HR evaluates staff salaries

By Campus Reporter

To assess current positions and responsibilities of full- and part-time staff members, the college announced Feb. 9 in an email that the Office of Human Resources has launched a comprehensive staff compensation study.  

Michelle Gates, vice president of Business Affairs and CFO, said information gathered through the study will be used to create standardized job descriptions for employees. This classification structure will help the college make market comparisons to use when determining salaries, as well as help staff members assess career mobility, she said. 

“This is a fairly common thing for businesses when you’re trying to ensure that you have comparable jobs,” Gates said. “The reason we’re doing it now is that there has not been a strong structure in place and we’re confident that we have quite a bit of inconsistency within the current structure.” 

Accurate job classification has been an issue at the college for years, said Nick Hoeppner, president of the United Staff of Columbia College, the college’s staff union. Restructuring of the current system is something the US of CC has supported since the creation of the union’s original contract in 2009. 

According to Hoeppner, the US of CC’s original contract included a memorandum of understanding in which the college would conduct some type of job classification study, but no study was ever conducted.  

The college started to commission a study in 2007 but failed to follow it through to completion, making a job classification study a point of contention during staff bargaining when the current contract ended in 2012, Hoeppner said. 

“Members have said that there isn’t any transparency or equity across the campus between job titles and salaries,” said JeeYeun Lee, secretary of the US of CC and union representative on the compensation study steering committee. “There’s no real rhyme or reason to how salaries have been determined, so we wanted to make sure that there was a system that was clear.” 

Gates, who was not employed by the college when the original contract was in place, said the fact that a study had not been completed in previous years was likely due to a lack of resources, funding and competing priorities. 

Unable to design and complete the study internally, the college hired Mercer, a global human resources consulting firm. According to Gates, the decision to use Mercer was based on the company’s experience and the competitive price. 

The first step toward conducting the study requires employees to fill out a job description questionnaire that Mercer designed, which would ask them to provide detailed information about their job responsibilities. This includes what activities employees spend the majority of their time on, as well as detail what tasks they perform annually or periodically, Gates said. 

“[The questionnaire] is fairly detailed, and obviously there’s some time that has to be committed to it, which we’re aware of,” Gates said. “There are several different points at which there’s an opportunity to look at the information and ask questions about it.” 

Throughout February, the Office of Human Resources hosted informational sessions for the college’s employees and managers, which were intended to assist with filling out the questionnaire. 

According to Gates, the questionnaire will go through several levels of review, beginning with direct managers and ending with the college’s vice president. Gates said the college is aware that this process is time-consuming for all parties. 

“There are several other projects going on right now, so HR may need to be a little flexible on the final timeline,” Gates said. “The goal is for [the study] to be accurate for everybody’s sake.”

One of these projects could be the budget-building process for Fiscal Year 2016, which requires department chairs—who often act as staff supervisors—to assist in budget cuts. 

Despite these changes, Gates said the staff compensation study will not necessarily result in salary changes or job eliminations. 

According to a Memorandum of Understanding between the college and the US of CC, which was issued on Nov. 6, 2013, there is no intention of reducing employee salaries as a result of the study or any new classification system.  

“This is not something for staff to be afraid of,” Hoeppner said. “This is something that we are in favor of that was bargained for by the staff union, and it’s an attempt to bring some order and some proper compensation to the staff positions here.”