Merit-based pay at U

Karlee Weinmann

Going above and beyond the call of duty could mean wages above and beyond current compensation for more than just faculty members and academic professionals at the University.

At this month’s meeting, the University’s Board of Regents approved a policy supporting merit-based pay for approximately 4,200 civil service staff, which mainly include white-collar employees such as administrative directors and coordinators.

The new plan will not necessarily apply to unionized workers, who have a separate contract negotiation process.

The system is based on employee performance evaluations, which Vice President for Human Resources Carol Carrier said will aid in staff retention.

“That really ties into our strategic positioning goal of retaining a strong faculty and staff base,” she said. “If we can reward them, we can keep them here.”

Each participating department will be granted a 3.25 percent allowance for pay increases to be allocated according to performance, rather than making the pay increase across the board.

Mary Luther, director of University compensation, said making the process fair is of utmost importance.

“If there is a perception that management is not fair, it’s not going to be a positive experience,” she said. “If people feel good about performance management, then when you differentiate pay, it has a better chance at being successful.”

For departments interested in making the switch to the new payment method, Office of Human Resources representatives must approve plans and verify each department’s readiness to do so.

Human resources must approve performance management, payment and employee evaluation plans before the new practices are put in place.

The office reviews existing merit-based programs annually.

Some University entities have already implemented the pay system. Departments new to the practice will ease into the process, implementing it in 2008 at the earliest.

According to Carrier, the University aims to have “everyone on board” in three to five years.

Though the adoption of the Regents’ policy suggests merit-based pay for civil service employees could become standard in the future, not every college has taken steps to integrate the program in its payment process.

Across-the-board pay increases preserve uniformity between coworkers, and employees say a different system could spur controversy within offices.

Since supervisors would conduct evaluations on which to base wage increases, a certain threat of subjectivity in the process is inherent.

Cathy Marquardt, vice chair of the Civil Service Committee, said there could be significant disparity between employees’ raises, prompting further tension – especially within small offices.

“I don’t think it’s going to be easy for the supervisors to do this,” Marquardt said. “And I think it presents a challenge to the staff.”

Katy Olson, chair of the compensation subcommittee, said a major point of focus for the Civil Service Committee is to ensure adequate and systematic feedback for employees on a merit-based system.

While the human resources office has worked certain evaluations and progress checks into the system, Olson said her group will monitor the process as it takes effect, especially since it has been applied to civil service employees in a relatively small number of departments so far.

“Sometimes you have to implement the system to see where the weak points are, and we’re still kind of discussing that,” she said.