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.