March 3, 2009 — Nearly 100 University of Virginia employees opted to switch to the new University staff plan during last fall's open enrollment period, University Human Resources reported.
Eighty-four classified staff and 13 administrative and professional faculty members switched to the plan. The highest number of enrollees came from the Medical School, with 23 people opting in. Units with seven or eight employees who switched include Finance, Human Resources, Management and Budget, Development and Public Affairs, and Arts & Sciences. About 4,400 employees were eligible to elect University staff status.
Almost 1,500, or 28 percent of, U.Va. employees are now University staff, distributed across all schools and administrative offices. Most were hired after June 30, 2006, when the new designation took effect, and were automatically designated as University staff.
The new University staff plan arose from the Commonwealth's Restructured Higher Education Financial and Administrative Operations Act, which took effect in 2005 after the General Assembly granted greater operational autonomy to several of Virginia's public universities.
"The new University Staff Human Resources Plan is more responsive to employee needs, the institution's needs and to the marketplace," said Susan Carkeek, vice president and chief human resources officer. "Designed by employees, for employees, the new plan focuses on career development, meaningful goal-setting and evaluation, pay-for-performance, and excellent training and professional development. The employee task forces did an amazing job identifying best practices from across higher education and the private sector."
All classified employees and administrative and professional faculty whose jobs are not primarily academic are eligible to change their status to University staff during open enrollments, which must be offered at least every other year under the agreement with the state. The University will offer another opportunity to enroll this fall.
The University staff plan is designed to coordinate employee career development, performance management and compensation in a more meaningful way than the classified or administrative and professional faculty systems.
Under the University staff plan, supervisors and employees identify career goals, the performance management process tracks them, and the compensation process rewards them, Carkeek said.
Career development is organized around a series of career paths, providing resources and support for career growth and providing managers greater flexibility to reward employee competence and to meet ever-changing demands.
In addition, a new leave policy is almost finalized that will differ from the classified system.
With 34 percent, the College of Arts & Sciences has the largest percentage of its employees who are University staff; the McIntire School of Commerce has the least at 8 percent. The Office of the Provost and Development and Public Affairs both have 28 percent.
The data on University staff enrollment show the new enrollees come from a cross-section of the University, in terms of employee types, pay bands and even years of service. Of the 97 employees who enrolled, 7 percent are in the "executive" category, 42 percent are "operational & administrative" staff and 51 percent are "managerial & professional," the new University staff employment designations.
University staff received a new benefit this year: a supplemental annual credit of $300 provided to full-time University staff with annualized salaries at or below $40,000 per year, which they can use offset benefit deductions, such as the U.Va. Health Plan, parking, supplemental life insurance, tax-deferred savings plans and fitness center memberships. Part-time University staff who are eligible received a pro-rated amount of the annual credit.
"While University Human Resources is pleased with the number of enrollees, we believe enrollments were tempered by several factors, including the uncertainty around the draft leave plan, the overall economic climate, and a 'wait-and-see' perspective on the part of employees," said Carkeek, who made the switch to University staff. "UHR is now developing assessment tools to help determine what is most effective about the new HR plan, why it is effective and how it can improve."