Chancellor's Blog: A plan for investment in faculty and staff

| Chancellor James Schmidt

At the 2016 Blugold Breakfast, I announced the outline of an institutional compensation plan that will support our commitment to excellence by investing in faculty and staff — the foundational goal of our new strategic plan. As I mentioned at the breakfast, our reputation for excellence has been built over the past 100 years by the faculty and staff of this university. Our strength comes from our people and all they do for our students and each other. Our ability to excel in our second century depends on supporting, attracting and unleashing the talents and energy of our faculty and staff. This institutional compensation plan seeks to invest one-time resources in faculty and staff and to lay out a pathway for sustainable merit compensation based on enrollment growth.

UW System one-time distribution

Thanks to UW System-wide utility and compensation reserve savings, UW-Eau Claire has received a one-time distribution of $5.5 million to use over the next two years. About $900,000 is mandated by UW System to use for student financial aid. Another $813,000 has already been given to Academic Affairs to address course availability concerns, and I have set aside $800,000 over two years to support initiatives related to our strategic plan.

This means that we have $3 million in one-time funding to use for a faculty and staff compensation plan. Those funds will enable us to provide a short-term increase in compensation this year and next. By strengthening our retention efforts, we will also be able to assure sustainability of resources that can extend our compensation increase going forward. Here’s how it will work:

Equity plan

First, we need to address equity issues. We know that some faculty and staff salaries are not currently competitive within their discipline or across our region. At the same time, within departments there may be salary compression, where newly hired individuals receive higher compensation than those already here. We will set aside $750,000 to begin to address some of those imbalances. To assist in determining how best to allocate those funds (which will be done as base increases), an Equity Working Group will analyze nationally accepted comparison data and provide me with recommendations for distribution. They will work through April 2017 with the intent of making the equity adjustments by July 1, 2017.

Strategic merit plan

This year, for the first time, we have the ability to award merit increases, based on employee performance. We have set aside $2.25 million to be used to provide merit increases this year and next, which would mean an average increase of about 2.8 percent after two years. (The increase must be merit based, not across the board, so some increases may be lower or higher.) A Strategic Merit Working Group will be asked to work this fall to determine the best process to implement a merit program. I have specifically requested that the working group keep the process as transparent as possible and to add as little administrative workload burden as possible to supervisors and employees.

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The working group will determine how $750,000 can be distributed this year — my hope is that it can happen as early as January 2017 with a lump-sum payment, followed by a second merit distribution through regular payroll in the 2017-18 academic year.

Sustaining strategic merit

While providing even a two-year compensation increase is important, investing in our faculty and staff must be a continuing effort. Only by using enrollment growth can we increase revenue enough to make the merit increases ongoing. By December, I will ask the Strategic Merit Working Group to develop a transparent process for distributing ongoing merit compensation to departments based on contributions to our four guidepost goals.

Why link merit increases to our guidepost goals? Because our guidepost goals benefit our students. They assure 100 percent of students will have the opportunity to experience the high value of internships, undergraduate research, study abroad or involvement in civic engagement projects. They keep students engaged so 90 percent are retained and 50 percent graduate in four years. And they assure that there is no opportunity gap and that we increase the number of multicultural students on campus to 20 percent.

Our guidepost goals are what we have collectively said is most important — to us and to our students. Every academic department and non-academic unit has a vital role to play in our 100/90/50/40 goals. And, with our strategic merit plan, we will be able to tangibly recognize those contributions.

By improving our retention, we will be able to increase our total student enrollment by 2018 to 10,268 student FTE, about where we were in 2010. By sustaining that enrollment increase, we can make the one-time compensation ongoing.

We have a unique opportunity to take control of our future and assure that the dedication and commitment of our faculty and staff are recognized. We have $3 million to begin an institutional compensation plan. We also have the talent and will to increase our retention and enrollment to sustain a merit compensation plan in the years to come.

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