By Pat Schneider April 17, 2018


The University of Wisconsin’s two-year effort to reclassify and set compensation for thousands of jobs also requires significant commitments of staff time within and beyond Human Resources offices.

“But it is needed,” said UW-Madison academic staff member Kevin Niemi, an outreach program manager. “It’s been over 30 years since we really examined our human resources system. The Title and Total Compensation Study will help us as individual employees and managers of people to understand more clearly how to advance in careers.”

“That’s a huge plus,” at UW-Madison, Niemi said.

The Title and Total Compensation Study is a joint project of UW-Madison and the UW System, which are splitting the cost of New York-based consultant Mercer, said UW System spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis.
UW’s contract with Mercer calls for charges not to exceed $900,000. Services include assessing job duties and responsibilities and developing titles, creating a compensation structure, reviewing benefits, and implementing new structures, at an estimated cost of $695,000. Reviews at six months and one, two and four years after implementation carry an estimated charge of $166,000.

UW campuses now have about 39,000 employees and thousands of job titles, which are confusing and don’t always accurately reflect job duties, explained a June, 2016 news release announcing the study. Compensation — direct pay plus the value of benefits — also may not be competitive, the news release said. A February 2017 news release announced the selection of Mercer following a request for proposals from consultants, but said nothing about the consultant price tag.

The Cap Times obtained a copy of Mercer’s proposal under state open records law.

Mercer is a leader in compensation consulting for higher education and other organizations, said Wayne Guthrie, UW-Madison chief human resources officer. As many as 10 peer institutions — including Michigan, Indiana and California-Berkeley — are undertaking similar efforts, according to information from Guthrie’s office.

“By making this investment now, we can ensure our ability to attract and retain talent well into the future,” Guthrie said.

In addition to the consultant, UW employees at various levels are working on the project. There is an advisory council with administrators, faculty and staff from several campuses. The UW System has a steering committee with representatives from a number of campuses working on the projects. In addition, each institution has a project team.

At UW-Madison, three human resources staffers are working full-time on the project, and others part time. Some 3,700 employees attended sessions in 2017, providing input on proposed “job families.”

While the study will compare UW’s pay and benefits to the market and recommend guidelines, pay increases are not part of the project.


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