Author Archives: Tim Parsons

Workforce Planning-A Communications History

The rollout and communications from the administration and other media sources is scattered in several different places and formats. Below is a chronological order of all the information that we are aware of at this time. Please add to the comments if there is anything forgotten and we will update the post.

The first information was an all staff email from Laurie Patton, sent from the Office of the President on June 19th,  it is on the web here.

The followup email with an accompanying FAQ from David Provost and Karen Miller came out the following week. It does not seem to be on the Middlebury website, but we posted it on the Staff Council Blog here.

Outside Press picked up the story:

Next communication was in MiddPoints-What’s New with Workforce Planning

The Voluntary Separation Plan was sent by email July 30, it is on the web here, (PDF) , but we can’t seem to find the accompanying PDF of the Staff Incentive Separation Plan Chart.

Staff Council regularly meets with the administration, and we posted a blog article with questions we’d gathered and received answers to on August 3.

August 8th was a blog post from Karen Miller “Defining Our Future State”, with a PDF of FAQ’s here. That document lays out the timeline for the workforce planning process.

Tangentially related to workforce planning and being worked upon concurrently is Institutional Performance Management, that was announced in MiddPoints on August 22.

Staff Council holds it’s first open forum of the year on September 19th, focusing on Workforce Planning. The questions generated were posted to the Staff Council blog, and also submitted to the administration. We hope most of them will be answered at the next open forum.



Next Open Forum-Workforce Planning II Q&A Session

Thank you for joining us at our first Staff Council open forum last Wednesday, September 19th in Davis Library. We had a great turnout! Roughly 80 staff attended and many of you asked engaging questions related to workforce planning that resonated across campus. Staff Council quickly composed all your questions and comments and shared with SLG members and in response – we are offering our second forum on the same topic, next Wednesday.


Karen Miller, VP for Human Resources and Risk and David Provost, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration will join us Wednesday, October 3 at 9:00 am in Wilson Hall to answer these questions and provide updates on where we are in the process of workforce planning.


Please come with questions. We hope you can join us.

Workforce Planning Open Forum-Questions

Thanks to all who attended our first open forum for the year. We had a great discussion on workforce planning, and generated good feedback and many questions. We have compiled all of the questions and feedback and have forwarded them to the administration for review. Our next forum will host Karen Miller, Vice President for HR and Chief Risk Officer, and David Provost, Executive VP for Finance and Administration,  where we hope they will answer your questions and tell us all the state of workforce planning. The forum will be held in Wilson Hall in McCullough, Wednesday Oct. 3 at 9:00.

Please read the questions we submitted below, and feel free to add more comments and questions which we will gladly forward along.

Workforce Planning Process:

  • How many people have met with their managers and were asked for input? (Appx 25% raised hands)
    • Library was asked for their input about future state of library.
    • Registrar gave a PPT presentation and asked for input.  The staff felt heard.
    • Other staff commented that they were aware of conversations, but not included.
  • Language Schools has completed WFP before, which took a solid year. Will we have to do this all over again? Will it result in a 10% reduction? We have taken on more work since we last did the WFP exercise.
  • Is SLG considering the workload they’re putting on the staff that stay? EX: Because of WFP they’re not filling one empty position out of formerly 3-4 positions.
  • Have they established and what is the starting point of the staffing level for determining the future workforce size? In regards to “Future State” – is there a date when this will be defined, and will we know what this will look like during the process or afterword? Who will own this?
  • Does Workforce Planning include staff at MIIS?
  • Will WFP be looking at cross-departmental functions? Are VP’s talking to other VP’s? Staff have a real concern about this.
  • Is there a moderating body that will help determine the right steps, or will all decision-making be made by SLG?
  • Have we thought about cutting costs in other ways?
  • Is travel being looked at? A simple trip to DC is $1000.
  • Can efficiencies be found that would help save jobs?
  • What are the mechanisms to ensure that the same hires don’t happen again?
  • I’m wondering about managers. Who will assess which managers will stay and who will go? Who will determine whether or not those who stay are good managers?
  • WFP, even through voluntary reduction of staff, is messing with people’s sense of security…
  • What is the gap between future state and staff?  What are the logistics – is the work (future state) going away really going to align with the reduction of staff?
  • The price tag for a Middlebury education is steep. Can we really reduce our customer service level and if so, who will be telling the parents, students and alumni?
  • Staff see all these higher-paid management positions and are fearful there will be a reduction of people on the front lines who are doing the day-to-day work that has to be done just to support the basics of providing a liberal arts education to the students here at our Middlebury location. People will be asked to do new work, but most likely on top of the old work, despite what the administration says.
  • Staff feel that faculty do not understand the volume of work that staff are tasked with.


