Sunday, September 30, 2012

Concrete Suggestions to Improve HR Design

This evening my colleague Bruce Thomadsen, professor of medical physics at UW-Madison, shared several concrete recommendations for improving the HR Design plan.  I think highly of his suggestions, and thus with permission I am summarizing the most critical ones here:

  1. Affirm the continuation of genuine shared governance, a pillar of UW, in this plan.  The language implies that employees will advise on the implementation of benefits programs, but this is far weaker than the current status of shared governance at our university.  Decision-making must be shard.
  2. Amend the plan to clearly state that academic staff have the right to due process with respect to all University actions detrimental to their jobs. This is not currently clear, especially with regard to layoffs.
  3. Provide much more detail on the implementation of the layoff procedures. In particular, explain how the new system will increase, rather than decrease, job security.
  4. The plan says that hiring managers will set salaries.  Clarify how this will be accomplished, and be specific about the types of information that will be considered and in particular the role that market studies will play.
  5. The plan discusses the challenges of creating a system of job titles and compensation levels that match the titles. The difficulties and process are listed, but it is not clear that the results will eliminate the problems encountered frequently in providing adequate compensation for long-time, experienced employees, where only by changing a job title (and, therefore the job description) can increased compensation be provided. Often, such changes are not possible or allowed. The solution is to uncouple the job title from compensation to give flexibility and establish compensation based on qualifications and performance. This would eliminate the problem of adjusting the compensation for persons at the top of their job classification’s pay range. 
  6. The Guiding Principles for HR Design aimed to eliminate the disparity where 12-month faculty receive 22 leave days immediately upon hire while university staff start with a low number and work up to this through seniority and promotion. Instead, all employees should start with the full number of leave days. But this plan apparently lowers the beginning leave days for new faculty, moving in the opposite of the intended direction. To fix this, change the plan: all full-time University employees should have 22 vacation and personal leave days, with leave for employees with 9-month appointments prorated by ¾.
  7. Under this plan, it is not clear what will happen to the conversion of accrued sick leave at retirement. Clarify this, leaving sick leave separate from other vacation and personal leave, and the current sick-leave accrual policy unchanged.
  8. Eliminate the provisions to change rules regarding transferring positions. The plan eliminates the current right for employees to return to their original positions if a transfer to a different position does not work. The report states, “Also, by reducing the risk associated with accepting a new position, the current policy also reduces the incentive for both the employee and the hiring manager/supervisor to do effective onboarding and work together to address any challenges in the probationary period.” This opinion neglects to consider that the transferring employee wants to make the change and therefore has a stake in making the new situation work. The hiring manager’s incentive would likely try hard to fit the transferring employee into the working environment to avoid repeating the hiring process.