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. 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).
Effort Reporting System (ERS)
UVM's Effort Reporting System (ERS) is a web-based tool with two modules:
- The Committed Effort Module (CEM) provides functionality for faculty to efficiently manage and plan effort on sponsored agreements.
- The Certification module (CERT) 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).
Off-campus access to ERS now requires duo authentication. If you can’t reach the ERS login page, try duo authentication using Cisco AnyConnect VPN. Your UVM Netid and password are used to log into the ERS system. If you need to reset your UVM Netid Password, go the UVM IT account page.
Note: Recently implemented ERS version 10 includes changes to its navigation and format. For experienced ERS users, a review of the updated ERS CERT Module user guide (PDF) is recommended.
Using the ERS Committed Effort Module (CEM)
CEM provides an efficient tool for faculty to manage their awarded commitments from pending proposal through the final report on a sponsored agreement. Effort plans in CEM are accessible to assigned effort administrators to efficiently distribute payroll and initiate additional payments for sponsored agreement activity. The risk of not meeting sponsor regulations is mitigated through the use of this important effort management tool.
Quarterly Effort Verification Questions
- Are all of my current active awards represented in my effort plan?
- What effort do I need to apply on each grant during the remaining time of the budget period to meet my effort commitment?
- Are they any compliance issues (e.g., NSF 2 months rule)?
- 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?
- What are my future effort plans, e.g., likely proposals to be awarded?
- Should payroll documents be initiated to pay and/or distribute payroll to reflect effort or cost share?
Quarterly Effort Verification Steps
- Principal Investigator reviews personnel charges on their sponsored agreements (Parent accounts) as part of their quarterly verification.
- Run the Actual Payroll by Account report in ERS-CEM to obtain a list of active PI accounts and review personnel fiscal year Y-T-D charges.
- 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 prospective changes in effort on existing or new accounts?
- 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 using the content box on the PI effort plan or an email to all involved parties.
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 updating the faculty effort plans?
The faculty member is responsible for their effort plan. However, the unit effort administrator should schedule quarterly meetings with each faculty member and facilitate a review of their ERS effort plan. Quarterly effort verifications require the faculty member or a designee to edit the plan and save it, regardless of whether there are changes to the effort plan. The following business practices are recommended during quarterly verifications:
- Effort administrators should review the current effort plan including the ERS compliance report 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 especially new/updated sponsored agreement commitment information
- Decide on a course of action to resolve open issues, e.g., monthly commitments greater than 100%
- Edit the effort plan regardless of whether there are any changes and save the plan. All applicable changes should be made in the effort plan. Use the comment box for applicable notes and save the plan as either draft or active. The ERS system will record the date of the saved plan.
- Record action items such as prior approval requests and payroll distribution changes for future reference (use the Comment Box available in the ERS plan). A follow-up email to the faculty after the meeting to capture the results of the quarterly meeting is recommended.
- When editing the effort plan, a comment box is available to note actions items and will be saved as part of the effort plan
How frequently should the effort plans be 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 ERS effort plan.
- Annual budget process - 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 current active ERS effort plan.
- 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!
What are the different types of effort plans?
The following three types of effort plans including suspended plans exist in ERS:
- Suspended Plan - A suspended effort plan is meant to trigger a review of the effort plan by the faculty member and should be monitored by effort administrators.The initial effort plan for an individual defaults to a suspended plan. When a new commitment or an updated existing commitment is imported into ERS, an active plan reverts back to a suspended plan classification with the new/updated information tagged with an icon.
- Draft Plan - A draft effort plan is created by editing the current effort plan and clicking the draft button. The Draft Plan allows the user to model various scenarios.
- Active Plan - An active effort plan signifies the faculty member's best estimates on prospective effort for their current active sponsored agreements. Payroll distributions such as the salary distribution forms and additional payments for summer research should be based on active effort plans.
How do I view my effort plan?
Click on the "Manage by Individual" menu item under the CEM tab in ERS and click on your name to view your plan.
