Flex-time and telecommuting top priorities at listening sessions, DeJong says


Flex-time and telecommuting opportunities are tops among employee desires at Pitt — so far — Vice Chancellor for Human Resources David DeJong told Staff Council on Jan. 15.

Reporting on the first of eight listening sessions aimed at revamping workplace policies at Pitt, DeJong said the most persistent suggestions were to allow employees to work from home and to have job-sharing opportunities.

“There’s a real hunger for more flexibility in the workplace,” he said.

Pitt’s current telecommuting policy “is not universally known, not universally applied,” he added, and “there’s a lot of variance across different units in their disposition” to allow use of the telecommuting policy. “That’s something we’re going to need to be talking more about,” he said, observing that “employees who are offered (flexibility) tend to be happier, more productive …”

One Staff Council member noted that the current policy has a kind of escape clause at the end, allowing for individual units and departments to opt out of the policy, depending on their needs. The policy concludes with the caveats that telecommuting “is not an entitlement and … can be revoked by the Responsibility Center or the University at any time.”

DeJong allowed that, if the University has a policy that permits administrators to pass on its use for undefined reasons, “that’s not a policy,” but cautioned that telecommuting and flex-time will not work for every job or department. He hopes to incorporate flex-time eligibility into job classifications in the future, he said: “The idea is, if we’ve agreed to do this, we recognize that the effort is worth the payoff.”

Staff Council will host a panel discussion on Feb. 20 with four managers who have successfully implemented flexible work arrangements in their responsibility areas. A Q&A with the panelists will follow the discussion. The event is from noon to 1 p.m. in the O'Hara Student Center (second floor). Participants include:

  • Michele Montag, executive director for staff personnel and senior assistant dean, Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences
  • Jennifer E. Woodward, vice chancellor for Sponsored Programs and Research Operations, Pitt Research
  • Thomas E. Youngs, director of Purchasing Services
  • John Kozar, assistant vice chancellor of benefits, Office of Human Resources

Contact staffcouncil@pitt.edu with questions.

Evaluations expected to become mandatory

DeJong announced that he is talking to directors of administration throughout the University “to make sure we get 100 percent compliance” with yearly employee performance evaluations for staff. Currently, conducting performance reviews is not mandatory throughout Pitt.

“We owe all staff a performance evaluation,” he said. Once HR’s new emphasis on evaluations is in place, DeJong’s staff plans to randomly sample evaluations to see “if they are living up to our standards,” and will conduct trainings to ensure better evaluation methods, he said.

“That’s going to take some cultural change,” he acknowledged. Currently, HR has a group reviewing proper evaluation procedures. “This year I’m going to try to develop a set of bullet points, high-level things, that all performance reviews should hit,” he told Staff Council. In the following year, a more detailed, official procedure will be rolled out.

Asked whether HR could better tie performance reviews to pay raises — since some University units and departments give the same cost-of-living raise across the board, no matter the performance review outcome — he replied that “we need to establish a compensation philosophy” and decide: “Do we want to be aggressive in recognizing outstanding performance or do we want to be relatively even across the board” in offering raises, as has been the current practice.

Another Staff Council member suggested that annual raises be offered in dollar amounts rather than percentages, so that the same raise is given to all, no matter one’s salary. DeJong responded that such decisions come from a budgeting process that includes many parts of the University, including final approval by the Board of Trustees, and that HR doesn’t oversee raises at the unit level.

DeJong said there were several other areas where HR was hoping to effect change: parking and job postings.

Even though “parking is not a benefit — it’s kind of out of my area,” he said, DeJong spoke about changes being considered by Pitt for its parking prices, since they haven’t risen in at least 16 years, he said, and now may be at a third of market rates. At the same time, Pitt must be careful not to price existing employees out of parking in Oakland, he added: “One thing I’m extremely concerned about … are we taking care of folks … whose life will change, they can’t come in anymore?”

He also said that the University had been informed by federal regulators that, due to equal employment opportunity rules, Pitt must change the way it publicizes job openings: “It’s a moral imperative that we’re doing this, and we have to be compliant with federal regulations, so we are posting jobs — all jobs,” he said.

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


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