  • The consensus around the room was that staff understand WFP, the definition, steps and desired outcome.
  • We want to hear more from SLG in regards to WFP. Do you have a communications plan you can share? When will we get the next update?
  • We feel that future communications do need to include students, alumni, parents, etc.
  • Middlebury needs to communicate that it’s no longer the “culture of no complaint” – if that’s the case.
  • In IT, we’re down by 4 and have only been approved for 1 replacement.  What do we need to maintain, what do we need to grow, and what won’t we be doing anymore?  How will this be communicated to students/faculty/staff?  How will we actually stick to it?
  • What is the status of the meetings by groups listed on Karen Miller’s chart?
  • Staff would like to continue to have both staff forums without SLG presence and with SLG to answer direct questions
  • For David, can you define “student- centered service” – what did it look like at Champlain? What is your vision?
  • Library had our area meeting yesterday and they introduced everyone who was new at Midd. Many of us noticed the number of jobs with Director or Asst. Director in the title, as well as positions that are new to the college. A lot of people are discouraged (and demoralized) to see all these new initiatives, resulting in hiring for new positions, while people feel their own jobs are threatened.

Separation Package and Process:

  • Why are we continuing to hire staff at a higher level? We feel it is going to be more than 10% that will need to be cut if you continue to hire at a higher level.
  • Will newly hired staff be considered “safe” in the 10% reduction next spring?
  • If staff have already indicated that they are retiring they’re not eligible for VSP. This isn’t the case for faculty. Also if faculty take ERP they’re able to work one more year. Why is this not the same for staff?
  • How long is the process between getting a letter to being eliminated?
  • What is the “voluntary” aspect of this?
  • Will they over-extend their offers in March? Will they send offers to 12% with the expectation that 10% will be accepted?
  • How will benefits be calculated for eligible employees who elect to move into another job at Middlebury? For example, will they maintain their current length of service, which dictates CTO accrual?
  • Can the funds from the base pay payout be put into a 403b voluntary retirement plan?
  • What happens to the employees’ accrued CTO time – will it be paid out separately?
  • What happens to the employees’ accrued SLR time – will it be added to the bank for health care premiums? If so, what happens if the employee has been here past 18 years – will it get added to the max of $16,200 or will it be lost?
  • Will there be a time limit to be able to reapply back to the college if someone takes the separation package?
  • How will the “payouts” associated with elective separation offers be structured? There is fear that a large payment could push an individual into a higher tax bracket.
  • Will Middlebury employees who move to the consortium maintain their Middlebury benefits?
  • Will people who take the VSP be eligible for Unemployment?

Other Questions:

  • Has anyone discussed bringing a union to campus? I haven’t heard it raised, and I wonder why not. I feel like this is pitting departments against one another.
  • What’s the update on performance management? How can we evaluate our managers?
  • Has SLG discussed that retirement and/or vacation benefits will change anytime soon?

Workforce Planning and Separation Plan-Answers to Questions

Middlebury Staff Council regularly meets with some members of the Senior Leadership Group, and for the last two months we’ve come with questions related to the voluntary separation program we’ve gotten from our constituents. Below are some of the answers. Please note that any errors are mine, and that official policy and direction comes from the Human Resources Department.

We also encourage you to reach out to Staff Council with any more questions you may have.

Question: Who do I go to with questions about all of this?

For questions on workforce planning, your best first bet is to go to your supervisor. This process is meant to be collaborative, with all of us having a voice, so now is your chance to be heard. Your manager, and even your vice president for your division are also excellent resources. For questions on the staff incentive separation plan, please email Human Resources (they will be providing a more detailed contact list shortly).

Question: What will happen if someone’s position is identified and they don’t take the offer and then the goals aren’t met by the end of the next year? Will another offer be made or will people be laid off and told they should’ve taken the offer the first time it was given?

The administration has been transparent right from the beginning of the process: If the target 10% reduction in staff compensation is not met, they will explore other options, including a possible reduction in force (involuntary layoff). If there is a reduction in force, a compensation package associated with it will NOT be as generous.

