DeJong and HR team ready to move ahead on ‘Shaping the Workplace’



Shaping the Workplace

December: Announce new efforts to look at Pitt compensation, benefits and other work issues; meet with HR partners, including directors of administration, HR liaisons, Staff Council, the Council of Deans and the University Senate; start benchmarking process.

January-February: Have public meetings, along with a listening tour at different units around campus, to outline the five areas being reviewed.

March-April: Gather all the responses and report back to the University community what they’ve heard and share some of the benchmarking data.

Then, DeJong said, they’ll meet with senior leadership to “prioritize specific initiatives that will really start to impart change.”

Job reclassification timeline

Already done: Use the information from the 2017 survey of staff to start defining job families

Through May 2020: Establish market salary ranges for job families; conduct internal equity study.

Fall 2020 through June 2021: Get final approval from senior leadership. Educate people on new job classifications and how they will work, and make any changes needed after meeting with staff.

July 2021 (for fiscal year 2021-22): Launch new job classifications.

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The modernization and holistic review of Pitt’s compensation and benefits system has hit some snags since starting in 2017, but new Vice Chancellor for Human Resources David DeJong is ready to move the project forward “full speed ahead” with the goal of reshaping the work environment on campus.

The project, first dubbed Total Rewards, included job analysis questionnaires sent to about 6,800 staff members in 2017, which had a 96 percent response rate, DeJong said. “That really heightened expectations about changes, and then those expectations have largely been frustrated over the past two years.”

On Dec. 3, DeJong held the first of several meetings outlining how his office plans to proceed on the Shaping the Workplace project. They’ve already been working with directors of administration, HR liaisons and Staff Council. More forums and town halls are being planned for after the first of the year.

“The goal is to position Pitt as an employer of distinction,” DeJong told those gathered Tuesday at Alumni Hall and those watching through a livestream. “Your participation and collaboration is crucial if this is going to live up to our expectations.

“We want to understand what we look like, then do a lot of benchmarking,” he said in an earlier interview. “And at the same time, engage with the university community, talk with them about their concerns, their challenges, what they think should be real opportunities for us to be pursuing. And we’re going to be doing that extensively throughout the spring semester. Once we have a strong picture of the environment, then we’ll start launching initiatives with the benefit of that really holistic evaluation of where we stand.

“The framework is designed to characterize Pitt as an employer, through the lens of a prospective employee or a current employee, either of whom has options for alternative places of employment,” he said. “What does that person care about?”

Comprehensive review

The review will be looking at more than just pay, DeJong said, emphasizing, “It is one piece of a broader effort to really shape the workplace.” There are five areas that will be addressed.

Salary: This includes whether Pitt’s salaries compare to similar jobs outside the University and “how strongly does our raise policy reward outstanding performance,” DeJong said. “Do we have a steep gradient to recognize performance or is it relatively flat and everybody kind of gets the same amount?” He said they’ll also be looking at if there’s opportunity for overtime, bonuses or other monetary recognition.

Benefits: They’ll be compiling all the benefit options that Pitt offers — health, retirement, education and insurance — and comparing them to what’s available outside the University. “One of the things we’ll be doing … is being able to map them into a dollar value so we can really compare apples to apples with the local labor market,” he said. “We expect to see that Pitt has very, very attractive benefits as a whole.” He cited the 12 percent match on 8 percent deposit into Pitt’s retirement fund. “But one of the things we’re noticing is that our benefits are really skewed toward a generation that has kids ready to go to university or who can really start to see that retirement is going to happen in their lifetime. What we’re not particularly strong on is for someone who’s just finishing school and this will be their first job; they’re carrying a lot of student loan debt. We’re going to take a strong look at that and think about ways to really get a better intergenerational balance of our benefits.” One thing he mentioned at Tuesday’s meeting was possibly using those matching funds to help younger staff members pay down student debts.

Work-life balance: DeJong said they’ll be looking at various options, such as flex work arrangements that would allow someone to work a three- or four-day week or take a three-hour chunk in the middle of the week to run errands. This category also includes family medical leave benefits, child educational opportunities and personal wellness offerings.

Performance review and professional development: This includes providing educational opportunities, input from supervisors and training for supervisors. DeJong has said previously that he wants to get a better performance evaluation that more people will participate in.

Climate, culture and work environment: Is the physical space clean and conducive to being productive, is the University practicing diversity and inclusion for all affinity groups and do people feel a session of mission?

Internal equity

In addition to comparing Pitt’s compensation to outside businesses, DeJong said they want to assess internal equity.

“The current system that we have is not amenable to that,” he said. “And it’s causing us a lot of problems from a management perspective. It’s also a frustration to staff. … Over time, the jobs have become very much individualized to a specific person. So it’s very difficult to go out and say, ‘What does this job look like.’ Literally, we have 7,200 employees and we have 7,000 unique jobs.”

Despite all these different job descriptions, there are only 26 classification categories to put those 7,200 people in. At Tuesday’s meeting, DeJong said they want to move from a classification-based structure to a job-based structure.

For instance, now there are more than 3,000 people labeled as administrators, which includes everything from department directors of administration to financial analysts to the band director. The salary ranges for each category are often broad and misaligned to include all the different jobs that fall within the category.

A job-based structure would classify all the accountants on campus in a category, for instance, and then base their salaries on skill level and functions. This also will allow for jobs to be more clearly benchmarked against comparable internal and external positions.

Already, DeJong said, there’s been a cultural change at the Office of Human Resources. They’ve have formed working groups to look at areas that are of the highest concern, including: Service delivery, compensation, performance assessment and the idea that “one size doesn’t fit all.”

“Our shop is energized,” he said. “I think this project in particular is really critical because it’s kind of hard to be put on hold for two years.”

Find a video of DeJong's presentation and the accompanying slide show here.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 412-648-4294.


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