Effort management is the budgeting, planning, and monitoring of someone's effort for a specific period of time such as a budget period. Effective effort management ensures that effort commitments to sponsors within the context of all UVM-compensated activities are included in someone's 100% effort. Effort reporting is the federally mandated process by which the salary charged to a sponsored agreement is certified as being reasonable in relation to work performed on the sponsored agreement.
As a recipient of sponsored funds, UVM must assure sponsors that the "effort" (assignment of time and associated salary costs) charged to their sponsored agreements is equitable and distinguishable from those charged to other activities, and effectively managed within the parameters of sponsors’ requirements. UVM relies on the framework for effort reporting provided by federal regulations, principally the Office of Management and Budget's Uniform Guidance for Federal Awards. Financial & Cost Accounting Services, part of University Financial Services, oversees the University’s effort management and reporting system in accordance with the Effort Management and Reporting on Sponsored Agreements Policy (PDF).
PeopleSoft PI Portal: Effort Verification & Management
The PI Portal provides an efficient tool for faculty to manage their awarded commitments on sponsored agreements. The risk of not meeting sponsor regulations is mitigated through the use of this important effort management tool.
Quarterly Effort Verification Questions to Consider
- Are all of my current active awards represented in my Commitment by Person report?
- What effort do I need to apply on each grant during the remaining time of the budget period to meet my effort commitment?
- Are there any compliance issues (e.g., disengagement of key personnel for more than 3 months)?
- Do I need to obtain any prior approvals from sponsors on effort commitment reductions?
- What will be my effort commitment for any upcoming no-cost extension period requests?
- Should payroll documents be initiated to pay and/or distribute payroll to reflect effort or cost share?
- What are my future effort plans, e.g., likely proposals to be awarded?
Quarterly Effort Verification Steps
- Principal Investigator reviews personnel charges on their sponsored agreements as part of their quarterly verification.
- Use the Sponsored Project Search by Award PI name to obtain a list of active projects that require effort verification.
- Typical questions to consider during the verification process are:
- Are the payroll charges of personnel accurate, allowable and properly allocated on each account?
- Should additional personnel be charged directly or as cost share on the account?
- Are there any changes in effort that need to be submitted to Payroll Services?
- Should payroll documents be initiated to pay and/or distribute payroll to account for effort on each account?
- Should payroll charges be accounted for to meet cost share/match requirements?
- Document the review results for future reference.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is committed effort?
Committed effort is that proportion of an individual’s institutional effort that will be devoted to a sponsored activity. Effort proposed for a PI or other key personnel in a grant application, typically in the budget and/or budget narrative, becomes a commitment (or obligation) the university must fulfill unless explicitly modified during award negotiations with the sponsor. The cost associated with committed effort may be borne by the sponsor (charged to the grant or contract) or by the institution (cost-sharing).
Who is responsible for reviewing the faculty commitments?
The faculty member is responsible for their effort management. However, the unit effort administrator should schedule quarterly meetings with each faculty member and facilitate a review of their Commitment by Person report. The following business practices are recommended during quarterly verifications:
- Effort administrators should review the current effort commitments and identify potential issues or questions in preparation for the meeting with the faculty member
- Email a list of the potential issues/questions to the faculty member prior to the meeting to allow the faculty member preparatory time
- Review the current effort plan together
- Decide on a course of action to resolve open issues, e.g., submit salary distribution changes, process and eAPF for summer effort, request sponsor prior approval for reductions greater than 25%, etc.
- Record action items such as prior approval requests and payroll distribution changes for future reference. A follow-up email to the faculty after the meeting to capture the results of the quarterly meeting is recommended.
How frequently should effort be reviewed and updated?
Quarterly verifications are required per the University Effort Management and Reporting policy. Unit effort administrators should schedule quarterly meetings with each faculty member and facilitate the review of their Commitments by Person report. Additionally, if the faculty member is a PI they need to verify personnel charges on each of their projects by comparing the Personnel Commitments tab to the Payroll Distribution information in the Project Summary within the PI Portal.
Quarterly verifications during the annual budgeting process is a great opportunity to have the initial payroll distribution for the upcoming fiscal year align with the Commitment by Person report.
Combine a verification with the certification discussion - Schedule a quarterly verification of the current fiscal year with the discussion of the effort certification period with faculty. This approach makes it more efficient for everyone and reduces retroactive cost transfers!
How do I view my Commitment by Person report?
In the PI portal, click on the "Sponsored Commitments" menu item on the left of the screen, and use the search options to pull up your effort commitment report.
Where can I see my pending additional payment (eAPF) information?
