Workforce planning addresses salary equity

Northern Arizona University’s new workforce planning initiative should help to enhance salary equity among NAU staff members in similar positions while streamling the annual budget process.

It also adds $700,000 to NAU classified staff and service professional salaries this year on top of the general salary adjustment and merit raises distributed in March. The university has allocated these funds to compensate employees for any reclassifications and equity adjustments. Such adjustments will affect approximately 15 percent of staff and service professionals.

“The new annual process is designed to align the planning for most staff salary changes with NAU’s strategic planning and budgeting process,” said Robert Dyer, NAU Human Resources consultant. “Managers with the help of Human Resources look at all positions at one time, not randomly, as in the past.”

NAU President John Haeger has made compensation his top priority in annual budgets, before the Legislature and before the Arizona Board of Regents. NAU adopted compensation plans that awarded salary adjustments in FY05 and FY06, including March’s salary and merit increases from the Arizona Legislature.

As a result of these compensation plans, preliminary estimates show NAU has made a 3 percentage point improvement in the overall comparison to market rate for staff.

The workforce planning process sets annual timelines and procedures for employee reclassifications and salary equity adjustments, which may result when an employee’s job duties change significantly.

The workforce planning process begins when HR sends managers worksheets with all of their employees listed, including salaries, their performance scores, the market rate of that position as well as other information to determine if current salaries appear equitable. Previously, managers did not have this information to assist them in recommending classification and salary adjustments.

While managers are examining their entire department’s salary structure and considering which positions may no longer be classified properly, Human Resources is viewing this information from a university-wide perspective.

If an administrative assistant in one department, for example, is being reviewed for appropriate classification or salary, the new information available to managers would show the salaries of administrative assistants in the same department as well as the average salary across campus for the same classification, and the relationship to market for that position.

“This process also helps to create a level playing field,” Dyer said, adding that the new process also addresses the old complaint of some departments having funds for salary changes while others don’t.

Dyer explained that in the new process, if a department doesn’t have the funding, it can still put the request forward, and it will be up to the respective vice president to reallocate funding for staff salary priorities. If that is not possible, a request can be made for institutional funds.

Diane Verkest, director of Human Resources, describes the new process as “more fair,” with managers looking at all “staff at the same time using consistent information and guidelines.”

The planning spreadsheets are sent to managers in September. Managers return the spreadsheets to HR by January with any recommendations and justifications for reclassifying positions or making other compensation adjustments. HR works with vice presidents and the provost through March to finalize reclassification and salary adjustments. The adjustments take place generally at the beginning of the new fiscal year. March is considered a window for making any corrections to previous requests.

Dyer explained that anyone who falls outside the timeframe because of significant higherlevel or changed duties may be placed on special assignment as an interim step. Certain “mid-cycle” events, such as reorganizations, can be reviewed at any time for immediate implementation.

He added that the workforce planning process for FY07 fell behind schedule because of the unexpected salary increases in March. “This year’s merit increase changed the whole complexion,” Dyer said. “Human Resources and managers had to start over again.”

However, any adjustments, which should be announced by September, are retroactive to July 3.