Timeline is pending for new P&S classification/compensation structure

The university human resources (UHR) team developing a new market-based classification and compensation structure for Iowa State's professional and scientific (P&S) employees intentionally is waiting to roll it out. In her Sept. 10 update to a P&S audience, UHR director of classification and compensation Emma Mallarino Houghton said her team wants to help facilitate the campus transition to Workday and improved service delivery for finance and HR processes.

"There are a lot of people still learning new jobs, learning Workday. The president has asked us to be very caring about how we implement this project because it will have sensitivities associated with it as well," Houghton said. "When you're talking about titles and compensation, people are going to have feelings about that, so we want to give [implementation] the time and energy it deserves to do it well.

"I don't have dates, but as soon as we know them, we'll make them available to you," she said. "We know it's important to keep the end in sight."

The classification and compensation project, which began in spring 2017 with P&S employees describing the work they do, is independent of the university's migration to Workday software. However, the new structure will be implemented in Workday.

Houghton reminded her audience that the new structure will not change the work employees do or their current salary. What will change are job titles, which more accurately reflect the work done and one's work experience, and pay grades, which reflect the market for a job. The overarching goal of the new structure is to improve Iowa State's ability to attract and retain P&S employees, she said.

Moving toward implementation

Houghton said UHR leaders are talking with President Wendy Wintersteen and the senior vice presidents on an implementation timeline and guidelines.

Learn more

Project website (with comment box)
Updates at P&S Council meetings
P&S seminar series (in Learn@ISU: FY18-3, FY18-6, FY19-7, FY20-3)
Extended project team members
Communications advisory team members

"We want to make sure our senior leaders are comfortable with how we're doing this, especially given all the change we've been through," Houghton said.

Houghton said she wants an implementation process that's "as transparent as possible." She said she would prefer a two-phase rollout that first shares employees' titles and then compensation ranges.

Compensation, she said, "inserts an extreme bias," and it's important to first have "clean classifications" -- something the current system lacks. There will be a process for employee review and input when they learn where they've been slotted.

"We want employees to identify with the titles they've been given. We want to give them the opportunity to ask questions -- about their title, about their level, about any nuances."

State Board of Regents approval also is part of the implementation process.

Project update

Houghton said her classification and compensation team, in partnership with a team from Aon Consulting, has nearly completed the task of developing and writing job profiles -- the Workday term for what we know as classifications -- and assigning job titles to them.

"It's been a Herculean task to identify the type of work being done at the university and properly benchmark that in a way to be sure we create meaningful pay grades," Houghton said. "Making sure titles are accurate and reflective of what we do is critical to compensating employees appropriately."

The current structure of 425 classifications will be replaced with a structure that likely will reach 600 job titles -- but won't be stagnant, she said. The new structure also includes job families.

Houghton said the Aon team also has created the accompanying market-based pay structure, which contains 15 pay grades. Job titles have been assigned to the 15 grades. Houghton emphasized that as the market changes for a job, Iowa State will change its pay grade "so we remain competitive."

"From a university perspective, the goal is to continue to evolve the structure, keep tabs on it, not 'set it and forget it,'" Houghton said.

Tight budgets

Part of the implementation discussion with university leaders, Houghton said, will be how to address anticipated discrepancies between employees' current salaries and their pay grade in the new structure. She anticipates a first priority will be to make sure salaries at least meet pay grade minimums.

"This is a market study, not an equity study," she said, "but I don't want anyone to think there will be immediate changes. We aren't flush with cash, so it will take time."

Employees will not be asked to give up pay. "That's not our culture," she said.


In response to questions from audience members, Houghton briefly addressed these scenarios:

An employee who took on assorted duties left by co-workers who took positions in the improved service delivery model: 
"We worked with transition teams to make sure those duty assignments didn't affect or change classification. We kept a close eye on that. If there was specific concern about that, I promise you I was involved. Individuals who still are concerned should contact me."

An employee who may be slotted into a nonexempt job as a result of the new structure:
Exemption status is driven by federal law (since 1932). At the end of the day, it's about protecting employees the law dictates are eligible for overtime pay. We've been working with legal staff to determine which titles are eligible. It will be at that level; if you hold certain job profiles [based on a duties test], that's how you'll know whether you're exempt or not. For employees that are nonexempt, we will provide you tools on timekeeping and other information."

An employee who thinks neither their position description nor 2017 job self-profile are accurate anymore: 
"If we assign you a title and it's not accurate to what you do, we want to hear from you and have an opportunity to take a look. Being assigned a title isn't the end."

An employee who thinks their salary is much lower than it should be, even after working many years in a position: 
"The new structure is going to highlight these kinds of issues, both high and low. What happens is going to be very individual. It's going to come down to a conversation between a manager, employee and HR employee about how to rectify that over time, whether that's a salary adjustment, some kind of market adjustment, through performance evaluation in the annual review process or something else. It will come down to coaching managers on who do you need to focus on and what are the top priorities."


Related stories