All eAPFs and their status can be viewed in PeopleSoft HR by following this navigation: Navigator > Manager Self Service > UVM Online Forms > UVM Additional Pay Requests > Additional Pay Request
How do I view a list of personnel with commitments in my project?
In the PI Portal click on the “PI Portal: Search for Projects” menu item on the left of the screen and use the search option for “Award PI” to pull up a list of all projects that require quarterly effort verification of personnel charges. Click on the hyperlink to a project to be reviewed. Navigate to the “Personnel Commitments” tab to review the commitments per person. Historically, commitments were only entered for key personnel and faculty on sponsored projects and were broken down by budget period. After reviewing the personnel commitments, review the “Payroll Information” tab to assess if personnel is distributed correctly based on the effort they are applying to the project. Reach out to individuals to confirm if any effort changes are required and submit appropriate payroll changes as necessary.
How do I verify all personnel effort charged to my projects?
Not all individuals charged to a project will have a commitment set up. Only faculty will have commitments in the Personnel Commitments tab. Therefore, it is important to verify all effort charged to the project. The “Transaction Detail” tab of the PI Portal displays all payroll actuals by person that have already been charged to the project including any electronic additional pay forms (eAPF) that have already been paid. This should be reviewed in conjunction with the payroll distribution details by person found on the "Payroll Information" tab to verify if any future planned effort changes need to be updated on individual distribution forms.
What is the source of the commitment information in the PI Portal?
Effort commitments are derived based on the proposed budget and budget narrative of the award documentation. Commitments are only entered for key personnel and faculty on sponsored projects.
Why are there columns for academic, calendar and summer commitments?
Individuals with a non-12-month primary appointment may have different levels of committed effort during the academic period and the summer period. Therefore, their commitment is broken down into the appropriate column(s) to facilitate effort management throughout the award. Typically, the summer months will be June, July and August. Individuals with a 12-month primary appointment will have their effort commitment set up under the calendar columns.
How do I update commitments?
If an effort commitment was set up incorrectly, please email SPA@uvm.edu to request a correction.
When an effort commitment is correct in the system, but the planned effort is changing:
- No prior approval is required if a person’s planned effort has changed and is within the 25% reduction threshold and less than a 3-month disengagement for the budget period. In this case, make a note of your review and the planned effort and submit all necessary payroll changes to have the correct effort allocated to the project. No further action is needed.
- Email SPA@uvm.edu if the person is key personnel and the planned effort change exceeds the 25% reduction threshold and/or is more than a 3-month disengagement and prior sponsor approval is required.
Where can I find more information about an active project?
Please see SPA’s PI Portal Job Aid (PDF).
Where can I find information about a pending proposal?
UVMClick has a few different custom reports. To navigate to the reports in UVMClick select Grants > Reports > Custom Reports and then in the filter box enter: Investigators on Proposals. The following four reports are suggested by SPA.
- Investigator on Proposals – All States
- Investigator on Proposals – In Development
- Investigator on Proposals (Other than PI) – by Investigator
- Investigator on Proposals (PI only) – by Investigator
Where can I document the results of the effort verification?
The documented completion of the verification review scope, verification results and applicable action items from the quarterly verification is important for future verification reviews, and establishing an audit trail of this payroll allocation internal control. It is recommended that effort verification results be documented in PeopleSoft by clicking on the “Add/View/Edit Comments” button from the individual’s Sponsored Effort Commitments page.
For additional guidance please see the Documenting Results and Completing Action Items section of the Effort Verification User Guide (PDF).
Effort Reporting System (ERS): Certification
UVM's Effort Reporting System (ERS) is a web-based certification tool that provides faculty the ability to quickly assess whether their payroll charged to sponsored agreements is reasonable in relation to work performed during a certification period (fiscal year).
Using the ERS Certification Module (CERT)
For ERS users who have a notification menu item in the ERS CERT module, ERS notification functionality is an important tool to efficiently communicate with other University personnel who have an ERS role. When you select a certain ERS role, all ERS users with your selected role will be selected as recipients of the email. You can deselect specific recipients to target your recipients. Common examples of using ERS notifications are:
- Pre-Reviewers: Prompting pre-reviewers to start and/or complete the pre-review process so certifiers may begin their certification reviews/approvals.
- Certifiers: Communicating to certifiers who have forms ready to certify their review/certifications. Scheduling meetings to support their effort review, prompting the certifier to review/certify their effort form(s) or letting them know about the deadline are examples of communications to certifiers.
- Other Department Coordinators: Communicate to other department coordinators regarding reassignments of ERS roles for effort forms.
