Friday, November 2, 2012

Petitioners Receive Response from HR

At 3:51 pm, I received the following letter from UW-Madison Human Resources Director Bob Lavigna in response to the Change.Org petition. The full text follows.  I have underlined key sentences since it is rather long and inserted with ** some comments of my own.

I am very pleased with this display of engagement on the part of the administration and shared governance units, and hope you will agree with me that this is a significant step forward.  On Wisconsin!

November 2, 2012

 Dear UW-Madison colleagues:

I am writing in response to the October 30 petition asking me to, “… issue a list of written assurances regarding all planned significant changes to the Human Resources Design Strategic Plan on which the Faculty Senate will vote on Monday, November 5, 2012.”

 First, I want to outline where we are in the process of finalizing the HR Design Strategic Plan, and what will occur as we move forward.

On September 21, we posted the plan for campus-wide review and comment. Since then, we have engaged in another aggressive round of soliciting campus feedback, including in-person and online forums and presentations to groups that include the Faculty Senate. We have also continued to meet regularly with the University Committee and other governance and stakeholder groups to discuss the plan.

This wide-scale engagement is a continuation of the campus engagement strategy we have used from the time the 11 HR design work teams issued their draft recommendations last spring. To date, our outreach has resulted in nearly 10,000 contacts with members of our campus community.

Later this month, our executive sponsors – the Interim Chancellor, Provost, and Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration – will consider feedback on the plan from across the campus, as well as resolutions and other feedback from governance groups, and then make final decisions on the plan. It’s also important to remember that once the framework goes forward there will also be continued consultations as specific implementation details are developed. 

Then, on December 7, the Board of Regents will consider both the UW System and UW-Madison approaches. At this stage, we do not know what level of detail the Board will request that this discussion cover. We expect to issue a final version of the HR Design Strategic Plan after the Board meeting.

I have outlined this process to make it clear that the executive sponsors will make final decisions on the HR Design Strategic Plan based on the input we are receiving from the campus community.  


Over the past two weeks, we have had a series of communications with Associate Professor Sara Goldrick-Rab, the originator of the petition. These communications have included an in-person meeting which we initiated, as well as a series of follow-up email communications. These exchanges have been positive and constructive.  

Professor Goldrick-Rab identified several issues that she believes need to be clarified or modified. On October 29, I responded to her, agreeing in most cases with her suggestions (**these suggestion are listed as each "Issue" below**), and committing to recommend changes to the plan to the executive sponsors. What follows is a summary of my understanding of these issues, and my responses. 

Issue: Pay a living wage to contractor employees who work on campus premises, on contracts that exceed $5,000 in value. 

Response: We understand the importance of this issue and have asked for information on how many contracts UW-Madison has (as opposed to any contracts the Wisconsin Department of Administration manages, which we can’t control). After we receive this information, we will be in a better position to understand the scope of this issue and work with the appropriate campus units, particularly UW-Madison Business Services, to conduct an analysis. We understand the legitimate concerns about paying the living wage to contractor employees, including the potential impact on UW employees if contractor employees do not receive a living wage. We do not yet have a timetable for completing this analysis.  

Issue:  Address tensions between equity and market in the current plan. 

Response: We plan to 1) recommend language further clarifying that UW-Madison places a strong value on internal equity as a campus climate and retention strategy; 2) recommend editorial changes to the plan to make sure the terms “market” and “equity” are given equal consideration in the text; 3) clarify, after speaking again with our classified staff representatives, what is meant by market with regard to unskilled and semi-skilled classified employees; and 4) add a discussion of the importance of collaborative, interdisciplinary work on our campus and that this factor needs to be considered in compensation decisions.(**This is exactly what I had asked for**)

Issue: Revise the language in the plan regarding shared governance to be consistent with FP&P.

Response: We completely agree that the plan should accurately convey the precise nature of faculty governance and its role in implementing the new HR system. It’s also important to emphasize that the plan does not call for any changes to the nature of faculty or academic staff governance. Moreover, the plan calls for extending formal governance rights to university (currently classified) staff.  (**Again, exactly what I had asked for**)

Issue:  State more clearly the strong need to train faculty, chairs, and deans to appropriately determine compensation packages and to retain employees and help them be productive. Call for a campus-wide discussion about how best to create incentives for faculty to learn how to perform effectively in management roles. 

Response:  We agree there needs to be thoughtful and widespread discussion about how to create incentives and accountability for managers, including faculty, to be consistently effective. We believe that this point is already made in the plan but will review the plan to make sure it is clearly stated. (**Again, request fully met**)

Issue:  Assure that accountability metrics and measures are included in the plan. 

Response:  We agree that accountability measures and clear assignment of responsibilities are important. According to the HR Design Strategic Plan (page 54), “OHR will develop a dashboard of key measures to help track the effectiveness of university HR practices.” These metrics will provide a set of reference points to assess progress. Developing these measures must be a thoughtful and collaborative process. The plan includes a list of possible metrics. We will build on this list to develop a more robust set of measures.

Issue:  Modify the portions of the plan that eliminate the right of classified employees who transfer to other jobs on campus and fail probation to return to their original jobs. The determination of transfer itself may involve multiple factors but seniority should be used as the determinative factor in the case of ties. Create a roster of laid-off employees. Employees on the roster would have the right (provided that they are physically and mentally capable of performing the job) to an open position of the same job classification held by the employee or a classification in which the employee previously served. 

Response: We believe the appropriate forum for discussing these important issues right now is the Labor-Management Advisory Committee (LMAC). This committee, composed of labor and management representatives, has been in place for many years to discuss work-related issues that affect classified employees. We have been discussing these and other issues with our classified employee/labor partners and are willing to continue these discussions.

Issue:  Publish a list of written assurances regarding all planned significant changes to the Human Resources Design Plan on which the Faculty Senate will vote on Monday November 5, 2012. 
Response:  We are still gathering and analyzing feedback on the plan, including by engaging in conversations with governance and stakeholder groups. We will use this feedback to recommend changes to the executive sponsors. Therefore, it would be premature at this time to finalize any lists or draft specific language about possible changes. However, we plan to make the recommendations described above (and perhaps others as we continue to receive feedback and speak with stakeholder groups) to the executive sponsors. Specific modifications to the plan will be driven by the decisions of our executive sponsors. 


I believe the above discussion responds, as best as I can at this stage in the process, to the request for a list of written assurances. At this point, it is not possible to identify each potential change that the plan might include, or the specific language of changes. However, we will continue to 
meet regularly, as we have been doing, with governance and other stakeholder groups to discuss possible changes and provide updates. 

I hope that our colleagues across the campus appreciate where we are in the process and how this affects our ability to provide detailed information on possible changes. I also ask that our colleagues recognize the transparency and candor that have characterized our conversations and campus engagement activities about the HR Design Strategic Plan.


Robert J. Lavigna