Monday, July 28, 2014

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University Made Pay Adjustments and Defined More Career Paths This Fall

Handing out the recent 3 percent state bonus is not all the University of Virginia has done for its employees this year in the way of compensation. 

With the help of $250,000 in funding from the Board of Visitors in both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 fiscal years, University Human Resources worked with schools and units across Grounds to award raises to over 400 of the University’s lowest-paid employees last year and to nearly 200 more since July 2012. 

Compensation initiatives began  last July, when the minimum hiring rate was raised to $10.65 for 100 classified and University staff.  This year the rate went to $11.30 per hour.

This fall also saw the implementation of “career paths” in some areas across Grounds, notably Facilities Management, where a career path for housekeeping staff began last year. 

As employees complete identified training programs and master specific skills, they can advance through their career path and receive salary increases.  For example, an employee might complete an “Essential Workskills” course, take a computer basics class, learn to operate new equipment, or obtain a commercial driver’s license to be eligible to move forward. This year, a landscaping path was added, with positive results. A security guard career path is also being developed.  

Said Keith Lewis, a Facilities Management housekeeper, “Career paths are a great thing for employees. It gives us goals to try and reach. I started as a [Stage] One on the path, now I am going up to a [Stage] Three. It’s a great thing to move up on the paths, to advance and better ourselves at the same time. There’s opportunity there, and room for advancement.” 

Last year, 46 staff received promotions through career path programs. This fall, 19 employees received promotions – with salary increases ranging from $500 to $1,542 – for reaching career path milestones. 

“Career paths offer a great opportunity to advance without waiting for openings,” said Judy Kingrea, a housekeeping supervisor in Jordan Hall. “Before the staff had to wait to move up. It’s up to them now; they have ability to accomplish the goals that are set and meet the requirements on their own. We’re here to help them as well. We’re here to give them the training and the chance to take the classes to accomplish these goals.”  

Additionally, in early October the University gave increases ranging from $200 to $8,400 annually to more than 60 University staff employees whose pay fell below the minimum of their market range.  

“We are committed to improving pay conditions for our lowest-paid employees,” said Susan Carkeek, vice president and chief human resources officer. “They are the most affected by the lack of salary increases over the past few years. We use the market ranges and pay-for-performance to identify opportunities for as many University staff as possible.”  

Merit was a factor in all of the increases provided; employees below their market range would not be eligible for a career path promotion or a salary increase if they were not strong performers. 

Twelve employees were given compression adjustments in October as well, typically in response to staff in their areas receiving minimum hiring rate adjustments.

How Salaries Are Funded 

Like the recent bonus, funding for these increases comes from a variety of sources. In its annual budget process, the state appropriates one-third of salary funding for employees who are considered 100 percent state-funded, and tuition provides the other two-thirds. 

For employees who are not state-funded, the University funds the employee’s regular paycheck through a combination of tuition, federal and private grants and contracts, sales and services, gifts and the endowment. 

If an employee is funded through grants and contracts, that grant or contract pays for salaries. The same is true for auxiliaries like the U.Va. Bookstore or Parking & Transportation, who fund their employees’ salaries through their operating budgets.  

University Human Resources’ newly hired compensation manager, Alison Miller, said more increases are in the works. 

“We still have BOV funds available to us,” she said. “We’ve had such amazing support from the schools and units in offering up their own departmental funds to match the BOV money. It’s allowing us to plan increases in the year ahead that specifically target University staff employees who are low in their market ranges and rated high in performance.” 

She added that while specific career path projects are not in the works for all University staff, an initiative focusing on updating the pay ranges and job groups for all staff is under way.

Staff Survey Yields Suite of Actions for Improving Workplace

“Strategic salary adjustments advance the President’s commitment to the University’s lowest-paid employees and respond to employee interest in more transparent career development and promotional opportunities,” Carkeek said. 

Calling employee pay a “pressing issue” after nearly four years without a state-funded increase, 

the final report of the Staff Survey Advisory Committee, rather than recommending a University-funded, across-the-board salary increase, suggested seeking local funds to address some salary issues, similar to the recent strategic increases for the lowest-paid employees.

The report also called for looking into ways to loosen restrictions on mid-year salary increases and suggests looking into making better use of reward and recognition programs.

In addition, the report suggests that University Human Resources expand its communications about the total value of U.Va.’s benefits package, including the costs of benefits such as health insurance, the education subsidy and employee discounts.

 

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