Discretion on the number of notifications to certifiers should be exercised to ensure effective use of the certifier's time.
Institutional Base Salary (IBS) Definition
Please see the Effort Management and Reporting on Sponsored Agreements Policy (PDF) for the definition of Institutional Base Salary (IBS). UVM-compensated activities commonly excluded from an individual’s 100% effort include:
- Continuing Education coursework development and teaching (except for external sponsor agreements)
- Temporary additional salary for work outside the term of one’s regular appointment that is not included in an employee’s performance review or evaluation
- Expense reimbursements such as cell phones, childcare, clothing, medical co-pay, or personal vehicle use for UVM business
- Basic life insurance coverage
- Stipends for Fellowships
- Performance pay or awards for outstanding professional contributions
- Incentive practice income under faculty practice plans
Frequently Asked Questions
Who has to certify?
Faculty, staff, and students whose payroll charges are directly charged or is cost-shared on a sponsored agreement must have their effort certified. The employee is the default certifier in ERS. Employees such as employed graduate students may have their effort certified by the Principal Investigator or a responsible official who has suitable means of verification regarding the person's effort. The reassignment of the certifier for an employee's effort in ERS is performed by your designated ERS department administrator.
What is the significance of certifying an effort report?
Certified effort forms are the equivalent of sworn statements about the correctness and substantial accuracy of your commitment of labor to each project. In recent years, federal funding agencies have greatly increased their scrutiny of these reports. UVM's ability to justify these time records could be the source of preventing serious difficulties for both the University and individual researchers.
What is the time period being certified?
The time period for certification aligns with the University's fiscal year (July through June).
May someone certify effort for someone else?
Yes. A Principal Investigator or responsible official may certify for someone. Keep in my that these individuals are required to have first hand knowledge or suitable means of verification to certify for someone else. For example, Principal Investigators typically certify for graduate students.
When do I certify in ERS?
Effort certifications are required once a year. Since the University's fiscal year (July-June) is certification period, the effort forms are available for review starting in August and are requested to be completed by the end of September. A detailed instruction aid with screenshots is available for the certifier to log in and navigate through the certification process.
How do I know when it is time to certify?
Early August is the typical time when effort forms are created. You will receive an email notification from the designated Pre-Reviewer of your effort form. The Pre-Review process is the first step in the certification process and it provides an opportunity to assess the readiness of the effort form on behalf of the certifier. Before the Pre-Reviewer pushes the effort form to the certifier, the Pre-Reviewer may contact you to discuss potential issues/questions.
When effort forms become available, what do you recommend doing first?
Reassigning effort form roles is important prior to starting the pre-review step. Since you may have to obtain clarification from the certifier before finishing the pre review step, the certifier assignment need to be correct.
If a change is warranted, what action do I need to take?
If the payroll effort percentages are not reasonable on the effort form in relation to work performed on sponsored agreements, contact your designated departmental/unit administrator to initiate the changes. Per the University’s cost transfer policy, thorough and documented justification is required for any cost transfer request.
Whom should I contact for help?
The primary contact will be your designated Pre-Reviewer assigned to your effort form. The Pre-Reviewer is an administrator from within the home department of your primary appointment.
What is the process for certifying effort for terminated employees?
Employees who terminate during the fiscal year and are not available to certify their effort will have their effort form reassigned to the PI or a responsible official with suitable means of verification. The new certifier must have firsthand knowledge or suitable means of verification of the applied of the terminated employee. The effort on demand report in ERS can be used as a source document by the reassigned certifier.
Are certified effort reports available in ERS?
Yes. Certified effort forms are archived and available for the certifier to reference in ERS. Printing the effort form and obtaining a PDF version of the effort form are other options in ERS.
What happens if someone does not certify their effort?
Effort reporting is a federal requirement and is the key source document for salary and benefit charges to a sponsored agreement. The University of Vermont must be in compliance with the Federal Regulations, otherwise, the University may face risks such as audit findings, refunds, fines, and losing future federal funding. The individual faculty member may face risks such as losing an award, being debarred from receiving federal funding, and possible civil and criminal charges if fraud is involved.
After the University deadline, notifications from Financial & Cost Accounting Services will occur to the assigned certifiers and department administrators to complete the certification process in ERS. After five business days of the communication, any remaining delinquencies will result in a cost transfer of each person's salaries and benefits from all sponsored agreements to the department/unit general fund chart string. 100% compliance is required.
