The Ufirst Project

News Archive

April 20, 2016, 2:32pm

TO: All University Employees in the Academic Division, Medical Center, and the University Physicians Group
FROM: Ufirst Executive Sponsors
     Patrick D. Hogan
     Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
     Robert C. Pianta, Ph.D.
     Dean, Curry School of Education
     Richard P. Shannon, M.D.
     Executive Vice President for Health Affairs
     Allan C. Stam, Ph.D.
     Dean, Frank Batten School of Leadership & Public Policy
     Anda L. Webb
     Vice Provost for Administration
With great enthusiasm, we introduce Ufirst, a key Organizational Excellence initiative that reaches the entire University. The Academic Division and Health System are joining forces in this important endeavor to transform our HR practices to serve you and to align our services and resources in support of the University’s mission. With support from leaders across the Grounds, we are building upon the hard work of our human resources professionals.
Emphasizing professional development, benefits, recruitment, and service, Ufirst will bring together key HR functions in the Academic Division, the Medical Center, and the University Physicians Group. We began this large-scale, complex HR transformation in early 2015 and will continue for several years, with full implementation expected in 2018. To this point, work has included identifying opportunities to simplify policies, streamline processes, and improve the HR service experience and beginning to build a unified community of HR professionals. Between now and 2018, we will provide you with regular updates. You will see teamwork and collaboration across the Academic Division and the Health System as we determine the best ways to serve each school and unit. We look forward to you joining us in what promises to be a transformative and positive change for the University community.
Each of you supports the University’s mission in important ways, and we are committed to providing the highest quality human resources services to you and to all colleagues across the University. Visit the Ufirst website to learn more about this important strategic initiative, including the project timeline, team structure, leadership, news, and FAQs. If you have any questions or comments about Ufirst, please email the project team at

March 14, 2016, 11:39am
On Thursday, March 10th, the University of Virginia launched a national search for a Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) & Vice President. The creation of this new role reflects UVA’s commitment to enhancing innovation, employee engagement, productivity, health and financial well-being across the Academic Division, University Physician’s Group and Medical Center.

The CHRO will elevate and establish HR as a trusted partner and strategic, integrated resource that delivers consistent service and upholds shared principles across the University. The CHRO’s main charges include, but are not limited to:

  • creating a high-performing HR team, culture with a service mindset,
  • being a thought-leader at UVA and an advocate for HR,
  • creating innovative ways to engage all employees,
  • developing integrated talent acquisition plans, and
  • ensuring that technology, processes and policies are aligned to University goals.

The CHRO will play an integral role in leading the transformation of HR and commencing the successful implementation of Ufirst by conceptualizing the final end-state and articulating the path forward to achieve that goal. The CHRO will be the architect of a new culture that empowers the University’s human capital and establishes a culture of employee engagement that connects all employees to UVA’s mission.

UVA selected Korn Ferry to lead the recruitment efforts in collaboration with the UVA Search Committee.

Visit the Executive Search website for additional information on the CHRO position.


March 10, 2016, 1:37pm

Thank you to our HR Community members who participated in one of the 10 focus groups in December! Over 140 people provided valuable insight that will inform our community building strategy.

What we need

To facilitate trust and build a service oriented HR community we need to foster:

1. Communication

•Identifying easy ways to facilitate getting the right information, to the right people, at the right time with appropriate context.

2. Collaboration and Relatedness

•Getting to know each other – putting faces with names and learning more about each other as people.

•Understanding who in our community does what and where our strengths lie.

•Having comfort and the time to seek and to give help.

•Defining, understanding, and embodying our shared goals as a community.

•Making the building of relationships and collaborating a priority.

3. Professional Enrichment - Outstanding Team Member Experience

•Developing clarity around what is expected of us.

•Having opportunities to learn and to improve, both in terms of easily finding what is available to meet learning needs and making learning a priority.

4. Shared principles and values

•Numerous were discussed, but the most important are accountability, transparency, clarity and respect, all of which will resulting in building an HR community based on trust.

•Sharing a common service-oriented focus and purpose - What is HR’s role in supporting the success of our customers and what does HR need from our customers to partner successfully?  Finding our why to support focus, importance and engagement.

What are our challenges

1. Size and complexity

•Multiple technologies, processes, procedures, and policies that are complex and don’t facilitate good work.

•We are a large group spread out over multiple locations.

2. Communication, feedback and engagement

•Limited avenues to provide feedback and ideas for improvement.  When these are offered, the perception is that there is often a lack of response.

