Diane Howell pays for her rent, car insurance and electricity from her monthly UCLA paycheck.
Then, over winter break, the library assistant got an email from the UCLA administration. She was told that starting next year, she’ll be receiving that paycheck every two weeks rather than monthly.
The email was a signal of an ongoing effort to move all University of California employees onto a system-wide payroll plan. Called the UCPath Project, it is intended to create a more simplified process for paying university employees than in the past, said Albert Glover, director of academic affairs for the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.
Each campus currently manages its own payroll and human resources program for employees. There are 11 variants of payroll systems that service a total of 185,000 university employees.
“Our current system is a mess. It is extremely expensive and cumbersome to operate,” said Peter Taylor, chief financial officer for the UC.
Although details for the program are still being sorted out, the UCPath Project will essentially create a more simplified process for paying university employees than in the past.
Proposed changes to the current system include standardized pay cycles among all 10 campuses. For example, all academic employees and postdoctoral scholars within the UC will be paid bimonthly. Temporary employees and health systems staff will be paid biweekly.
Right now, UCLA departments follow different timetables for awarding payrolls, said Allison Baird-James, associate vice chancellor and controller.
The first phase of the project will be implemented at UCLA and several other campuses in 2013 and will slowly integrate into the rest of the UC system over a period of three years.
In addition, UCLA employees will see a streamlined biweekly payroll schedule in the coming months.
Employees will also be able to access an online payroll calculator that determines biweekly earnings in the next few months, according to a joint letter sent to UCLA employees Tuesday.
Baird-James is part of a workgroup for the UCPath Project. She is currently working with university officials to plan out the specifics of the implementation process.
UCLA administrators are also in the process of implementing an electronic timekeeping system, Baird-James said.
The transition to a new payroll system could also help generate savings for general services, auxiliaries and the university’s medical centers.
“Our goal is to put in a 21st-century system that is common among all UC campuses and medical centers that will be easier and cheaper to operate,” Taylor said.
The shift will produce an estimated net savings of $230 million, according to a report presented to the UC Board of Regents last week.
“The UC system as a whole is extremely heavily staffed versus the rest of the world in terms of IT and human resources jobs,” Taylor said.
In the long term, the university hopes to see the number of people staffed in these fields decline, which will save money, Taylor said. Roughly a third of the savings from the new office will go to the medical centers.
Another third will be used for general funds, and the remaining savings would be applied toward auxiliaries that support housing, parking and union systems.
Savings within the general funds would be distributed proportionally among UC campuses. Campuses will need to decide on their own how to use the extra funds, Taylor said.
A vast majority of employees’ transactions will be done online, Taylor said. If they can’t be done online, employees will be able to call a shared resource center to get individualized attention, he added.
Howell said her initial reaction to the new changes was the lingering question of how to coordinate her bill payments.
“Initially this change is going to be inconvenient for me because I will only have half a paycheck to work with by the time my due dates come around,” Howell said. She also added she would like to see how the university will save money and how the new changes will be implemented.
Both Taylor and Baird-James identified communication among campuses and personnel as potential challenges for the program.
Baird-James said she thought project management would be another challenge, adding that a group has been devised to oversee how the UCPath Project is implemented at UCLA and to foster communication among all levels ““ the university, the campus and the employees.
“Any organization doesn’t engage in change easily,” Taylor said. “This is a different way of operating for us.”