Unit Effort Administrators and ERS Roles
Effort administrators for units are responsible to be the first-line responders on effort management and reporting questions including the use of ERS for their respective units. Effort administrators should be proficient in using the ERS system in their assigned ERS role. Based on how a unit is administratively organized to support effort reporting, administrators may be assigned to different roles within the ERS module. Financial & Cost Accounting Services (FCAS) will collaborate with you on determining what role assignments best fits your operating unit.
Available ERS Roles and Definitions
Dept Coordinator (DC)/Sub-Dept Coordinator (SUBDC)
The DC/SUBDC is responsible for facilitating the effort reporting process within their department. The process should be efficient, credible, and allow for the certification processes to be completed in a timely and accurate manner. Specific key responsibilities are:
- Ensure compliance with effort reporting requirements for federal agencies as well as other sponsors
- Disseminate effort reporting policies and procedures to their department
- Provide hands-on training to those required to certify their effort
- Be available to answer questions regarding effort policy
- Determine cost sharing is being captured properly
- Determine cost transfers are made within the boundaries of institutional policy
- Ensure effort forms are completed in a timely fashion
- Delegate Pre- and Post-Review duties when appropriate (if applicable)
- Monitor department completion using ERS reports
- Follow up with delinquent employees
- Ensure the effort form appropriately represents the employee’s effort profile
- Conduct quality assurance(QA) on completed effort plans and certified effort forms to assess Pre-Reviewers' and Post-Reviewers' proficiency in ERS
Pre-Reviewers are a vital part of the effort certification process. The Pre-Reviewer(s) of each department are expected to review the ERS effort forms and facilitate any appropriate adjustments based on the input of the certifier of the effort form. Key responsibilities are:
- Assess and complete the Pre-Review process step on assigned effort forms
- Use the ERS cost transfer pending functionality to place the appropriate effort form on hold (Initiate a CT) until the payroll related change has been imported into ERS and verify the change is correct
- Assist the Department Coordinator of their department in facilitating a timely and efficient process for those required to certify their effort
- Assist the Certifiers by keeping them informed of Federal regulations, University policies and applicable procedures regarding effort reporting
The role of Pre-Reviewer may be assigned to one individual in the department, or to several different individuals. The role assignments are determined by the operating unit/department.
When changes have been made by the certifier and subsequently certified, the Post-Reviewer will review the effort form and determine appropriate action. Otherwise, a Post Review is not required for certified effort forms without changes. When required, the Post-Reviewer must ensure effort certified on an account basis is consistent with the salaries charged and/or cost sharing commitments are fulfilled. Cost sharing and/or cost transfers must be recorded accordingly in the PeopleSoft HR system.
Division Head (DH)
The Division Head role allows a hierarchical report view for senior academic administrators such as Departmental Chairs or Associate Deans. There may be only 1 DH role assigned per unit in the CERT module. Typically, the DH role will be assigned to a person in the Dean's office of a unit.
Assigning ERS Roles
Division Heads and Department Coordinators may assign certain roles to other individuals in ERS, as shown in the table below. Division Head and Department Coordinator role assignment changes must be submitted to Finance & Cost Accounting Services (FCAS).
|Role||No. of Possible Users per Department||Assigned By|
|Division Head (DH)||1||FCAS|
|Dept Coordinator (DC)||1||FCAS|
|Sub Dept Coordinator (SUBDC)||Multiple||DH or DC|
|Pre-Reviewer||1||DH or DC|
|Post-Reviewer||1||DH or DC|
|Certifier||Multiple||DC or SUBDC|
Reassigning Effort Form Roles
Department Coordinators or Sub-Department Coordinators may reassign roles for an effort form in the ERS-CERT module. When the default assigned individual is not the appropriate person to perform their assigned role(s) on an effort form, the role(s) may be reassigned to the appropriate person. The following considerations are recommended in determining whether role(s) should be reassigned:
- Certifier Role - Is the individual terminated from the University? Is the individual knowledgeable about his/her effort on sponsored agreements? Does the PI have firsthand knowledge of the individual's effort and want to review/approve the effort?
- Pre Reviewer Role - Will someone outside the unit be certifying the effort form for an individual whose primary appointment is within your unit but whose sponsored activity is outside your unit?
- Post Reviewer Role - Would it be better if the post reviewer be assigned within the Unit to be aware of effort changes by the certifier?
- Assign to a different Sub Dept - Should all of the roles of the effort form be reassigned to a different Sub Department?
Before reassigning a role on an effort form, best practice is to confirm with the receiving unit effort administrator that the reassignments of roles are appropriate.
Reassignment Restrictions: Active faculty must certify for themselves and department administrators may only certify for themselves.