•We are not good at providing or accepting constructive feedback with an eye toward improvement.

•Lack of transparency around the sharing of information and more specifically the reason why decisions are made.

•Inconsistent and insufficient communication of information needed to be successful in our jobs.

•Lack of appreciation for contributions and celebration of successes.

•Healthy dose of skepticism around improvement based on experiences and previous change project history.

3. Working together

•Rightsizing workload and getting manager support, as it can be difficult at times to get away from our desks to focus on learning and collaboration to build trust and foster community.

•Lack of clarity around job expectations.

•Lack of consistent accountability in multiple directions – among HR practitioners, between managers and employees, between customers and HR practitioners, etc.

•Working in silos and not always focusing on the greater good for the University.

•Lack of understanding of the HR role and lack of assumption of good intent.

What we have

•There is much optimism in support of change.

•There is a desire to focus on service excellence and purpose.

•There are already collaborative ventures across all three partners – Temp Services, Benefits, and Compliance and Immigration among them.

•There are work groups all around grounds who already communicate and collaborate well.

Next Steps

•Drafting and finalizing the community building plan based on these great ideas and input and integrating it into the change management process to support successful implementation.



February 2, 2016, 3:56pm

Event recap

On Wednesday, January 13, the Ufirst Community team hosted a first-of-its-kind event for HR professionals at the University. This inaugural gathering marked the first in a series of events designed to develop interconnectedness amongst HR practitioners across the Health System and Academic Division.Over 150 HR professionals gathered at the Curry School of Education from 3:00—5:00 p.m. The informational event provided a high-level overview of the Ufirst project and team members presented key highlights including how the project will effect each of us, our customers, and our organizations. Attendees asked thoughtful questions, networked with peers, and provided valuable feedback. If you were unable to attend the HR Community event, or would like to re-familiarize yourself with the afternoon’s highlights, a brief summary is provided below.

Hear from our Executive Sponsors!

Event activities

During the event, two group activities were conducted:

• Dealing with change exercise: Asked participants to identify reactions to change that they have experienced or observed in the workplace.
• Positive outcomes exercise: Focused on helping the HR Community better understand the benefits of Ufirst.

These activities encouraged participants to explore their feelings about change. Resources about how to deal with change and tips on how to prepare for the future were provided, as well.

Here’s what we learned...

Thank you to the over 110 attendees who completed the event feedback survey form. We appreciate your engagement and your thoughtful responses. Below is what we heard: Most practitioners learned about Ufirst from their managers and from the Ufirst website. Over 65% of practitioners understand the Ufirst project and the benefits it will bring to HR professionals, the organization, and those HR serves. 50% of the HR Community is excited and optimistic about the Ufirst change. The vast majority of attendees indicated they enjoyed the opportunity to network with their peers. They also indicated they would like similar events in the future.

What’s next

We will continue to share Ufirst information in traditional ways such as email and via the web, but we are continuously researching new forms of communication. Stayed tuned for upcoming events and exciting news regarding the Ufirst initiative as it moves from the design to implementation phase.

HR practitioners networked with their colleagues and learned more about the Ufirst project.

HR practitioners networked with their colleagues and learned more about the Ufirst project.

Ellen Missana, HR Director at the Curry School of Education, leading a “positive outcome exercise” with HR personnel.

Ellen Missana, HR Director at the Curry School of Education, leading a “positive outcome exercise” with HR personnel.

December 4, 2015, 11:18am

The Technology team completed its mapping and inventory of all HRIT systems across the University - including the Academic Division and Health System - and conducted usability testing of existing systems. Initial system requirements were determined and Requests for Information (RFIs) have been distributed to potential vendors. Demonstrations and feedback sessions will be conducted upon evaluation of RFI responses in early 2016, after which requirements can be finalized and a technology solution recommended.

Milestones to date

  • Completed data and systems mapping and an enterprise-wide IT systems inventory
  • Complete usability testing of employees and users in the Medical Center, Academic Division, and UPG
    • Based on the results of this testing, we have improved the user experience by modifying various website links to improve navigation (less “clicks” to reach the destination) and providing better notifications about browser compatibility.
  • Drafted an initial set of requirements
  • Distributed an initial Request for Information (RFI) containing over 120 questions to five vendors

Next steps

  • Await and evaluate responses to RFI
  • Facilitate vendor demonstrations and feedback sessions
  • Finalize requirements, issue definitive procurement request

Evaluate responses, recommend solution(s) for implementation