Burdsall says compensation update awaiting senior leadership input


Mark Burdsall, assistant vice chancellor of Human Resources, told Staff Council’s July 21 meeting that the University’s compensation modernization program is progressing.

“At this point we have created jobs groupings … and all that’s left at this point to do is to present that to senior leadership to then approve the next phase of it, which will be to start putting (jobs) into the job categories, confirming that those are accurate, and then we can move forward,” he said. “Once senior leadership determines what the market is (for particular jobs) and determines and approves the infrastructure of the program, we could then start slotting (jobs) in.

“The comp modernization program,” he continued, “is moving from a classification system to a more job-specific system that will allow us to have not only market matching but will allow us also to create more transparent levels and careers for people to see how movement can occur, either within a type of job category or between job categories. … So a lot of the work behind the scenes has already been developed.”

Staff morale

Staff Council member Lindsay Rodzwicz of the Swanson School of Engineering voiced the concern that “staff morale right now is really at a critically low point.”

 “People are appreciative over the last year with the pandemic of having jobs, but I see — not only in my school but in different units all across campus — that people are working these extra hours still, with the early retirement,” she said. More than 450 staff members chose to take the package offered by the University in 2020.

“And then the small raise pool — even though people are super-grateful that there is a raise pool — it’s not keeping up with the cost-of-living increases that have been astronomical in the last year,” Rodzwicz said. “With the uncertainty of returning to campus, really, a lot of staff are feeling discouraged.”

She suggested the administration do more to tell employees that the compensation modernization program and volunteer leave policy are getting closer to implementation.

“I do understand that. It touches my heart, because even myself, in my role, it changed from January to May,” said Burdsall, who assumed more responsibilities in HR after David DeJong was appointed senior vice chancellor for Business & Operations.

He said he hoped the new flexible work arrangements, already being implemented, “will help individuals be more engaged in their job from an efficiency, productivity and delivery of their services (standpoint).”

New Staff Council President Angie Coldren said that the organization planned to deliver to Burdsall a collection of staff stories gathered by Staff Council members “that actually puts real stories to the modest salary increase and just the way that people feel now, … I think it’s important that someone like Mark and Dave (DeJong) read these and put an actual face to the decisions and understand how these decisions trickle down and how they carry out for people.”

Coldren also reported that representatives of Staff Council and Senate Council were still discussing new childcare options with administrators.

Returning to campus

Asked how the return to campus was going to play out, Burdsall said: “It’s going to be exciting. I think it’s a great opportunity to eventually land on some type of new normal. Personally, I believe that’s going to take a little bit of time. I wouldn’t be surprised if during the fall we’re still trying to figure it out as a University, exactly how that’s all going to play out.”

He also hoped the Administrative Services Design Project that the University has under way will help to make more sense of what job functions are linked to which jobs.

“Are there opportunities to design processes that will keep duplication of effort from happening or … trying to streamline those?” he said. This effort should also help fight job creep, he added, when employees are asked to take over duties of those who have left, in the place of the University hiring new employees.

As of July 21, he noted, HR had received notice of about 1,350 University employees’ flexible work agreements, as agreed upon by their supervisors and responsibility center heads. He expects to be gathering such forms through mid-August. HR will be tracking the arrangements “so we’re able to document that and then look at trends,” Burdsall said.  

“I can’t wait until probably mid-August, where I can run those spreadsheets,” he said. “We’re going to know how many days individuals are working in the office, how many days they are working remotely … we can see trends, we can see opportunities to make our jobs a smarter design … where can we spend our time on high impact, high-valued kinds of things as opposed to other things like manual processes or doing something that somebody else is also doing. And we can we make our jobs more impactful so that we’re not having to spend significant hours on things that are more routine and that can be done some other way. … I think we’re going to be a stronger University but that it’s going to take time.”

Time to volunteer

Asked about the potential for an official Pitt policy allowing employees time off for volunteer service — a policy Staff Council began pushing and helping to formulate before the pandemic — Burdsall said he is in discussion with several Pitt offices about that as well.

“I think we’re going to be able to hopefully propose a formal structure,” he said. “I would hope it would cover both volunteer opportunities as well as professional development, including taking workshops in FSDP (Faculty and Staff Development Program) or taking advantage of other opportunities. … My vision would be that it would be not an either/or but that it could be used for (both).”

Other issues

  • Pitt has had to modify the process of getting Pitt Worx to handle pay increases, he explained, and thus his department will be sending out new guidelines for this process soon.

  • The first round of supervisor essentials training also will begin in September, he said, for about 150 supervisors, and he encouraged individuals to sign up with HR to participate.

The next Staff Council meeting will be online at noon Aug. 18.

Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at martyl@pitt.edu or 412-758-4859.


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