Behind the Scenes at UVA HR

Meet Scott Willis and Learn About Business Operations

UVA HR Business Operations performs many functions in support of all employees within the HR department, from creating departmental budgets and financial analysis and reports to coordinating facilities maintenance and receiving goods and services. To clarify their complex operations, we spent a little time with Scott Willis, HR Analyst with the IMPACT and Decision Support group of Human Resources.

Scott Willis and familyPlease tell us about yourself

I joined UVA Human Resources in 2012 after gaining plenty of experience in private sector industries.  I live in Charlottesville with my wife, JoAnn, and we have four children: Zac, Rachel, Jacob, and Matthew.  Zac graduated college and works at the UVA Medical Center, Rachel is in graduate school at Wake Forest University, Jacob is currently in his second year at PVCC, and Matthew is a rising senior at Albemarle High School. I’m an optimistic person that believes, among other things, there will someday be an end to all the tuition checks I write.

Is there one project you’ve been working on that you’re most proud of that directly benefited the UVA community?

Yes! We had the opportunity to change the accounting process for pre-employment background checks. Historically, each background check was billed to the incurring department individually. This process resulted in 3,000 – 4,000 internal cost transfers annually. By considering the background checks as an expense with a rather constant year-on-year total cost, we could eliminate the internal cost transfers and save time on both the transaction creation and reconciliations. There were a significant number of accounting hours saved across the University by eliminating these cost transfers.

What is the most challenging part of your job? The most rewarding?

Some of the most rewarding work in Business Operations is meeting people in affiliated roles across the University and learning about important processes that drive activities and directly affect the University’s mission. Working regularly with great people in departments such as Finance and ITS has been especially enjoyable. 

Core processes such as budgeting, purchasing, data analysis and reporting are perpetually changing due to advancements in technology, fluctuating economic conditions, and other unexpected influences (like the COVID-19 pandemic). These factors keep Business Operations work interesting and, at the same time, challenging as we constantly make adjustments. Continuous process improvement efforts remain a close ally of Business Operations, despite the difficulty often faced in making changes within highly visible disciplines such as finance.   

What changes have you been responsible for since the COVID-19 outbreak and mandate for returning to Grounds?

In coordination with my team members Ivan Bari, Jeremy Deubler, and Tom Kim, we have addressed many changes resulting from COVID-19:

  • Closed down the HR building at 2420 Old Ivy
  • Distributed equipment so that HR team members could work remotely (acknowledging Chris LaMonda and Terri Griggs in ITS for their integral work)
  • Coordinated limited building access for HR employees performing essential services as well as maintenance of the office
  • Provided analysis and guidance to managers in their efforts to reduce spending
  • Re-worked our departmental budget for the current fiscal year
  • Transitioned the Faculty & Employee Assistance Program (FEAP) from the Med Center to its new home within the Academic division  

Most recently, we participated in the HR Return to Grounds project to restrictively re-open HR facilities and obtained necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for HR employee use when returning to Grounds. Spanning all of this, like so many others have done, we continue to adjust both our business processes and our family lives to accommodate the changes necessary to keep everyone safe during the pandemic.

Scott Willis at the beach with his wifeWhat are some takeaways you would love your UVA colleagues to know about HR Business Operations?

Business Operations performs many different functions in support of all employees within the department. Some functions are well known while others are less obvious. Creating the annual departmental budget, purchasing most of the goods and services needed to operate the department, and performing the accounting processes that support these functions are some of our primary responsibilities. Financial analysis and managerial reporting, facilities maintenance coordination, receiving of goods and services, maintaining inventories, and being all-around nice people are some of our lesser-known roles!

What’s something you wish people knew about you that most don’t?

I skied competitively with the UVA Ski Team while in college here at UVA. Although still very active in sports, most of my time is now spent in warm weather sports like saltwater fishing with my sons, boating with my family, and anything we can do at the beach, including body surfing.