P&S Council gets update on compensation changes

Increases to the minimum pay rate in a handful of entry-level pay grades provided about 200 employees with a raise this month, vice president for university human resources (UHR) Kristi Darr told the Professional and Scientific Council at its Dec. 2 meeting. 

The pay rate increases were effective Dec. 1 and lift the hourly rates for affected positions to at least $15, prompted by rising entry-level salaries in the Ames area and hiring challenges, Darr said. 

"The market in Ames in the last few months has been a bit of a roller coaster. In my career, I haven't seen anything like it," she said. 

The minimum salary for P&S pay grade 803 increased from $26,627 to $31,200, which on a full-time, 40-hours-per-week basis is equivalent to a raise from $12.80 per hour to $15. P&S grade 804 increased from $29,955 to $32,240, equivalent to an increase from $14.40 per hour to $15.50. The P&S salary matrix includes two lower pay grades, 801 and 802, but 802 currently isn't being used by any job classifications and an increase wasn't necessary for 801, Darr said.

Minimum rates in three merit pay grades were raised, according to a Darr memo sent to administrative officers last month. The minimum hourly wage for merit pay grade three increased from $13.74 to $15. Pay grade four increased from $14.34 per hour to $15.25 and pay grade five from $15 per hour to $15.50.

In addition to boosting recruiting and retention, the increases simplify the university’s compliance with a federal executive order, which will require workers paid by certain federal contracts to make at least $15 per hour. The requirement is effective Jan. 30, 2022. 

The average hourly student wage on campus is $11.36 per hour and is set by hiring managers. Supervisors of student employees should evaluate local market conditions and consider higher pay, if needed, Darr said. The new federal rules also may apply to some student employees. 

Speedy changes

Council past president Sara Parris, associate director of the Thielen Student Health Center, said she recently worked with UHR to raise their entry-level pay rate based on exceptional qualifications, and she was impressed by the speed of the process. 

"I've never seen the university moving so fast in raising compensation," she said. 

Darr credited the responsiveness to UHR compensation analysts Whitney Grote and Nathan Covington but noted that the currently heavy workload for their two-person department may at times require prioritizing those sorts of requests. 

Adjustments planned

When a new classification and compensation system for P&S employees launched in September 2020, UHR leaders said it would be regularly updated to keep the market-driven structure current.

"We promised not to set it and forget it," Darr said. "We're really living up to that."

After more than a year working with the system, updates are in the works. After reviewing benchmarking data for -- so far -- about 70% of positions, recommendations are coming soon for changes to the pay matrix and for reassigning some job profiles to higher pay grades. The matrix changes are expected to be announced in January and effective for new hires by February. Job profile adjustments are expected to be announced in March and effective for new hires by April.  

Historically, matrix changes have been made as the new fiscal year begins July 1, but an earlier timeline gives budget leaders more time to plan, Darr said. The adjustments require state Board of Regents approval. Employees who make less than the minimum due to an adjustment would be raised to at least the minimum salary no later than Oct. 1. 

Other notes

  • Jahmai Fisher, chair of the council's equity and inclusion committee, said a motion would be presented at January's council meeting recommending that advertisements for university jobs include information about whether candidates would be eligible for immigration sponsorship. Many employers include this information in job advertisements, and Fisher said not including it hurts recruitment of international applicants. 
  • Darr said more than 760 applications were submitted for the new WorkFlex program, which allows staff flexibility in where, when and how they work, if it makes sense for their job duties and the university's mission. Hiring authorities have until Dec. 22 to decide how to handle staff requests. That deadline had been Dec. 23 but was moved up a day because Dec. 23 is now a university holiday, she said. WorkFlex arrangements can take effect beginning the first day of the spring semester, Jan. 18.
  • Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert said senior leaders are keeping a close eye on the omicron variant of COVID-19. While practices such as wearing masks, physically distancing and hand-washing are effective, he reiterated that vaccination is the key preventive measure and encouraged faculty and staff to register their vaccination status via Workday. Registration is voluntary and confidential. While initially implemented in preparation for a federal executive order that's currently pending due to court challenges, vaccination registration improves the university's situational awareness, Wickert said. In partnership with Hy-Vee, a vaccine clinic will be available to Iowa State employees and students at State Gym Dec. 15.