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9 April 2014

Staff Advisory Council

Meeting Minutes - April 9, 2014

Rose Maio opened the meeting at 10:30

Attendees: Rose Maio, Jacqui West, Delroy Griffiths, Mary Carr, Ben Wilson, Pattie Kim, Julie DiPietro, Deb Doherty, Vincent Vagnozzi, Christi Pappert, Susan Smythe, Michael Kappeler, Dorothy Kunzig

Ex-Officio Members: Pamela Prescod-Caesar, Zenobia Hargust

SAC Agenda 

Need a Rep for 101 S. Chester Rd. Circle

See packet for candidates p.1 - p.2 (the packet referred to is a document listing all nominees that was given to SAC members at the meeting).

Current SAC representatives with expiring terms will go back to their circles to look for nominees. Voting will be held for open positions with more nominees than the expected. Members of the circles will elect their rep from available nominees.

Q: Who represents Cunningham House staff?
A: Scott Circle Represents Arboretum personnel and Pearson represents Study Abroad staff.

Q: Should Circles be determined by physical location of offices or departmental? 
A: This question continues to be looked at by SAC reps.

SAC Questions

(Summer) Hiring process

If the position is longer than two weeks, managers should post the positions on the HR website (not candidate manager). Terry is working on a communication that reminds people of Pamela's email that already went to the hiring managers.

Q: What is the process of hiring?
A:Still goes through a hiring manager. If it's longer than 2 weeks the job is posted to the HR website. HR is encouraging hiring managers to consider 9-10 month employees for available summer positions and expand the search afterwards.

Q: We've already posted a job and have received applications from non 9-10 mo. employees... are we not keeping with current policies?
A: This is not a mandate however it is encouraged that hiring manager's present 9-10 mo. employees with the opportunity. This is a response to previous concerns regarding transparency for summer hiring process.

Q: Say I'm the head of a department, I can still hire a relative?
A: Yes. This is not a mandate. However, the supervisor cannot supervise a relative.

Childcare survey

Ben Wilson, SAC rep reported that there is a meeting on Friday at 2PM, to discuss the survey. First communication with actual data will be coming out at the end of April.

Q: How many responses to survey?
A: 200-300

Performance Management 

A staff member shared a list of questions regarding performance based increases. The list of questions is pasted below and an official response from HR can be found afterwards:

"Question 1: Because employees need immediate clarification on the recent changes to how salary increases will now be implemented, when will the College provide written documentation on the specifics of this new policy of pay-for-performance increases?

At the March 20, staff meeting, Sue announced that instead of a single percentage increase for all, that there would now be a range of increases, from 1.7% to 2.2% and above 2.2% for additional merit. In the interest of transparency and clarity, can you inform staff how specific information received from supervisors or department chairs translates into each percentage? What specific criteria will be used to differentiate between those earning 1.7% as opposed to those earning 1.8%, for example?

Question 2: Has the College considered the consequences on employee morale on instituting what comes down to minute variations in pay-for-performance increases? 
Not that long ago, staff was provided with one figure for their percent increase, with the understanding that if you performed your job as indicated by the criteria established for your position, you would receive that increase. By providing a range, staff will have to figure their percentage increases as reflected on their evaluations and then left to wonder what factors led to less than the full 2.2% increase. Such policies influence staff morale negatively and for such minute differences. For example, if a staff member earns $30,000 a year, a 1.7% increase results in an increase of $21.25 every two weeks and for 1.8%, the increase would be $21.50.  Should the College be discerning about 25 cents every two weeks based on subjective evaluations? If the College is sincere about building Community, as we've heard so much about lately, has the administration considered how creating divisions over nickel and dime increases will negatively impact that goal?

Question 3: Will the College provide information to employees regarding who is the supervisor responsible for the percentage increase? Most employees do not realize that it may not be their direct supervisor who assigns their percentage, but rather a supervisor at the next level. At this level of management, decisions on employee competence are evaluated through subjective, second-hand reporting. Some employees work with multiple supervisors and want to know how they arrive at a percentage increase. Without a clear idea of who is responsible for a percentage increase, employees find it difficult, if not impossible, to determine how to redress a grievance if they feel their performance has not been reflected in their pay.
Question 4: Why did the College institute these changes in policy without engaging the community in discussion, which is antithetical to building community and consensus?

Question 5:  What justification has the College provided to make these changes given that research shows that pay-for-performance does not work?
Question 6: If there is a limited pool of money for pay-for-performance increases within a department, does that mean that those limited resources will deny some employees the increase they deserve based their recommended performance increase? Does a raise above the minimum 1.7% only come at the expense of another employee?
Question 7: Are some departmental budgets privileged with larger budgets for salary increases, allowing for more pay-for-performance increases within one department compared to another?
Question 8: A percentage increase of 1.7% is just at the rate inflation, which is not even a cost-of-living increase. Given Peter Collings' series of articles in the Phoenix regarding the conservative endowment spending policy, does keeping wages stagnant figure into that policy?"

Official response from HR

The statement below captures HR's responses to the questions submitted to SAC re: performance increases...

"Dear Friends,

Among the many things that make Swarthmore so special are our employees, who are so deeply committed to supporting our students. From the faculty in the classroom, to those who keep our buildings clean and operational, to those providing student support, the College needs every faculty and staff member's contribution to our educational mission to ensure the future of the College for generations to come. Meaningful efforts are consistently undertaken to attract, retain, and motivate highly talented people to help our community prosper.

To help us meet those goals, the College has had in place a performance-based salary review process. Linking performance to a staff member's salary increase is a well-established compensation practice. However, the system has not been used consistently across departments.

