$900000 study will reclassify UW jobs, set compensation structure

The University of Wisconsin’s two-year effort to reclassify and set compensation for thousands of jobs also requires significant commitments of staff time within and beyond Human Resources offices.

“But it is needed,” said UW-Madison academic staff member Kevin Niemi, an outreach program manager. “It’s been over 30 years since we really examined our human resources system. The Title and Total Compensation Study will help us as individual employees and managers of people to understand more clearly how to advance in careers.”

“That’s a huge plus,” at UW-Madison, Niemi said.

The Title and Total Compensation Study is a joint project of UW-Madison and the UW System, which are splitting the cost of New York-based consultant Mercer, said UW System spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis.

UW’s contract with Mercer calls for charges not to exceed $900,000. Services include assessing job duties and responsibilities and developing titles, creating a compensation structure, reviewing benefits, and implementing new structures, at an estimated cost of $695,000. Reviews at six months and one, two and four years after implementation carry an estimated charge of $166,000.

UW campuses now have about 39,000 employees and thousands of job titles, which are confusing and don’t always accurately reflect job duties, explained a June, 2016 news release announcing the study. Compensation — direct pay plus the value of benefits — also may not be competitive, the news release said. A February 2017 news release announced the selection of Mercer following a request for proposals from consultants, but said nothing about the consultant price tag.

Mercer is a leader in compensation consulting for higher education and other organizations, said Wayne Guthrie, UW-Madison chief human resources officer. As many as 10 peer institutions — including Michigan, Indiana and California-Berkeley — are undertaking similar efforts, according to information from Guthrie’s office.

“By making this investment now, we can ensure our ability to attract and retain talent well into the future,” Guthrie said

In addition to the consultant, UW employees at various levels are working on the project. There is an advisory council with administrators, faculty and staff from several campuses. The UW System has a steering committee with representatives from a number of campuses working on the projects. In addition, each institution has a project team.

At UW-Madison, three human resources staffers are working full-time on the project, and others part time. Some 3,700 employees attended sessions in 2017, providing input on proposed “job families.”

While the study will compare UW’s pay and benefits to the market and recommend guidelines, pay increases are not part of the project.

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The biggest potential impact of the study is with staff rather than faculty, Guthrie told members of the University Committee, which leads UW-Madison shared governance Faculty Senate.

UW-Madison staff members who reach the maximum pay for their job classification now sometimes leave their position for something elsewhere in the university to get more money, committee members remarked. Guthrie said that after the title and compensation study is complete, “it should be very clear what you need to move up to the next level, so you don’t necessarily have to look for a new job.”

Niemi said that his job — outreach specialist III — has no advancement sequence.

“My job title has no opportunity for advancement. Clearly articulated career pathways will benefit staff on all campuses,” he said.

The process has respected shared governance, and “involved anyone who wanted to be involved,” said Niemi, chair of the Academic Staff Executive Committee. ‘We’re all professionals and deserve the best system to advance and carry on our jobs. This will help build morale.”

The study is slated for completion in March, 2019.

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