Committee wants to streamline paperwork on personnel issues

by Jennifer Niemela

For almost 13 years, granting promotions and raises to University civil service and union workers has required hours of paperwork and caused no end of headaches for supervisors.
All that might change soon if the Civil Service Committee has its way with a proposal to simplify and decentralize the job classification system.
The current system uses the Job Evaluation Questionnaire to determine if employees will receive raises and promotions. Committee members say it is a tedious form that is being used for purposes beyond its original mission.
The committee would like to decentralize the system so that individual supervisors would take over the decision-making duties currently held by college-wide provost offices.
“We’d like to see more compensation decisions made within the unit,” said Kaye Aho, assistant director of employee relations. “Decentralization is a common theme in human resources today.”
The current system was intended to simplify the University’s job structure by classifying jobs by title to determine wages. But now, the 20-page questionnaire — which can take up to eight hours to complete — is being used to change individual pay scales and job titles. After its completion by a supervisor, the evaluation is processed and reviewed by one of the University’s three provost offices.
“When I’ve done it for my own staff, (I’ve found) it’s an arcane system that is very paperwork-intensive,” said Bob Lundquist, chairman of the Subcommittee on Job Classification and Evaluation. “If it doesn’t (pass) there’s the temptation to fudge with the answers. They only count the supervisors’ assessments. The questions are mostly subjective; they’re up to people’s interpretation.”
Members of the subcommittee say they plan to simplify the system by making job descriptions more flexible and allowingsupervisors to initiate job reclassification. Currently, supervisors cannot initiate pay increases and promotions for their employees; only when the employee has initiated the increase can the process begin.
All civil service employees who are in a collective bargaining unit must go through the questionnaire process whenever they get a raise or job promotion, said Jeanette Louden, director of human resources for the Academic Health Center.
However, non-unionized civil service workers, who make up the professional and supervisory units, can be given an in-range adjustment that is comparable to a set pay scale increase. This process takes a memorandum from an employee’s supervisor rather than from the 20-page questionnaire form, Louden said.
But the simpler process is rarely used, Louden said, because many supervisors are not aware that they have the option.
The questionnaire consists of 51 subjectively judged multiple choice questions. The human resources department first scores the questionnaires by machine, then individuals read them.
Louden said the process can take a few weeks if human resources gets backlogged, adding that employees who are at the University for many years can go through the process any number of times during their careers. “We’re looking at improving all the systems (of raises and promotions).”
Lundquist said the system is outdated because it doesn’t allow for pay raises based on computer skills. He said that while many civil service jobs didn’t require computer literacy when the system was implemented, most civil service jobs do now.
“The (questionnaire) is hung over from when technicians were the only ones using computers,” he said. “It doesn’t allow for these skills to be recognized.”
Aho said the subcommittee is currently changing the pay increase and promotions system in the Office of Information Technology to accommodate for computer skills and to design a model on which to base the future changes at the rest of the University.
“We’re not that far from knowing exactly how the changes need to be done,” Aho said.
When the subcommittee drafts a final proposal, they will present it to the Board of Regents for approval. Lundquist said he expects to have a plan for the board by fall.