By SUSAN JONES
Even though David DeJong is now officially senior vice chancellor for Business & Operations, he’ll still be involved with the projects he helped get moving during his short tenure as vice chancellor for Human Resources.
On Feb. 3, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced that the “acting” would be dropped from DeJong’s title, making him permanent SVC for Business & Operations. The chancellor also said he was “restoring the original organizational structure with Human Resources reporting to the senior vice chancellor for Business and Operations. Mark Burdsall will continue to serve as acting director of Human Resources under Dave’s supervision until we complete a search to fill the vacancy.”
A national search will start soon for a new leader of HR, and it will be done by “a broad committee of folks that represent the partners that we team with, as well as the units that we serve,” DeJong said.
In the meantime, work will proceed “full speed ahead” on the compensation modernization project, improvements to benefits, work/life balance and other issues under the Shaping the Workplace umbrella, he said.
Shortly before the University moved to mostly remote operations last March, DeJong issued a report on all the feedback received online and in listening sessions with employees on the Shaping the Workplace initiative. Some of the work was slowed by the pandemic, he said, because “as folks are struggling with their own efforts to be remote and support their teams, us coming in and talking to them about these things has been difficult.”
Some projects, though, were able to proceed throughout last year, such as the transition to Pitt Worx, the new platform handling employee benefits, payroll and other human resource services. The system went live earlier this year, and DeJong said he is very pleased with the work of Michelle Fullem and her team. “Of course, there were a flood of questions early on, but we’re getting on top of those and getting really great feedback about how well that system’s working.”
DeJong gave an update on where some of the other projects now stand.
The job reviews and initial market matching should be completed in the coming weeks. DeJong said he hopes to present the findings to senior leadership and move toward policy changes in the late spring or early summer. “We’re putting the finishing touches on that,” he said, under the leadership of Maureen Kendall, director of Compensation.
The new system would be based on job families, such as all accountants across the University grouped together, which will make it easier to benchmark against similar jobs outside Pitt.
HR also is working on new University job codes and nomenclature. An external consulting group will develop a recommended salary structure.
One of the silver linings to the pandemic has been that it jumpstarted flexible working arrangements for almost all staff, who have been asked to work from home if at all possible since March 13, 2020.
DeJong said the idea of flex work has progressed so far that Beth McGrew, associate vice chancellor for Planning, Design and Real Estate, and her team are “talking to certain units about what they think their need for space is moving forward.”
For instance, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer might reduce its need for office space by 80 percent; Pitt IT by 60 percent; and Human Resources by 50 percent.
There will be a variety of work arrangements, DeJong said. “I think some people are going to want to come back to work. Some people are going to want to come in once a week for the team meeting, and pretty much everywhere in between. … Managers are going to have to help figure that out with the schedule. But I think we’re going to have a lot of flexible space — sort of work room spaces … where you can bring in your laptop, plug it in and get the big screens up.”
In the meantime, he said, “what we need to do is update our policy to make it very clear what that’s all going to entail.”
Having HR once again under the SVC for Business & Operations has made that process easier, DeJong said, because they can address the physical space and policy issues seamlessly.
“We’re looking hard at all of our benefits offerings, very aware of the concerns and needs for support that our families have for providing care,” DeJong said.
While there have been some pandemic-specific efforts in this area, such as partnering with Carnegie Mellon University for access to its full-day, on-campus proctoring program for children of Pitt faculty, staff and students, DeJong said they are still looking at more long-term options to help with childcare. One possibility is partnering with third-party providers for remote childcare locations linked with park and ride lots. At the Feb. 10 Faculty Assembly, DeJong said they are working with UPMC on this and are close to opening up a facility in the South Side and are looking for locations in the North Hills. Another longer-term possibility is setting up a Boys and Girls Club location on campus for after-school care and proctoring.
He also said they are looking at partnering with care.com, which provides emergency childcare as well as matching services. “They provide services, for example, where you could access up to 10 opportunities a year for emergency care on a completely ad hoc basis,” DeJong said at the meeting.
They also are still working on allowing employees to divert retirement savings to pay off student debt and still get the Pitt match. “We decided that we needed to do that piece after Pitt Worx,” DeJong said. “We’ve cleared that hurdle now, so that will pick up an earnest again.”
DeJong’s time at Pitt
DeJong has had a long career with Pitt, including several new titles in the past year and a half. In July 2019, he was named interim vice chancellor of Human Resources after Cheryl Johnson resigned. The interim was removed in September of that same year.
In May 2020, DeJong took over as acting SVC for Business & Operations after Greg Scott left Pitt following an extended leave. For the past several months he has overseen both departments, with Burdsall, assistant vice chancellor of consulting services in HR, stepping up to the role of acting deputy vice chancellor for Human Resources.
“While it has been customary for me to use national searches to fill these senior roles, I believe that these special and demanding times necessitate a unique approach,” Gallagher said in his announcement. “Dave’s extensive experience at our university will provide our business and operations strong representation and effective leadership at this critical time.”
DeJong joined the University in 1989 as an assistant economics professor in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences; he was promoted to professor in 2001 and to chair of the Department of Economics in 2006.
In 2010, he moved to the Office of the Provost. As executive vice provost, he served as the liaison between Human Resources and the units in the provost’s area.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 724-244-4042.
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