Question: People are still very unclear about what it would mean if they choose to ask to be relocated to another position. I’ve been told by several people that it doesn’t make any sense that there would even be a spot for someone to be relocated to if positions are being eliminated.

The process of workforce planning is not all about elimination of positions, it is more a holistic look at the institution, and each department’s alignment with the strategic mission. Through the process it is anticipated that some positions may actually be created, while others may go away. There is also a natural attrition rate–staff members may leave through retirement or life changes, and those positions may need to be filled.

Question: If someone close to retirement wanted a buyout and someone else wanted to train for their position would there be any options available?

The staff incentive separation plan is NOT a retirement plan, and is not “optional” for people that may want one, unless their position is being eliminated. Should someone choose to retire, AND that position is seen through workforce planning as being one to keep, then staff members are welcome to throw their hat in the ring for that role.

Question: Can people who are close to retirement volunteer to separate so that younger folks can take over their positions?

See above. This is not a “volunteer” program, and not an early retirement program either.

Question: There is high anxiety that the College will eliminate “older” staff members who are being paid at a higher wage than what a beginner would be hired at. Can these administrators assure us that this type of position elimination will not occur?

Two answers here. First of all, targeting older workers is illegal. The plan will be tested for compliance with all applicable laws before it is rolled out. Also, positions are being eliminated, so even if an “older” worker were let go, that position is gone, and there is not a spot for a younger worker.

Question: How many other positions are being planned to move to shared services?  Is this just the first round or will there be more moving to the consortium later?

Staff Council was told that in the first phase, 12 positions are anticipated to be moved to the consortium (Green Mountain Higher Education Consortium). These will be from Accounts Payable, Benefits, Payroll, and IT Support.

QUESTION:  Why were there not other cost cutting measures taken before taking peoples jobs away People are asking why there aren’t better controls in place for spending. People are upset that areas spend lots of money on frivolous things that could be controlled and would likely make a difference in the spending and therefore may mean less people would be losing their job.

In fiscal year 2018 a 4% reduction in spending was budgeted, and in 2019 a 2% reduction is budgeted. To reach financial sustainability, though, the largest portion of the budget needs to be addressed, and that is compensation for faculty and staff. Further non-compensation budget reductions will certainly be possible as a result of workforce planning, and spending controls will continue to be tightened, but to reach the goals the board of trustees have set compensation needs to be addressed.

QUESTION:  How do we know whatever we say we “won’t do” we still won’t be doing ten years from now? What controls or evaluations will be put in place so we won’t have to go through this again ten years from now?

Workforce planning is holistic and future-oriented—first to look at what we want and need in the future, then to look at what we aspects of that future vision we can afford. This involves looking at the values and impacts of adding/not adding positions, and using metrics to measure our success (e.g., student-faculty ratio). We need to have conversations about setting realistic levels of expectation and about delivering a consistent product/service across the institution.  We can’t go back to “business as usual.” Lastly, we need to be accountable to the Board of Trustees to become and stay financially sustainable.

QUESTION:   How much will growth that occurred in the last ten years be considered? In many areas (such as the library) there has been no growth, and it seems prudent to take a harder look at those areas where there has been massive expansion and ask whether or not that should be undone.

Middlebury as an institution has certainly changed and evolved. Through the process of workforce planning, our hope is that all departments, roles, and work will be tested against the strategic mission of the college, and we will look at what we need for resources to get our future work done.

QUESTION: How will the process of deciding what percentage should come from which departments be made? Per above, it seems imprudent to just take 10% across the board. There may be areas where it makes sense to cut more than 10% and other areas where either strategically or operationally, it makes sense to make no cuts or even to grow.

Yes, it would be a mistake to just take 10% across the board. The intention is to be very strategic in identifying positions. Workforce planning conversations will be designed to evaluate programs and services. All departments will go through the process at the same time in order to determine which values we want to provide.  Staff Council was told this will be a somewhat “messy” process–there are many interdependencies among departments that need to be considered, as well as positions fulfilling several disparate roles.

Next Steps on Workforce Planning

Many staff were having trouble opening the FAQ document that accompanied Karen Miller and David Provost’s email last week on the next steps to workforce planning. We’re going to cut and paste it below.

