs. By doing this we are highlighting and and elevating the profile of cybersecurity as a campus-wide consulting and strategic unit.
New and Upgraded Guidance and Tools: We released several new tools to supervisors, HR Liaisons and others on campus. These included the eLearning class “Legally Effective Hiring Practices”, a “Good to Know!” article on the importance of screening questions and a “Virtual Interviewing Guide.”
Recognized for Diversity: Auburn was named to the DiversityJobs.com “Top Employers in Education” list for 2020 and 2021. We were chosen for our “consistent outreach and dedication to hiring from all diversity groups.”
Proud Partners: We are working with the Presidential Taskforce for Opportunity & Equity to promote opportunity and equity in our hiring processes. We will assist campus by developing training and toolkits, serving as equity advisors during the search process and spotlighting our diverse workforce on our website and in social media. Additional information
An Eliminated Rule: Temporary (TES) employees no longer have to adhere to the “11-Month Rule” restriction provision. As a result, all TES employees can now work a maximum of 1,450 hours within any 12-month time period. Once their allotted 1,450 hours have been worked, their assignment will end. Additional information
New Opportunities to Learn: Temporary employees can now register for HR Development courses (instructor and eLearning) via Fast-Train. In the first six-plus months, approximately 35 TES employees took advantage of 65 courses. Additional information
Optimizing TES: We are working with departments to determine if a position should be short-term or permanent. Every three months, departments receive TES employee information, including how long the employee has been on their active assignment. If the employee reaches 12 months in an assignment working over 1,000 hours, TES will work with the department to discuss the future plans of the assignment.
Up and Up: We have more employees and their dependents taking advantage of our Employee Education Benefits (EEB) and Dependent Education Benefits (DEB) – EEB: 758, up from 696 in 2019 and DEB: 818, up from 737 in 2019. Additional information
New Classes Launched: We added new HRD classes: “D3 - Decision Making and Delegation” (MG220) and “Succession Planning Basics” (MG620), along with 12 new eLearning classes. Four eLearning classes were also updated in 2020. Additional information
Performance Upgrade: We are working to convert the university’s paper performance management process into a fully online system. We have also designed and built the WalkMe experience that will assist employees through each step of the performance management process as they complete it in the online system. Additional information will be coming soon.
Now Open: The Auburn University Onboarding Center opened in January 2020, just two doors down from the AU Administrative Complex. The center is a one-stop shop where new employees begin their journey with Auburn University. We offer a consistent, timely, compliant and welcoming onboarding experience.
Increased Services: We added new services throughout 2020. When the center opened in January, we handled AU employee and affiliate identification cards and temporary parking passes for new employees. Now we offer these services along with assistance for I-9s (Sections I, II and III), tax compliance forms and personal data forms.
Tech Talk: We launched a new onboarding website that includes dedicated links for new employees, departmental resources, our onboarding center services, FAQs and more. We are also working with campus partners to create departmental-based onboarding checklists within PeopleAdmin to tailor (or customize) the onboarding experience for their respective employees.
Amount Paid in COVID-19 Leave (via the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and Emergency COVID-19 Administrative Leave (ECAL))
Leave Accrual Equity: We worked closely with Staff Council to establish leave accrual equity for Staff (non-exempt) employees. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2021, all full-time Staff employees now accrue 160 hours of annual leave regardless of years of service. Full-time Staff employees were previously required to have nine or more years of eligible service to reach an annual accrual rate of 160 hours.
Going Paperless! We worked closely with Information Support Systems (ISS) to encourage employees to access their tax documents (Form W-2) online. In the last 18 months, the numbers of employees choosing to go paperless has increased by approximately 50 percent. This saves the university money and has already reduced paper usage by several thousand sheets.
'Time' for Upgrades: We took over administrative duties of Kronos (TigerTime), the university’s timekeeping system. Several upgrades were introduced to assist employees, managers and timekeepers. We also updated the TigerTime website. In 2021, we will begin to facilitate the TigerTime professional development course that is offered to managers or timekeepers through Fast-Train.
Eliminating Paper: We have made it easier for new employees, including student employees, to complete their new hire paperwork by submitting it online. This is quicker, more convenient and more secure for applicants. It also means that we no longer need to print and scan these forms. In fact, we have reduced our paper usage by more than 25,000 sheets.
Accessing Information: With PeopleAdmin, it is also easier and quicker for HR Liaisons, HR Staff and approved supervisors to access new employee documents. Once onboarding is complete, these users can now access historical information and other documents immediately.
Additional Improvements: We will update the Records website and continue to create resources and training for our users. Since fall 2020, we have significantly improved the auditing and validity of I-9 forms. And while doing these projects, we will continue to enhance customer service and responsiveness for all of our customers.
COVID-19 Liaisons: More than 80 percent of HR Liaisons are serving as COVID-19 Liaisons for their respective college/division. They are helping to handle issues within their department that are related to COVID-19, such as contract tracing. They have also been instrumental in helping the university deal with complex issues that have arisen due to COVID-19.
Increased Awareness: In July, HR Liaison Network members joined HR staff for “Informing an Equity Mindset: Exploring Race Conscious Leadership”, which was led by Dr. Garry Morgan, Office of Inclusion and Diversity. The session was designed to increase awareness about how implicit bias operates and to identify mitigation techniques.
Valued Input: In its second year, the HR Liaison Advisory Council continues to be a valuable resource for collaborating with AUHR. The council provides feedback regarding policies and procedures, while representing the HR Liaison Network (HR Liaisons and HR professionals on campus). Last year the council worked with AUHR on at least five major projects.
Above and Beyond: HR Communications created a website where AU employees and teams were recognized for their exemplary work during the pandemic. Approximately 200 employees and teams were lauded by supervisors, employees and members of the community. We also recognized many of these honorees on social media, resulting in thousands of views and likes.
Outside Recognitions: AUHR was featured in the spring edition of Higher Ed HR Magazine (CUPA-HR) article: “Take Your Employee Communications to the Next Level.” We were also honored by the Public Relations Council of Alabama (PRCA) for two projects: the 2019 Employee Recognition Week communications campaign and the Fair Labor Standards Act guide. This was the second consecutive year that we were recognized by the PRCA.
Helping Employees 'thrive!': In January, we launched “thrive!”, a one-page publication designed to help employees optimize their health and wellbeing. The first several issues focused on coping with COVID-19, with tips for COVID-19 survivors, supervisors and more. Future articles will focus on healthy eating, parenting, anxiety and other relevant topics. Several faculty members and other AU experts have already contributed to this series.