DeJong gives first report on Shaping the Workplace feedback


After seven engagement sessions with more than 700 people in attendance, and an additional 900 comments online, the Office of Human Resources has plenty of feedback on the Shaping the Workplace initiative.

This week, the office gave an initial report on those findings at the first of two read-out sessions open to all Pitt staff.

David DeJong, vice chancellor for Human Resources, led the meeting, which was attended by about 50 people on March 4 at the O’Hara Student Center. The second session is planned for 1 to 2:30 p.m. March 10 at 548 William Pitt Union, which also will be streamed. Click here to add to your calendar and get the streaming information. There also will be sessions on each of the regional campuses.

DeJong outlined several areas that received the most feedback and what HR is already doing and what they are contemplating to address those issues.

1. Compensation and classification

DeJong said from “Day 0” when he took over as head of HR last year he heard from multiple employees, “Our compensation system is a horrible, steaming mess.”

They’re already working on creating new job families, such as all accountants grouped together, based on the scope of the work and level of qualification needed. These will allow them to compare Pitt jobs with those outside and within the University. The reclassification also will include salary structures and a career guide that will show how an employee could move up that are clear and transparent.

This project is moving at a good pace, DeJong said, and they hope to have a first draft of the plan to take to senior leadership over the summer. Teams from HR will be going out to all the units on campus throughout the 2020-21 fiscal year to do training, and the new classifications are set to go live in fiscal year 2021-22.

2. Salary increase pool that adequately addresses merit, market and equity

For the past several years, the salary pool given to merit, market and equity raises has been “a very small sliver,” DeJong said.

He said they have formed a working group and hope to bring in a consultant to overhaul the evaluation system with more well-defined scales to differentiate between performance levels.

“The primary driver for the narrow merit component of the salary pool is that we haven’t had faith in our performance evaluation system,” DeJong said, which means supervisors don’t know who to give merit raises.

This leads directly into the next issue raised at the listening sessions.

3. Improve performance evaluations and support professional development

Human Resources hopes to have a new evaluation system to show departments in September or October to get feedback. Training will follow that with the goal of making it live in 2021-22.

But even before that, DeJong said, he’s not accepting that evaluations are just not done. He plans to announce this year the requirement that every staff person gets an evaluation. “I don’t care if it’s on a cocktail napkin with a crayon,” he said, as long as some sort of review process takes place.

As for professional development, they are looking at what is currently being offered and what employees would like to see added. Also being considered are more online faculty and staff development programs and revisions to the professional development policy.

4. Expand training and accountability for supervisors

This was the second most frequently raised issue at the listening sessions, DeJong said, just behind compensation updates.

The most radical idea that is being considered is to require training of supervisors on hiring, workplace policies, inclusion and equity, and performance management.

“We’ve heard about … widespread lack of uniform understanding about our policies and widespread variation in the application of those policies,” DeJong said. Training will address these issues.

“We could build the best compensation system on the planet and if no one knows how to use it, it’s not going to be effective,” he said.

The big question now is should this training be mandatory, he said, as several in the audience nodded yes. This might require someone to go through several modules of training before they are qualified for a supervisory position.

5. Increase flexibility in benefit options, work arrangements, leave policy and access to wellness opportunities.

Flextime and telecommuting options continue to be big issues for staff, and DeJong said training supervisors on a policy that already exists related to these issues is critical. Nontraditional work arrangements were the topic of a Staff Council panel discussion last week (see related story).

But there are other benefits that need to be addressed, he said.

Already, HR has moved to help employees with student loan forgiveness or refinancing through the Savi program. DeJong said 400 Pitt employees have engaged with Savi since it was announced last month and 200 have enrolled.

They also are working on allowing employees to divert retirement savings to pay off student debt and still get the Pitt match. In this scenario, the worker could still put aside 8 percent of their salary, with Pitt matching up to 12 percent, but 4 percent would go toward debt repayment and 4 percent to retirement savings.

Child care is another issue that continues to be a problem on campus, where the University center has a long waiting list. DeJong said they are working with UPMC, Carnegie Mellon, Carlow, Duquesne and Chatham universities (and in talks with Point Park University) to try to expand offsite child care along well-traveled routes into Oakland that would also serve as park and ride lots for employees.

“We’re looking at what our combined purchasing power might look like,” DeJong said, and putting together a proposal. This could mean one combined shuttle service, instead of the six different shuttles that now roam Oakland’s streets.

6. Inclusivity, equity and sustainability

DeJong said they are working to prioritize equity and inclusion in the new compensation system and doing training on inclusive practices for people doing hiring.

He said benchmarking is taking place on the bereavement policy, which currently has a very traditional view of family. And they also are considering creating an advisory board on equity and inclusion and initiating exit surveys to find out why people leave Pitt.

In addition to these six goals, Human Resources is continuing to look at how the office performs in delivery of service and responsiveness to customers. This includes the new Shared Services Center in Craig Hall that is a front-facing help desk for HR and payroll.

DeJong also reported that the transition to Pitt Worx, an integrated Oracle Cloud system for human resources, payroll and financial systems, is on track to go live in January 2021.

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


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