Editor’s Note: The names of students in this article were changed for fear of alienating their managers.
It’s affected every corner of campus, and few people have anything good to say about it. But for once, the grumbling isn’t about construction. It’s about UT’s switch to a new payroll system, Workday.
Last November, UT completed its switch to Workday, a cloud-based Enterprise Resource Management system. Simply put, Workday is an online program UT now uses to manage things such as payroll, travel reimbursement, research grants and more. The cost to implement Workday was $72 million, according to UT officials.
The switch from the last system, which was first built in 1972, was more than necessary, UT faculty experts say. But it hasn’t been easy or mistake-free. Some employees have even called it “a nightmare.”
The complaints have been widespread, from being paid late or underpaid to simply not understanding how to use it.
Both students and faculty have been affected, and while UT offered Workday training, students and faculty complained about the timing of the trainings and being asked to attend them off-the-clock. The training was also not mandatory.
Despite the problems, Dana Chapman, associate vice president for enterprise business Information and technology solutions, said the transition to Workday has mostly been a success, and her team meets daily to address problems they are constantly tracking across the entire University. An independent firm, KPMG, has also been evaluating UT since 2016 and called the switch “highly successful.”
“Of course, they also say ‘Here are some things you can do better,’ because their whole purpose in being here is watching us,” Chapman said. “So yes, we think it went smoothly, but so did this independent group.”
That doesn’t mean the transition has been simple. The Daily Texan previously reported complaints from students and faculty about the transition.
Students working for RecSports reported issues that included having to approve time sheets several times, needing to badger managers when a time sheet was submitted and having several pay periods that had to be corrected with additional pay in the following cycle. For some, the problems with Workday have ceased but only after several months.
A student employee for RecSports, Jane, told The Texan that while the problems with Workday only delayed her purchase of a plane ticket for an upcoming vacation, she knew of other affected students who needed the money for necessities such as rent or food.
“Obviously it’s super inconvenient. When they mess up the pay, it’s just so much of a headache to go back and fix, and then I don’t even know what I got paid for,” Jane said. “For me, it’s really not as big of a deal as some of my peers, because they are using it to pay bills.”
Another student, Catherine, who works two jobs at the University, described confusion over how her different positions were paid. One position was hourly, while the other was paid via stipends. For the stipend position, she had to submit a certain number of hours into Workday to get paid. But after the switch to Workday, the number of hours needed to meet the stipend’s threshold increased, resulting in her not getting paid for that job for several weeks until she found the error.
“There was just this whole entire miscommunication of how stipends work with Workday,” Catherine said. “It’s frustrating.”
A faculty member in the College of Fine Arts also had issues with understanding how to use Workday. He said several UT officials offered him various ways to receive the training, but all options would be on his own time. However, Adrienne Howarth-Moore, interim associate vice president for human resources, said all approved training should happen during regular work time, and “off-the-clock work is not an appropriate work practice.”
Patrick Forrest, a Workday expert, said it can take years before any institution can iron out the kinks. Forrest said Workday has also grown rapidly in recent years and called it a “shiny new toy” of the payroll industry, but this has created a shortage of people who know how to use it.
Prabhudev Konana, information risk and operations management professor, said Workday has had a growing market in higher education in recent years. Despite this, the depth of detail and configuration each institution needs to make a “smooth” transition looks rough.
Chapman said her department expected a rough first year, but they prepared as best as possible. Across the University, hundreds of people were given the chance to test out Workday six months before it launched, and the program was run for more than a year side-by-side with UT’s prior payroll system to find issues before the final switch.
Even with this preparation, Chapman said they have experienced issues with how to process retroactive pay, as well as finding the people who were underpaid, and making sure managers approved time sheets.
Most of the problems, including retroactive pay, will be ironed out as her team and Workday roll out more improvements and fixes in the coming months. And with the last two pay cycles, Chapman said they began using a tool to override the need for supervisors to approve time sheets when they are forgotten. The University is also running “weekly on demand” pay, which allows them to retroactively pay employees as soon as they find out there is an issue, rather than waiting for the next pay cycle.
Chapman said while it is hard to learn and adjust to, Workday was the best option for UT, given its mobile app accessibility, ability to configure to each department’s needs and constant updates the company sends out to improve their system.
Ultimately, Konana said UT needs to help “reset the expectations” of its employees with what the full processing of switching to Workday will be like, because problems were going to crop up no matter what.
“If you ask me what the biggest problem was in the implementation, it was that there were very high expectations for the system,” Konana said. “And when things go wrong, you run into trouble … You are trying to change how the entire University operates.”
Anyone who experiences issues with payroll or Workday can reach out to their department’s human resources manager, and there is also a helpline, 512-471-8802.