What is the source of the commitment information in the effort plan?
Effort commitments are derived based on the specific budget worksheet and budget narrative of the award documentation. Payroll transactions are imported from Peoplesoft HR system. Pending proposals are imported from InfoEd.
How do I update an effort plan?
To update a plan, click on the 'Edit' button at the bottom of the page. The edit button will open up the effort plan cells for editing. Once 'Edit' is clicked the user can update their planned effort. You may save an effort plan as follows:
- Draft Plan - Click on the 'Save as Draft' button.
- Click on 'Save as Active' button. Provided the effort plan is in compliance and does not have monthly commitments over 100%, the active plan will be saved.
May the user switch back and forth between an active and draft plan?
Yes. The user can toggle between active and draft plans by clicking on the 'Switch to Draft Plan' or 'Switch to Active Plan'. The draft and active plan hyperlink will show the user the last time the draft or active plan was updated.
Why is my effort plan in suspense?
Effort plans that have not been saved as a draft or an active plan will be classified as a suspense plan. A suspense plan should be edited and saved to signify that the effort plan information reflects the effort plan of the person. If a commitment is new or changed in the weekly imported data into ERS, a draft or active plan will be reclassified as suspense.
What does the "Actuals" line of data represent?
The Actuals line represents the prorated percentage of someone's total pay for a month that was distributed to each specific sponsored account. After each payroll is posted, the payroll distribution transactions are imported into ERS to retrospectively assess whether the committed effort is being met on a monthly basis.
What does the ACCOUNT represent?
The ACCOUNT definition in the effort plan represents the combination of the Contract-Project number (Parent Account) associated with a sponsored award in PeopleSoft. Typically, the contract number in PeopleSoft is the assigned InfoEd number. On occasion, a unique contract number starting with "CON" is used for special scenarios such as federal formula grants. If a sponsored award in PeopleSoft has multiple project numbers, a parent account will be created for each combination.
Child Account - The actual PeopleSoft chartstrings to which payroll charges are in PeopleSoft has a format of "Project-Function-Dept-Fund-Source-Program-Purpose-Operating Unit". The number of child accounts may range from 1 to 3 depending on whether cost share or salary cap cost share are used to allocate someone's payroll charges to a sponsored agreement.
How do I know that my effort plan is in compliance?
The CEM functionality uses red icons and has a compliance report to aid faculty in assessing compliance. Common compliance issues highlighted are:
- An effort plan has more than 100% of commitments during a specific month.
- An effort plan was saved with commitment reductions by more than 25% than the original commitments
- NSF commitments total more than 2 months during a fiscal year period
Will the user know if the budgeted effort (commitment) falls above or below the planned effort levels?
Yes. Click on the 'Compliance Report' to view a comparison of the budgeted commitment levels and the planned effort level on an award.
Will a user be alerted when an effort plan has monthly effort commitments which total more than 100%?
Yes. When an individual has budgeted effort commitments greater than 100% the user is notified in Section III, Unassigned Effort. The month(s) where over-commitments total greater than 100% will be highlighted with red font. In addition, the compliance report will list the months which are over-committed.
Will the user know if an effort plan is in compliance with various agency regulations?
Generally, yes. The user can check for compliance by clicking on the 'Compliance Report' button. This report will provide the user with the information needed to determine if adjustments are needed on the effort plan to become compliant.
What if the user has a pending proposal?
Pending proposals are listed under the Proposal Section of the effort plan. The user may click on the pending proposal to obtain important context such as the PI and project title. The Proposal section cannot be updated by the user but it is refreshed weekly with InfoEd pending proposals.
How are "Summer" commitments identified in effort plan?
For individuals with a non-12 month primary appointment, summer monthly columns will be identified in yellow. The number of summer months will be identified by person in ERS. Typically, the summer months will be June, July and August. ERS translates person-months into percentages based on the number of summer months established for an individual on a particular award. For example, a 9-month faculty member has a commitment of 1 month. ERS functionality will display a 1-month summer commitment by showing 33% for each of the three summer months. For planning purposes, ERS assumes the summer commitment is consistent across the summer period.
