‘Anytime we conduct a compensation study, we have to have good data’
Tuition remission, access to campus facilities, holiday schedules and other perks can give colleges and universities a recruiting advantage over corporations, but to hire and retain top talent, institutions also need an appropriate compensation strategy that aligns with well-defined job duties and market value.
To determine those figures, employers need accurate, up-to-date data.
“Anytime you don’t have the right data and information to help guide decision-making, you’re left with your gut,” said Chris Wolf, technical expert at the University of Arizona and proposal manager at PeopleAdmin. “And there’s a good chance you’re going to make a decision that, ultimately, will not be equitable across your organization.”
To access the data needed to develop an equitable and competitive compensation structure, hundreds of higher education institutions partner with talent management solutions provider PeopleAdmin.
“Anytime we conduct a compensation study, we have to have good data,” said Danny Linton, assistant director of human resources at the University of Memphis. “And the reporting capabilities of our PeopleAdmin solution really help me with that.”
Danny and his team use reports in the Positions solution to generate side-by-side comparisons of different positions’ job duties across multiple colleges or departments.
“I need to know that a secretary in one building is expected to do roughly the same work as a secretary in any other building,” Danny said.
According to Chris, that strategy is the foundation of a sound compensation structure.
“I’m a huge proponent of the idea that compensation should be based on the position, rather than the person,” he said. “It’s really tough to develop an appropriate compensation strategy without well-defined position duties and responsibilities.”
In addition to well-defined job duties, understanding the market is key to developing an effective compensation practice.
“Salary determinations should be based on a compensation structure that is a direct reflection of market value,” said Heather Murray, director of strategic partnerships at PeopleAdmin and former associate director of HR at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.
“Your goal is to have a bell curve. At that midpoint is a fully capable, fully functioning employee performing that position at the fair market-value rate,” he said. “You’re going to have some people above and some people below, but the goal is to have most people around that number.”
At the University of Pittsburgh, aligning compensation with market value recently became more challenging.
“Pittsburgh has become very competitive,” said Brock Sizer, HRIS manager at the university, adding that his city’s rise in popularity has attracted corporations such as Uber and Google. “We have to compete with a lot of other organizations that can usually pay more.”
To overcome this challenge, the University of Pittsburgh is currently overhauling their staff classification system, reviewing system data related to compensation packages, benefits and work-life balance.
“That’s our biggest initiative right now,” Brock said. “We’ll use what we learn to determine our compensation philosophy. We know we need to be competitive, but we’re also trying to serve the students and ease tuition inflation.
“PeopleAdmin really helps us manage this process,” he added. “That’s been core to the whole thing.”