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We are facing a number of challenges in recruiting (and keeping) strong programming talent. Of course a key problem is that our salary structure cannot compete with local opportunities. Des Moines has a solid corporate presence in the financial, insurance, health care and agribusiness industries, as well as a thriving tech start-up community, so we are being squeezed from both end. We are developing several alternative sourcing strategies to meet our talent needs, as well as examining improved recruitment tactics – and much of this will require OIT to educate HR and senior leadership on the dynamic skill sets needed to keep a robust set of IT services agile, dependable, and innovative. I'm wondering if folks might comment on the attached skill set framework, is it reasonable to expect to find folks with this range of skills (assuming we can compensate them appropriately)? Should we aim to build a team of cross-functionally trained folks to bridge needs from coders to business analysts? Or define these skills into separate job functions and try to balance these needs across some number of people?  Are others having this challenge and have you identified any particularly effective strategies? And what suggestions might you suggest for helping HR understand the compensation requirements? Like many, Drake offers tuition benefits and many of the perks associated with a higher ed environment, conditions that have strong appeal to mature workers with children. But those same folks willing to make a jump from corporate to higher ed often (quite reasonably) are not likely to downsize their established lifestyles to the degree required by the salary framework as defined by HR. 

Ann

Ann Kovalchick, Ph.D. 
Chief Information Officer 
Dial Center 
(o) 515.271.2345 


Drake University 
2507 University Avenue 
Des Moines, IA 50311

********** Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

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We are having the same issues. I can't even compete with other local colleges and universities, let alone businesses.

My strongest feeling is that the university does not have a strategic human capital management plan, and specifically, one for IT.  For example, if growth of online learning is a university goal, then the jobs posted, the people we hire, and retention emphasis needs to be on those skills.  If ubiquitous connectivity to support online learning and connecting anywhere is a goal, then hiring and compensating network engineers should be a talent management strategy.  

Instead we have job descriptions and hiring that are disconnected from those goals  The salary bands are too wide.  We are often hiring at the bottom of the salary bands.  I finally got our HR folks to stop telling new hires that they would move through the bands after I gave a spreadsheet to HR showing that it will take thirty years in the best of times to get to band midpoints.   

I seem to be at odds with a universe that emphasizes across-the-board fixed percentage salary increases.  I tried to show some folks here how giving me 2% salary increase and giving a developer 2% salary increase is not fair as it widens the salary gap between me and that employee.  Every year that gap widens and it breeds a hopelessness that is best stated as "not getting ahead".  That drives a lot of our 3-5 year experienced employees out the door to find that place of growth, particularly the very talented who get no merit. I cannot financially reward those employees who are linked to strategic goals (that lack of a strategic talent management plan again).  These are NOT union staff at OU, either.  

What works:
Very careful and honest hiring practices that cover the real opportunities and expectations.  Very carful interviewing for attitude.
Flex time.
Educational benefits. 
Hiring from corporate- emphasizing work schedules, family friendly sick time, ability to contribute to decision-making.
Cultural diversity.
Really talking through the exciting projects.
Participation in communities like open source, our state Merit Network group, ACM SIGUCCS, and of course, Educause (nothing like these in corporate)

But since I have no control over retention, I recognize that we will lose many talented staff in the 3 to 5 year tenure range, or soon after they complete a master's degree.  We try to make the parting as friendly as possible and for the most talented, try to keep them on a consulting contract for 6 months to ease transitions.

Look forward to the discussion.
Theresa

On Thursday, October 25, 2012, Ann E Kovalchick wrote:
We are facing a number of challenges in recruiting (and keeping) strong programming talent. Of course a key problem is that our salary structure cannot compete with local opportunities. Des Moines has a solid corporate presence in the financial, insurance, health care and agribusiness industries, as well as a thriving tech start-up community, so we are being squeezed from both end. We are developing several alternative sourcing strategies to meet our talent needs, as well as examining improved recruitment tactics – and much of this will require OIT to educate HR and senior leadership on the dynamic skill sets needed to keep a robust set of IT services agile, dependable, and innovative. I'm wondering if folks might comment on the attached skill set framework, is it reasonable to expect to find folks with this range of skills (assuming we can compensate them appropriately)? Should we aim to build a team of cross-functionally trained folks to bridge needs from coders to business analysts? Or define these skills into separate job functions and try to balance these needs across some number of people?  Are others having this challenge and have you identified any particularly effective strategies? And what suggestions might you suggest for helping HR understand the compensation requirements? Like many, Drake offers tuition benefits and many of the perks associated with a higher ed environment, conditions that have strong appeal to mature workers with children. But those same folks willing to make a jump from corporate to higher ed often (quite reasonably) are not likely to downsize their established lifestyles to the degree required by the salary framework as defined by HR. 

Ann

Ann Kovalchick, Ph.D. 
Chief Information Officer 
Dial Center 
(o) 515.271.2345 


Drake University 
2507 University Avenue 
Des Moines, IA 50311

********** Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.



--
Theresa Rowe
Chief Information Officer
Oakland University
 
********** Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

Good Morning, Ann,

    Thanks for the list, by the way:  we've been discussing this issue and developing professional-development plans within our Enterprise Applications Systems group along the same lines, and this will be a useful checklist.

    I've got a couple of recent experiences to relate that might be helpful to others in framing strategies for dealing with these challenges.

    A year ago, we lost 5 staff (from a total of 62) within about 5 months.  They left for increases of 20% to 35% for equivalent positions in local businesses.  The northern Vermont IT environment has been very hot over the last couple of years, and there's strong competition for highly skilled IT staff in particular areas (Peoplesoft, DBAs, systems, networking -- not so much Banner, desktop support, etc.).  The losses put some of our critical projects at risk (PS upgrades and payroll production, for example).  I made a compelling argument to my boss, the CFO, that if we didn't act, we'd be unable to support the very complex IT environment we have, endangering the University's business operations (including payroll production, accts payable, etc.).