Staff Council has been in close contact with the Senior Leadership Group concerning the workforce planning efforts and the voluntary separation program. I personally am willing to answer any questions you may have, and, should I not know the answer, will do my best to find out. I am sure the rest of staff council feels the same way. Please feel free to reach out to me or any other staff council member, or feel free to respond, comment, or question below.

The FAQ’s:

Workforce Planning and Incentive Separation Plan FAQs

June 27, 2018


Q:   Why does Middlebury need to reduce the number of staff?

A:    Although we have made excellent progress in reducing our cost structure through reductions to operating budgets, benefit changes, staff attrition, 90-day holds on new and replacement hires, and more, we continue to project significant deficits through 2021. While we could continue on a path of continued incremental reduction, that path comes at a cost: too few resources to reinvest in strategic initiatives, downward pressure on annual salary increases, and stress reflected in low morale. Over time, these effects inevitably take a toll on the institution and its people. The culture of Middlebury is one of innovation and enthusiasm, and we risk losing that if we do not create an environment where that culture can thrive.

We expect that the majority of future savings will come from streamlining services and functions, which will enable a reduction in staff. The staffing analysis requires departments to engage in workforce planning by defining the future state of their work, prioritizing their responsibilities, identifying possible changes in service levels, and identifying the impact these changes would have on other programs or functions.

A:    Workforce planning involves institutional engagement in the conversation about what we should be doing concerning desired institutional outcomes and the work required in achieving them. Each vice president will lead these conversations in their area, with the support of a project team composed of managers and key staff members who have insights into particular areas of work. Throughout the process, these project teams will look for ways to engage other staff in this conversation to ensure that our thinking and decisions are shared through this process.

A:    For most departments, workforce planning will begin in July with managerial training on the process and approach. Following that, vice presidents and senior managers will begin the process of defining the desired future state for their group. Work will then begin on understanding how our current work and workforce map to the desired future state. Any gaps will be identified by December 2018. Our target for completed plans is February 2019.

A:    Each vice president will lead this effort in his or her area, with the support of Human Resources. For VPs of anchor functions, they will lead this effort for both campuses.

A:    It depends on the area and function. Much of our work involves interdependencies, and departments will need to consult and collaborate with other departments before making decisions that might affect another group. This will require a consultative process among vice presidents and members of the Senior Leadership Group. In other cases, departments will have more latitude when making choices that do not affect others. Ultimately, the vice presidents will make decisions based on the recommendations of their teams with the understanding that we will be operating with a constrained budget and that the overall goal of the process is to reduce costs and staff.

A:    Human Resources is providing support for this initiative and will assist vice presidents and managers in helping to shape a future state and in making the determinations about the work we will no longer continue. Human resources has developed a toolkit of resources, as well as training, to support vice presidents and managers in this effort.

Q:   Are we benchmarking our staffing levels against comparable colleges and universities?


A:    Yes. We have done some of this work and we have a sense of how other institutions staff their departments. We also know that Middlebury has some unique staffing needs due to our size and complexity. So, while the comparative data is directionally helpful, it isn’t always sufficient to determine specific departmental goals. We cannot know, for example, how other institutions set their service levels, the amount of outsourcing they might do in some cases, the quality of the work their cultures demand, how labor- and time-intensive their processes are, etc. The job of workforce planning is to help us make our own conclusions about how we want to work and to staff individual departments and functions appropriately given our fiscal constraints. To do this, we need to hear from staff about what new ways of working might look like.

Q:   How many positions will be identified for reduction and how was this calculated?

A:    We have not identified a precise number of positions or a breakdown by department. Workforce planning will help departments arrive at the number of positions they believe is the right one to perform their strategic priorities and meet the essential needs of the institution. We also need to analyze functional roles that may exist across the institution and not only in one department. Overall, we hope to reduce staff compensation—before benefit costs—by $8 million, or about 10 percent.

Q:   When and how will I know if my position is affected?

A:    We anticipate that there will be two rounds of incentive offers. Some departments have begun their workforce planning efforts and will make staffing decisions this summer or early fall. Incentive offers in those departments will be made in the fall. Managers or the unit vice president will inform eligible staff members.

Q:   How will the elective separation plan work? 

A:    Staff members in positions that are identified for reduction will receive a letter containing an incentive offer to end their employment relationship with Middlebury on a specified date. The amount of the financial offer will be based on length of service and the employee’s salary. Detailed information regarding the terms and benefits associated with separation packages will be communicated directly to eligible employees.