Earlier this year, Human Resources held focus groups with nonsupervisory staff, department supervisors, members of the Staff Advisory Council, the Administrative Advisory Council, and the President's Staff in order to better understand our performance-based salary system and to help us modify it for clarity and consistency in the delineation of performance criteria and reinforcement of positive performance. The assessment model developed from these focus groups is now paired with performance management and salary administration, with the aim to improve equity across departments and boost staff morale.

The focus group conversations explored several issues: reassessment of ambiguous performance language, removal of numeric rating scales, inequitable assessment of employees in diverse departments, and lack of structure within the performance review system.

The result is a simplified, consolidated performance-assessment tool that maintains equitable and clear performance-rating definitions for all staff. The tool includes performance competencies that embody feedback received from the community and identifies professional development as a single goal for all staff members.

Market Data
As is typical for higher education, we consult three primary compensation data sources each year to obtain the market data (Kenexa, CUPA-HR and Western Management) used to devise ranges for each pay grade. Each year, approximately 100 positions are benchmarked across the grade structure to ensure that our salaries are competitive in the market within each grade. 

For several years, the College has worked diligently to strengthen its merit-based pay structure. The current range for 2014 for those staff members meeting the expectations of their position is 1.7 percent to 2.2 percent. There is a small discretionary pool for staff members who exceed expectations. Supervisors determine where in this range staff members fall, based on their performance.

Not all individuals perform at the same level. Staff members who consistently and positively contribute to the success of the College and who perform at exceptional levels deserve recognition, positive feedback, and a salary increase that exceeds that of a staff member whose performance is not meeting expectations. The performance ratings define those standards.

Performance Ratings for 2014
Exceeds Expectations:
For staff members who exceed the job standards in all key areas evaluated and whose major, outstanding achievements are seldom accomplished by an individual.

Meets Expectations:
For staff members who fully perform and meet job standards in the key areas evaluated. Could fall below standards in minor areas or may have exceeded standards in some areas.

Below Expectations:
For staff members with documented performance deficiency and who have not met standards in key areas evaluated. Significant short-term improvement is required for continued employment in the current position. Additional coaching, including the use of a formal performance-development plan, will be necessary. After the completion of the development plan, the staff member may be eligible for an increase.

Salary Process
In nonacademic departments, salary increase recommendations will be submitted by the staff member's direct supervisor and will require the approval of the respective president's staff member. In academic departments, faculty chairs will provide the provost with performance assessments for each employee, and the provost will determine salary-increase recommendations based on the assessment.

The current salary pool will enable staff members who meet expectations to receive a salary increase within the 1.7-2.2 percent range, provided their performance assessment supports this percentage of increase.

Every year, we encourage and coach supervisors and staff to talk about job expectations and performance. Last year, we had a high rate of participation in our performance-assessment program. Our goal is to develop a highly competent staff that will support our students in a rapidly changing world. New technologies require that we adapt, work smarter, and remain competitive so we may attract and retain talented staff members. Many of our peer institutions already are utilizing industry best practices in these areas.

If you would like to share other ideas about how to develop the College's performance-assessment program, please join us at a future focus group or roundtable discussion. These sessions are open to all staff and faculty chairs. Similar to last year, we will hold roundtable discussions with staff, supervisors, and faculty chairs to discuss the performance-assessment process in more detail during the next few weeks.

Best Regards,
Pamela Prescod-Caesar
Vice President for Human Resources"

Additional notes from the performance increse discussion

Pamela expressed disappointment [with the reaction] due to the many efforts over the past 2yrs. including conversations throughout the community (departments and groups) with the HR team members to clarify the process, articles in the Garnet Connection, and various emails used to get the word out there. [HR] has employed every possible form of communication to share this information. I'm disappointed at the manner in which this issue has arisen. HR has an open door policy, "many employees at all levels come to talk with me directly about issues and ideas".

HR is open to round table discussions. They welcome the discussion.

If there are individuals that feel they have something to contribute, please join us and share the information.

Statement from a SAC representative

SAC: All staff meeting spent a lot of time talking about hiring new faculty, new spending projects and then followed up with very modest increases for staff.

HR: Salary increases have been determined based on research within Higher Ed. and the general industry combined. On a national level, projected salary increases are within the range announced.

SAC: The mission of the institution is not to hire but to further the goals of the institution

SAC: Speaking towards morale, in the 20 yrs I have been here I have seen that people work here because they believe in the values Swarthmore represents. However things have started to stray from that value system. This recent response to pay-for-performance is a manifestation of this change.

HR: We've tried every avenue of communication available to us. HR continues to try to use every avenue however they are open to suggestions on what they can do to better involve staff and community members.

SAC: I hear that about all of these focus groups that have been held however i didn't know that they were happening ahead of time. Need a better form of communication for when information is being solicited from the community.

One suggestion that these things be disseminated via paper, not email.

SAC: It's very important that Pamela be present at these meetings because it carries more weight. Also re: communication maybe less is more. send a brief email with a link.
SAC: Managers could be useful in sharing this information with staff. there seems to be a missing link in the communication chain.

HR: Some supervisors have a little anxiety about this. This is useful feedback, we will consider.

Q: Where can the new Performance Assessment documentation be found?

A: H.R. Information is available on the HR site under performance coaching.

SAC: Would a prorated raise be in a lump sum?
HR: Yes.

Garnet Connection Update

SAC is welcome to identify staff members that would be interested in providing these stories [ like those that previously appeared in The Gathering].

Respectfully submitted,