What if the user wants to view more information about an active award?
Click on the Account hyperlink. A pop-up window will display helpful context about the award. The PI, project title, sponsor's name and the person' role (PI, CP, OKP, OT). Faculty particularly will find this context useful.
What activities are included in the Non-Sponsored activities section of the effort plan?
Non-Sponsored activities which fall within the University's Institutional Base Salary (IBS) definition can be combined and entered on the available single line in the Non-Sponsored Accounts section (this is optional). Click the Non-Sponsored Activities hyperlink to obtain a list of common University compensated non-sponsored activities included in someone's IBS.
- The Actual Payroll line in the Non-Sponsored activities section is the aggregated monthly payroll % distributed to the all non-sponsored activities.
- Departmental suspense payroll is aggregated with other actual payroll distributed on active sponsored awards and displayed under the "Projects without Commitment" line in the Sponsored activity section of the effort plan.
Can the user view the award details for different budget periods?
Yes. The user can click the button and view budget period specific commitments such as a breakdown of the commitment(s) (academic, summer) between the award and cost share.
Can the user save a note on the effort plan for reference?
Yes. In edit mode, the user may save a note in the comments box of an effort plan. This strategy is a convenient way for an effort administrator to communicate to the faculty member on potential issues/questions/changes as well as document action plans resulting from a quarterly verification.
Does the CEM module track prior approval requests for effort reductions?
Yes. When a plan is saved with effort reductions and a sponsor requires prior approval, you will be prompted to submit a prior approval request. ERS will classify the prior approval as pending until a response is received from the sponsor. The specific sponsored agreement will not be available to edit until the pending request is approved or rejected.
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 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 unit. 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 in the two ERS modules. Cost Accounting Services 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) - both CEM and CERT modules
The DC/SUBDC is responsible for facilitating the effort reporting process within their department. The process should be efficient, credible, and allow for the quarterly effort verifications and certification processes to be completed in a timely and accurate manner. Specific key responsibilities are:
- Ensuring compliance with effort reporting requirements for federal agencies as well as other sponsors
- Disseminating 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
Plan Manager - CEM module only
A Plan Manager role may be assigned to manage their own effort plan or other effort plans.
Pre-Reviewer - CERT module only
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.
- Assists the Department Coordinator of their department in facilitating a timely and efficient process for those required to certify their effort.
- Assists 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.
Post-Reviewer - CERT module only
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) - both CEM and CERT modules
The Division Head role allows a hierarchical report view for senior academic administrators such as Departmental Chairs or Associate Deans. At UVM, the DH role is used differently depending on the ERS module:
- Committed Effort Module (CEM): The Division head role may be assigned to several individuals and can be used to accommodate access to individuals requiring access across departments. DH roles will typically be assigned to the Department Chair and the Dean's office personnel responsible for faculty affairs.
- Certification Module (CERT): 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 Cost Accounting Services.
- Assigning Edit Functionality (PDF) (UVM login required)
- Assigning Plan Manager role (PDF) (UVM login required)
|Role||Module||No. of Possible Users per Department||Assigned By|
|Division Head (DH)||CEM||Multiple||Cost Accounting Services|
|CERT||1||Cost Accouting Services|
|Dept Coordinator (DC)||CEM||Multiple||Cost Accounting Services|
|CERT||1||Cost Accounting Services|
|Sub Dept Coordinator (SUBDC)||CEM||Multiple||DH or DC|
|CERT||1||DH or DC|
|Pre-Reviewer||CERT||1||DH or DC|
|Post-Reviewer||CERT||1||DH or DC|
|Certifier||CERT||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.
ERS Committed Effort Module (CEM)
ERS Certification Module (CERT)
- Certifier User Guide (PDF) (UVM login required)
- Certification Module User Guide (PDF) (UVM login required)