Middlebury will make its best effort to reassign eligible employees to another job at Middlebury, taking skills and experience into account. The reassignment may be a job shift within the same department, or it may be a job in a different department or area of the institution. There may be some cases where an employee is asked to remain in his or her position for a period of time.

Q:   Is it truly elective?

A:    We intend for it to be elective. We also realize that the elective nature of the program is time-limited, and will likely work differently depending on the unit.

What we cannot know at this point is what will happen if too few employees elect to accept the offer and we do not reach our overall goal to reduce staff compensation. In that event, it may prove impossible to find reassignment work for those whose jobs are reduced but who wish to continue their employment. If it comes to that, we may have no choice but to contemplate additional cost-cutting measures.

It is also important to note that, in some cases, a department may need to limit the number of people who would be able to take the offer. This might happen, for example, in a department that has identified a number of positions for reduction, but where more than that number of staff perform the same or equivalent function. In such a case, to ensure there is no discrimination, we would extend the offer to all similarly situated employees. However, if more employees chose to accept the offer than the workforce-reduction plan called for, we would accept only the number specified. The people who are more senior would have first priority.


Q:   Why are staff not being offered an incentive retirement plan similar to the one in 2008–2009?

A:    Workforce planning focuses on the work we do and the positions—not the individuals—responsible for that work. The reductions that result may not align with employees’ readiness to retire. Accordingly, in fairness to all, we will use position reduction as the basis for the incentive offer, and not whether someone is ready for or considering retirement.

Q:   Would reassignment affect my salary?

A:    It may, depending on the new position.

Q:   What if I don’t want the reassignment?

A:    We will make our best effort to offer staff members whose positions have been identified for reduction another opportunity for employment at Middlebury. Human Resources will work with employees to identify potential positions that offer the best opportunity to apply their skills or to acquire new skills. Beyond that, we cannot guarantee that another reassignment will be available.

Q:   If I accept an offer to leave, will I receive a recommendation or documentation to show I was not fired?

A:    The incentive offer letter will state clearly that the offer is an elective one and is not based on any negative performance evaluation.

Q:   Can I request an offer?

A:    Determinations regarding changes and/or reduction in work and associated positions will be based solely on current and future operational needs. Incentive offers will only be available to individuals whose positions have been identified as no longer needed through this process.

Q:   Will there be layoffs in the future? What happens if fewer people accept the offers than you are hoping for?

A:    We cannot know how many positions will be identified for reduction or how many people in those positions will accept the incentive separation offer. But we are hopeful that this process will help us reduce our overall compensation costs by enough that we do not need to resort to an involuntary reduction in force.

Q:   Are Middlebury positions moving away because of the consortium?

A:    Middlebury, through the Green Mountain Higher Education Consortium, is evaluating a shared services model for certain services, including payroll, accounts payable, benefits administration, and certain IT support functions. We do anticipate that a relatively small number of positions at Middlebury will move to the consortium over the next two years. That evaluation will be part of the workforce planning discussion in these areas. This is only a small part of the larger, institution-wide workforce planning effort.

Q:   What happens to positions that move to the consortium? Will the people in those positions still work for one of the schools?

A:    Our current thinking is that they will work for the consortium. As we will move positions and not people to the consortium, people who are interested in the shared services positions will need to apply and be offered a position in the shared services center. But there are many details still to be worked out.

Learning Lecture at the Recycle Center

Today’s Staff Council (in concert with Faculty Council-thanks for the help!) was at the David W. Ginevan Recycling Center.  We learned all about how Middlebury diverts a large portion of our waste out of the stream, and how staff can best help. Here’s the top 5 tips-

Separate shredding paper

Keep the food out of recycling-use the compost bins (don’t have one? Call! x3087)

Paper towels and tissues are not recycling they are trash

Dog poop in a building keep in separate container

Rinse containers before sorting

Here’s some pictures of the facility, for those of you that couldn’t make it. Don’t forget our next learning lecture, at the Biomass plant May 2nd from 11:45-1:00, pizza again provided.

The outside of the Center

Inside the Reuse trailer-where Students, Faculty and Staff can come get used items for home or office

The Main sorting floor in the center

The one sort hopper-all recycling gets sorted out of the waste stream and put into here

Kim Bickham-Supervisor, Waste Management