Managing Risk is How We Ensure You Can Work Your Best
Elizabeth (Beth) Voss, JD, SHRM-SCP is a Sr. HR Specialist on the Policy, Risk Management, and Compliance (PRMC) team at UVA Human Resources. Beth and her colleague, Glenn Gray, serve in the same role/capacity. Both Beth and Glenn have backgrounds as attorneys and both hold SHRM-SCP designations (Society for Human Resources Management-Senior Certified Professional).
This team fills a very important role for the University, serving as stewards of UVA's HR policies, fielding queries, and helping our UVA colleagues better understand policy requirements and provisions. It also provides legal or regulatory advice and monitors or promotes compliance with UVA policies and external regulations. Third, it assesses the risk of non-compliance with policies, regulations, and laws, the recommends measures to mitigate these risks. It might also be called upon to investigate allegations of non-compliance, or to provide compliance training. We asked Beth to dive deeper into the PRMC world with us, and this is what we learned.
Please tell us about yourself.
I had a long employment history in loss prevention and regulatory compliance before serving in my current role at UVA. At GILSBAR (Group Insurance – Louisiana BAR), I advised attorneys and law firms on matters of ethics and risk management, and how to avoid legal malpractice and disciplinary action, among other things. I developed policies for and trained employees on key compliance matters, and advised employer groups and their HR teams on laws and regulations impacting employee benefits. Prior to that, I served as In-House Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer at a community bank based out of Louisiana and worked as a trial attorney, doing civil litigation. Despite these relatively traditional job roles, my career path has been sometimes non-traditional, as I took time off to have five children, and we moved MANY times to follow my husband's work opportunities.
How do you partner with groups across UVA to maximize success for those teams?
The PRMC team members regularly serve on workgroups both within and outside of HR to solve problems that arise around Grounds. Examples of workgroup efforts that directly benefited the UVA community include developing a flexwork program and guidance for schools/departments/units, DEI review of University policies, COVID response, Education Benefit Pilot Program, and the Edge Education program.
Our goal is to make sure that as an employer, we follow the laws and rules that relate to our employees. And, for our employees, that we provide guidance on how to navigate workplace concerns.
What one project were you most proud of being a part of that benefited the UVA community?
I was particularly proud to work with a large group of dedicated colleagues on several of the COVID response teams. [I had only been at UVA for a few weeks when COVID arrived. I was still learning names, faces, and more importantly the UVA approach to work.] It seemed like each day brought a new challenge, especially in the early days of the pandemic. We had very little time to assess the situation and figure out the impact to employees and the University. Issues ranged from determining leave options and the order in which leave types would apply, interpreting almost daily updates from governmental entities for regulatory recommendations related to workplace safety, how to handle and communicate employee isolation and quarantining requirements, and then later employee vaccination requirements, etc. There was always something new to consider and the downstream impact to explore. While all this crisis management was happening, in the background, we also needed to provide support to figure out how our normal work was going to be done from remote locations. Everyone stepped up, rising to the occasion, and putting in many hours to figure out the best approach to solve novel problems.
What values are important to you, and how do those values tie in with the HR values of trusting in people, acting courageously, getting creative, and seeing things through?
What runs through all my work and continues to be a key personal value for me is the desire to solve problems for other by recommending approaches and common-sense responses that are aligned with rules, policies, and law. This requires courage at times, trusting in people always, getting creative with coming up with solutions, and definitely always seeing things through. I believe this value and mission inspires me to continually improve the employee work experience for the UVA community.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
We frequently operate in crisis mode. We often don't know what a day will bring, so planned work may need to take a back seat while we deal with an unexpected crisis. Between unannounced audits, new government reporting, an urgent department or an employee need, our participation in troubleshooting the crisis of the moment always takes priority.
PRMC also serves as a reality check – some of what is asked of the University is simply not permissible. We cannot bend the rules, even when we would like to. So, we frequently must deliver news that is hard to hear; that's challenging.
What about the most rewarding part?
It is always rewarding to see a process improved, or a policy updated in a way that benefits employees, and know that my team had a part to play in that success. It's also wonderful when we can find an opening in a policy or a rule that allows us to say “yes” to employee requests.
What are some takeaways you would love your UVA colleagues to know about the work you do?
Not every event we encounter is an actual problem. And not every problem requires a sledge hammer approach to solving it. We are here to ensure that people, teams, and organizations across Grounds can do their best work every day, and we do that by advising on the applicable policy or legal requirements related to their work, mitigating for risks, and promoting compliance. When you reach out to the PRMC team, we want to assure you that your concerns are important to us. You can help us help you by providing as much detail and specificity as possible when seeking our input. We will work diligently to provide the University community with steady guidance that includes consistent application of rules and HR policies.