Compensation Strategy Frequently Asked Questions

What is being proposed as a new UC Merced compensation strategy?

Chancellor Leland has approved the adoption of a three-year strategy for implementing a new compensation policy for UC Merced.  It is designed to:

  • Attract and retain talent by increasing the average range of market percentile for UC non-represented staff from the current 31% to at least 45%;
  • Achieve greater fairness at UC Merced by addressing salary inequities across the campus within similar job functions and between recent and early hires; and
  • Invest in job functions most critical for achieving campus priorities for Project 2020.

Specifically, the Chancellor has approved an $800,000 down payment for FY 2014-15, which will serve to address the grossest inequities in a range of job functions that senior leadership has determined most critical to achieving UC Merced’s goals by 2020.  These include, but will not be restricted to, financial analysis and services, health, information technology, institutional advancement, project, policy and planning, and student services.

Why does UC Merced need a new compensation strategy?

Many UC Merced staff members accepted salaries well below market with the hope that as the campus grew, so would their opportunities and compensation.  But with the recession and declining State support for the University of California, salaries have stagnated.  Then, due to competitive employment markets (and a now-improving economy), higher salaries were offered to new staff members, even those with less experience than current staff.  These and other factors have led to 1) salary compression, where managers are paid only slightly more than those they supervise; and 2) salary inequities between similar job functions and titles.

To grow, UC Merced must hire.  But to do so without addressing current staff salary inequities will only make a bad situation even worse.  The time to address this is now.

How did this strategy come about?

This strategy is the result of a nine-month process that began with a series of listening lessons with managers and non-represented staff.  These sessions helped identify some of the greatest pain points with our current compensation situation.  A full report on those sessions can be found at http://hr.ucmerced.edu/sites/hr.ucmerced.edu/files/page/documents/listening_session_feedback_march_20141.pdf

This was followed by independent analysis of UC Merced salaries, which confirmed what we suspected:  approximately 40% of our non-represented staff are paid at or below the 25th percentile of their salary range even while performing functions equivalent to those on other campuses or, in some cases, performing multiple functions due to overall understaffing in some areas.  From this analysis emerged a philosophy, which can be found at http://hr.ucmerced.edu/compensation/philosophy

From the philosophy has emerged this strategy.

How will it be decided who gets equity increases?

While full implementation of the new compensation strategy is probably six months away – in early 2015 – Human Resources has already begun to tackle the first step of the process:  to conduct an inventory of all job descriptions to ensure that they exist and that they are current and accurate. 

As the inventory is underway, departments will begin work on strategic workforce plans that will provide a campus wide roadmap to determine, among other things, positions that possibly need to be reclassified and/or those that should be considered for equity increases.  Given the dollars available, senior leadership has prioritized the following functions as most critical to address in the first year of the compensation strategy: financial analysis and services; health; information technology; institutional advancement; project, policy and planning; and student services.  

Positions in these functions will be carefully analyzed, first by departments in collaboration with Human Resources Business Partners and Compensation, to identify equity issues, both within departments and across the campus among job functions.  Part of this process will include review of performance.

Decisions will then be made on equity distributions for FY 2014-15.

What if I’m not among the functions prioritized by leadership?

Human Resources, in collaboration with departments, will also be analyzing inequities in other areas and flagging them for consideration.  But remember:  this is a three-year strategy.  Leadership will annually review those functions that should be prioritized for equity consideration.

Will this affect my Career Tracks classification?

Perhaps.  In some cases, Career Tracks classifications were determined without the benefit of current and accurate job descriptions.  As noted above, the first priority is to conduct a job description inventory.  Once job descriptions are determined to be current and accurate, HR will consult with department leadership to determine those that justify reconsideration of Career Tracks classifications.

If future salary actions are going to be tied to performance, what is being done to improve performance management at UC Merced?

A revised performance management process is currently being designed, with the goal of launching a new system with enhanced training for both employees and managers by January 2015.

What about incentive or recognition “spot” awards?

Extraordinary work must be rewarded.  Therefore, a new incentive award program will be funded from both department and central funds.  These awards will be available for represented as well as non-represented staff, as they represent recognition for efforts that go above and beyond job descriptions.  New guidelines and procedures for processing incentive awards will be issued in the weeks ahead.

What is likely to happen in future years?

This must be a multi-year process.  The goal is to identify additional equity funding for each of the next two years.   Our hope is that this funding, in conjunction with what we hope will be an ongoing and predictable systemwide salary program for non-represented staff, will address UC Merced’s equity problems and allow the campus to attract and retain the talent it needs to meet its goals for 2020.