HR tries to answer questions, debunk myths on comp modernization


Human Resources held its first extensive update on just what compensation modernization will and won’t do for staff jobs and salaries during a Staff Council Spotlight event on June 30.


The University Times will continue to follow the compensation modernization project closely. If you have questions not answered at one of the Staff Council sessions or in the FAQ on HR’s compensation resource hub, please let us know so we can follow up. Send your questions to

James Gallaher, vice chancellor for HR, and Shahfar Shaari, who is leading much of the program as director of organizational transformation and interim director of human capital management applications for Pitt IT, emphasized several points.

  • One misperception — “that compensation modernization means a salary increase for everyone” — needs to be debunked right away, Gallaher said. While there will be adjustments to some staff salaries, he said, the modernization of staff compensation “is not that simple.” After comparing Pitt jobs to the broader job market, “we will work with the responsibility centers to make sure adjustments happen” starting next year — if your RC determines it is needed.

  • No staff member should expect a change to their role based on the compensation modernization. “We are not trying to change your job,” Shaari said. “You still get to keep your old title” even though your job category may have a new label.

  • Your new job description should be “a very good reflection of work you already do,” Shaari said.

  • All employees should benefit from new, clearer career pathways to move to another department or job and new advancement “ladders” within your current department, he said.

  • The University is consulting with groups who collect data on pay equity (such as the Pittsburgh Technology Council locally) and other outside consultants to assess diversity of Pitt staff based on race, ethnicity, sex, gender and age, among other factors. This data will be reviewed in the end by HR’s compensation staff and Pitt’s Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Length in one’s job, education levels and other factors also will be considered when assessing salaries, Gallaher said. Because the University pays to access market comparison data from consultants, and because Pitt’s data will include information about personnel, Gallaher does not expect to be able to share this equity study in full with the staff, although he may be able to provide an overview, he said.

Right now, HR is in the midst of working with all Pitt departments to standardize job descriptions across the University and place jobs in appropriate job categories, and will continue working with staff to keep the data as up to date as possible, Shaari said. The next step, building career pathways, will begin in 2023, along with fine tuning the job catalog. Adjustments to salaries and finalizing new career advancement paths “will be worked out in ‘23 and ‘24 as phase three of the project,” he said.

Gallaher opened the session by noting that the process has thus far been “six years in the making,” but that “we're fully committed to making this happen in the next year.”

The presentation by Gallaher and Shaari was part of Staff Council’s monthly Spotlight series of presentations to Pitt staff, with the June 30 event likely drawing the largest online attendance ever for a Staff Council event, at more than 650.

The presentation will be repeated from 3 to 4 p.m. July 27. Register here.

Under Pitt’s current system there are only about 80 job classifications, Shaari said, while so far the compensation modernization effort (consulting with 371 department-designated staffers in 187 departments) has identified 1,118 unique jobs among Pitt’s 7,101 staff positions (full- and part-time).

The effort overall will be used to govern hiring, promotions, transfers, demotions and pay, Shaari said, and “will be updated regularly with changes in the market.” Department and unit managers will be making any new pay decisions based on continually updated market data, he added. The compensation modernization program itself is only providing “a modern tool” to help make such decisions, he stressed.

No longer will each new hire need to have its own freshly written and approved job description, he said. Instead, these job descriptions will be pulled from the new job catalog.

But departments should not be concerned if individual job duties differ somewhat from official job descriptions. Departments will start the hiring process by pinpointing the appropriate job description in the existing catalog but may add department-specific elements to it — within certain parameters, he added. HR will develop new documentation and trainings for these procedures, Shaari said.

The event ended with just a few of the approximately 100 questions the HR staff received during the session being answered, but HR plans to add more answers to its FAQ on the compensation resource hub.

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


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