Second comp modernization session addresses some questions

Diagram of compensation modernization project phases


The second Staff Council Spotlight on compensation modernization on July 27 covered the same ground as the first session on June 30, while trying to answer some questions that staff have raised.

James Gallaher, vice chancellor for human resources, and Shahfar Shaari, director of organizational transformation and interim director of human capital management applications for Pitt IT, again stressed that the main purposes of the project are to create a job-based structure that provides consistent roles, pathways for advancement and equitable compensation across the University and aligns compensation with the overall labor market.

But that doesn’t mean everyone is going to get a pay raise when the project is completed. “There won’t be a light switch flipped and everyone gets a compensation increase,” Gallaher said.

“It has been overly stressed to me that this is (one of) the most important things we have as a project, not just for HR but for the University,” Gallaher said. “This is something that will change how we approach staffing.”

He said he’s received assurances from Pitt’s leadership that they support this project and the steps needed for it to succeed. But Gallaher cautioned that “it’s going to take a little bit of time. We can’t fix everything all at once; we can’t make adjustments all at once.”

The new system is projected to be initially implemented by the end of calendar year 2022 with the full project wrapping up a few years later.

Staff have been waiting for a compensation update for several years. A survey about job responsibilities was first sent to staff in 2017.

“I know the effort stumbled in the past,” Gallaher said. “I’m 100 percent committed; the campus leadership is 100 percent committed to making this happen and to making the adjustments necessary to make Pitt more competitive from a career standpoint, from a compensation standpoint.”

At the Spotlight session, Gallaher and Shaari answered a few questions and also referred listeners to an HR Sharepoint site (Pitt Password required) where other questions are addressed.

Below are some of the questions answered at the July 27 forum and some from the Sharepoint site. HR officials say the site will be updated as more questions from the two sessions are answered. More than 650 people attended the first session and nearly 200 signed on for the second one. Staff also can submit questions and feedback at

Question: Will there be more transparency of what markets were used as comparisons for specific jobs? For instance, for an individual who works in health sciences, do we look at other medical schools for these positions or what are we comparing to?

Shaari: We employ about a dozen different compensation surveys, all of which are vetted by a consulting firm that specializes in higher education compensation structures that we employed in helping us design this. … We don’t focus solely on higher education. We try to look at private industry as well as nonprofit. And sometimes we have compensation surveys that are geared toward a particular function, such as information technology. There are dozens if not hundreds of these (surveys) out there. …

It’s really difficult to answer the question, because it really depends on what transparency means. Are we going to share the actual data? No, because we cannot based on contracts that we have with these particular institutions and consulting firms. We can’t readily just share that data publicly because that’s their proprietary information.

However, there are internal mechanisms for reviewing what we are doing. … We have individuals within the HR department and compensation. We’re going to include OEDI, the CFOs office is involved and then a variety of governance that have oversight on staff matters that review all of this.

Q: Once salaries are reviewed and set to be fair across the team, is there an option to request discussing salaries of other team members to confirm the equity and transparency?

Shaari: We have that process in place now. Departments can definitely come to the compensation department, and in fact they do all the time, and request an analysis of equity across the University.

With the new compensation modernization process, the compensation team will continue to work on that. But in addition to that, because of how the new model is structured, we’re going to have a lot more flexibility moving forward post 2023, to be able to share summarized data across the University, through our HR dashboards. We still have to build them, but because of the fact that we’re going to have this new model, it’s going to allow us to be able to share data with the right users so that they actually don’t even have to come to comp, they will be able to do some initial equity analysis from across the University themselves.


How are salary ranges constructed?

By looking at the jobs spread across the University and their respective market rates, salary grades are created which will encompass those market-dictated pay rates. Jobs are assigned pay grades in such a fashion as to allow room at the lower and higher end of the pay range for both entry and expert-level candidates within the same job. Salary grades are created to ensure every job has such a pay range available.

How does this salary structure differ from what we had previously?

Pitt’s new salary structure has narrower ranges (i.e. distance between the bottom and top of the range), but there are more ranges in this new structure. Each job is assigned to a more appropriate range based on benchmark data.

What determines the salary grade a job is assigned to? Is this negotiable?

Duties and responsibilities of a job were benchmarked against professional salary surveys to determine appropriate target market rates for each job. As a reminder, target market rates for each job are based on duties a job performs. To construct the salary grades, and in honoring Pitt’s compensation philosophy, the market 50th percentile was used to place jobs within a grade, aiming to be near the middle of its respective grade.

Can I hire outside of the established salary ranges?

No. Ranges are established to ensure we are market competitive and being good stewards of our funding, regardless of fund source.

Will updates be made to the data provided to reflect changes in the market?

Compensation will review and make market adjustments, as appropriate, on a regular basis. Regular reviews by the compensation team will also include maintenance and updates to the newly implemented structure and salaries, as well as salary increase and structure adjustment recommendations.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 724-244-4042.


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