    After extensive negotiation (below), we were able to offer "competitive retention incentives" (bonuses in other places) to about 30% of our staff that we considered most critical to operations.  The incentives were two payments for the half year, each equivalent to about 5% of annual salary, one in Jan and one in June, so that it was equivalent to about a 20% annual increase.  We promised to review local competition in May in preparation for the FY13 salary process.  We thought there might be a downturn in the economy or that some of the local competitors might be bought out, removing that competition.   In May, we realized that the competition was not going away and that the economy was booming (VT wasn't hit very hard by the recession to start with ... when you're flying pretty low to start with, there's not much room to go down! :-) ).  For FY13, the retention incentives were continued, at about 10% as an increase in base salary and 10% in one-time funds, with a continuing commitment to re-examine in May to confirm that the local competitors were continuing to offer high salaries.

    Yes, this generated some discontent among other staff.  They understood the need, but they were disappointed.  (We'd had 3 years of no increases for staff paid $75K/yr or more, and 1 year of no increases across the board, so the incentives to a select few really stung.)  And our CFO had to use a considerable amount of political capital to make it happen.  But I'd done a good deal of work as background for justification (below, still).

    We were very clear that the retention incentives were not merit increases (UVM has a strong egalitarian bent and pays a lot of attention to equity issues).  We were very clear that this was strictly in response to demonstrated competition for very specific skills, and everyone understood what was at risk if we continued to lose staff.  It was (is) motivated strictly by the need to retain staff in order to continue business.

    The analysis and negotiation part might be helpful for others.  Our HR dept traditionally uses CUPA data to determine if our salaries are competitive.  Compared with other higher ed institutions (in whatever peer group they use) we're paying the affected staff about 108% to 115% of the national average -- so we pay well compared with higher ed competitors.  But HR traditionally says that we compete nationally for senior administrators and faculty but locally for other staff.  So I used that approach and showed that locally we're about 20% below market for specific skill sets.  Eventually HR got the point and echoed the same perspective to the CFO.  I couldn't have sold it as across-the-board increases, but I could sell it as targeted increases for specific skills for which had concrete examples of local competition.

    The second part of my nefarious plan is to develop modern technology skills (mobile systems, Java/Groovy/...) among a second set of developers (Banner) so that their skills are in demonstrable significant demand in this immediate area (we have local businesses that would snap up experienced developers with those skills).  That won't cover all of the staff, but it'll give others a clear path forward for those that have the ability and interest to pick up those new skills.

    We did have one of those who left a year ago return as a result of the salary changes (she was an especially important win-back because of her skills and reputation among clients).  The others turnovers in positions have not yet all been filled, but the new hires we've made have been strong ones who brought new perspectives to our work (turnovers do have a positive aspect, too).

    I hope this is helpful to some of you in thinking about how to approach this issue.  I happened to be "lucky" in having a CFO who is sympathetic and helpful and an HR office that listened.  Oh, and lucky in losing 5 people in short order, I suppose, to help put an exclamation point on my pleas.  But perhaps this will help others see ways to exploit "opportunities" as they arise.

David

   





Theresa,

We have had some success with getting raise pools divided into merit raises and market adjustments. Merit raise pools are distributed as a salary percentage across departments,while market adjust pools are distributed to departments based on analysis of market data by job family. That is, departments well under market get bigger market pools than departments that are better paid. Getting the latter is a huge effort, principally in defining job families and levels accurately and then in matching those with published market data.  I should add that while the allocation is data driven, the allocation is not purely algorithmic; judgement is involved.

Our IT department was the pilot department for HR in moving away from broad bands and toward job families and levels. This gave us a good technical career ladder with more easily comparable salaries.

This positions us for more rational allotment of whatever raise dollars we have. The approach IT takes in allocating dollars is to first have a well considered merit ranking of every person in the department, determined collaboratively by the department leadership team.  Each person gets a score of 1 to five: 1) non-performer, 2) marginal performer, 3) solid performer, 4) high performer, 5) exceptional. 1's are on the way out. 2's are under performance plans and will move either up or out.

Merit raises are salary percentages based on the merit score, increasing from 3's to 4's to 5's.

Market adjustments are based on a combination of merit score and and percentage below market median of that person. The higher the merit raking and the greater distance below market, the bigger the market adjustment for the employee. 

Each year at time of salary announcements, I send a five page letter to our entire IT department explaining in excruciating detail the whole evaluation and process. Managers share the market adjustments and merit raises with their direct reports. Our staff appreciate the transparency. Although our raise pools are not enough to move us very quickly, this approach makes it easier to retain our highest performing staff.

The downside is that, while the university runs on the backs of the solid performers, these talented and hardworking staff get below average raises, as they must if we are to more highly compensate our top performers.

One aspect that is worth mentioning: IT at WFU has several departments within it. Until moving to this approach four years ago, each department got its own merit raise pool, allocated by its director in consultation with the CIO. Now we combine the pools for all IT, and directors meet quarterly to discuss interim scores for all staff. This enables us to have the same standards across teams, and it does not penalize employees in a team of extremely high performers. When raise and market pools are announced, our merit rankings and salary data are already in a spreadsheet, and our leadership team has a single meeting where we adjust the percentage raises across our 3's, 4's, and 5's to achieve what we hope is the optimal allocation across performance tiers. 

No system eliminates the fundamental problem of not having competitive salaries, but our now four-year-old approach has been well received as a transparent and thoughtful approach to compensation. 

Rick
Associate Provost for Technology & Information Systems
Wake Forest University



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