President Burnett's August 2nd email
We want to thank everyone who has exhibited openness and good will during the University’s effort to develop an improved classification system for staff positions. This process has been very hard -- at times straining the endurance of people working on it and the patience of people trying to understand how it may affect them. We know this. But the effort is necessary if we are to achieve a classification framework that respects the value and integrity of our staff, that is as simple and coherent as any human system can be, and that is fair and consistent in its application across our campuses in Moscow and statewide.
Here is where the process stands today: Under the guidance of experienced consultants, and with the help of everyone who provided information through the position description questionnaires and related communications, our Department of Human Resources has developed a set of twelve classification levels with associated salary range projections. Over time, these classification levels and ranges will provide a foundation for improving staff compensation at the University of Idaho. But we candidly acknowledge, as we must, that our rate of progress will depend upon the economy, upon student enrollments, and upon actions by the Governor and Legislature.
The Council of Idaho Higher Education Presidents, chaired this year by the President of the University of Idaho, has issued a joint statement urging the State Board of Education to request that a salary increase (“Change in Employee Compensation,” or CEC) be included in the Governor’s next proposed Executive Budget. We will advocate vigorously in support of this request.
Meanwhile, some immediate aspects of the classification project are becoming clear:
The Idaho State Board of Education (University of Idaho Board of Regents) will review our classification proposal during the Board’s meeting this month in Pocatello. After that meeting, if the State Board approves the classification proposal, the new classification framework and salary table will be posted on the HR website, along with an explanation of the criteria used in creating this framework. In addition, heads of larger departments and all division heads will receive a list showing the classification of positions in their area. On the same day the classification framework is posted, staff members will have access to the online job description portal which will include the new classification title and the pay grade for individual positions in the template of the job description. It will be important to everyone to bear in mind that the classification effort is focused on positions, not on specific persons. The assigned place of a job in the classification framework reflects the content of the work and the scope of the responsibility; it does not represent a judgment upon the “worth” of any specific person.
Much study and analysis have gone into the new classification framework; accordingly, the framework is expected to be adopted and implemented with few, if any, changes. Nevertheless, there will be an appeals process for questions raised about particular positions, and there will be staff representatives on the appeals panel.
The new classification framework will not result in a salary reduction for any current staff members, nor will it require a change in established, familiar “working titles” for their jobs.
Establishing new classification levels with associated salary ranges will unavoidably result in identifying some staff (a relatively small number) whose current salaries fall below the range for the classification to which their positions belong. After devoting much thought to this issue, we believe such employees should receive a modest salary adjustment bringing them up to the lower boundary of their classification salary range. We realize this may create some compression near the low end of the range, and we regret that the University does not presently have resources to resolve all compression issues throughout the various salary ranges; but providing fairness to our most disadvantaged staff colleagues is the right thing to do.
Establishing new classification levels and associated salary ranges will also result in identifying some staff (again, a relative small number) whose current salaries – for one reason or another – are above the range for the classification to which their positions belong. We have devoted much thought to this issue (including early consideration of a suggestion that salaries of such employees ought to be “frozen” while other employees “catch up” with future salary increases). We have concluded, however, upon the grounds of fairness and productivity, that such staff should remain eligible for future merit or across-the-board salary increases. In the long run, resignations and retirements will result in many such positions coming back within their respective salary ranges.
The future hiring of new staff will present challenges. Although classification and compensation are topics separate from hiring practices, the topics are related. The University seeks to employ a highly qualified workforce, and is subject to market forces when doing so. On the other hand, the integrity of the new classification system, and the fair operation of the projected salary ranges (which have been developed through a process including market analysis), will depend on establishing – and sticking to -- a practice of hiring new staff at salary levels that avoid (or minimize) compression issues and that provide room for future salary growth. This, in turn, will require close collaboration and active cooperation between our Department of Human Resources and the hiring authorities (typically deans, department chairs, and other managers) in our academic and administrative units. Ordinarily, new hires will be offered salaries up to the first quartile within the applicable range, consistent with current practice. Hiring authorities could go up to a one-third level if they make a written finding of reasons and necessity. Such a written finding will be filed with HR and the relevant vice president. Any hiring at a salary above the one-third level would be extraordinary, requiring prior approval by the relevant vice president. A compression analysis by HR will be required for hiring at a salary level above the first quartile; it will not be required, but may be requested by the hiring authority, for hiring at a salary level up to the first quartile.
When making new hires, the hiring authorities and their respective search committees should strongly consider internal candidates in order to advance their professional development and career progression with the University. We are committed to providing more internal promotion opportunities and to making the hiring process more streamlined where practicable. We appreciate the ongoing efforts by Staff Affairs to research, identify, and recommend best practices in this area.
The foregoing paragraphs have been composed with input from Staff Affairs leadership, as well as from senior administrators and Faculty Senate leadership. Needless to say, our communication today is general, and undoubtedly there will be many specific questions. Accordingly, all staff members are invited to open meetings with University leaders – including the President -- at the following times and places (with call-in or video connections to be provided at statewide locations):
Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. - Administration Building Auditorium
Thursday, August 22, 2013 - 10:30 a.m. to noon - Administration Building Auditorium
After these meetings, or at any other time, questions may be emailed to Greg Walters, Executive Director of Human Resources (email@example.com). Every effort will be made to provide timely responses. If a question raises a policy issue, Greg will take it up promptly with Vice President Ron Smith and other senior administrators. We will post instructive questions and answers on the HR website.
There is no perfect classification or compensation system. But we will earnestly try to create the best framework our resources allow. The University of Idaho’s uncommonly devoted staff deserve that much. Again, we thank you.
What is the Purpose of the Classification Study?
The ability to recruit and retain quality talent requires a competitive and equitable compensation program that reflects the culture and work environment at the University of Idaho. That’s why a compensation program should be externally competitive, internally equitable, regularly updated, better understood and financially responsible. However, this requires a review of current practices.
There are excellent reasons to conduct a review or "study" of current practices.
These include but are not limited to the following:
- Providing the information necessary to make policies and processes more equitable and understandable.
- Creating a classification system that will group positions performing work at similar levels. This will allow us to fairly evaluate our compensation levels compared to relevant labor markets and put a plan in place to make adjustments and improvements in the coming years with respect to both external and internal equity. Our current system is largely unmanageable because there are too many individual job classifications and the system for exempt staff no longer exists.
- Producing updated job descriptions that better reflect the work performed, and in some cases, creating a logical career path within a particular type of work.
- Improving our ability to recruit and retain professional talent.