Tag Archives: VSP

Workforce Planning-VSP-Answers to Questions

You may recall at the end of September Staff Council collated a series of questions concerning Workforce Planning and the Voluntary Separation Package and sent them to the administration. Below are the questions with the responses. We encourage staff to reach out to Human Resources or their manager/supervisor with questions and concerns. And, as always, feel free to comment below. (read this post on how to post anonymously should you wish to do so.)

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.
    • All departments are expected to perform the workforce planning work and process steps. If departments have recent and relevant data from previous work, they should include this data in the workforce planning materials.
  • 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.
    • We have asked vice presidents to work with their managers to see if there are interim measures (e.g., temp staff) that we might use to address this issue.
  • 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?
    • We are using the FY 18 compensation budget as the baseline for reductions.
    • Most units have completed the “future state conversations.” The VPs are currently reviewing and refining this work. We also will discuss them at SLG.
    • There is still work to do in understanding how our current workforce meets the future needs. This conversation, which will include discussion about the work we are stopping, will continue through December.
    • We anticipate that all recommendations for position reductions will be complete by February or March 2019.
    • Senior leadership owns this process.
  • Does workforce planning include staff at MIIS? Yes
  • Will WFP be looking at cross-departmental functions? Are VPs talking to other VPs? Staff have a real concern about this. We are looking at this cross-departmentally, to ensure that we minimize the risk of important work slipping through the cracks.  VPs are talking to each other and we continue to meet and discuss as a group. We want to understand as best we can what the realignment of work means for staff.
  • Is there a moderating body that will help determine the right steps, or will all decision-making be made by SLG? SLG will make the decisions.
  • Have we thought about cutting costs in other ways? Yes, we continue to look for opportunities to make reductions in operational spending. The workforce planning process is informing some of that decision-making.
  • Is travel being looked at? A simple trip to DC is $1,000.
    • Yes, we continue to look at all non-salary expenses such as food, catering, travel, and more. However, reductions in these expenses will not address the long-term goal of positioning the institution for long-term financial sustainability.
  • Can efficiencies be found that would help save jobs? We are looking for efficiencies in every area as part of workforce planning.
  • What are the mechanisms to ensure that the same hires don’t happen again? WFP is a forward-looking process (for the next 3-5 years), so we are thinking that far forward. Together with tracking metrics (total compensation, FTE, total headcount), coupled with holding ourselves to that plan, we can monitor our hiring processes. Also, using workforce planning as a continuous improvement tool, we can have better insight into the areas that need more investment.
  • 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? The workforce planning process will likely inform new organizational structures. Those decisions will be made by the VPs. Managers whose positions are impacted will be treated in the same manner as other staff, meaning they will be eligible for the incentive separation plan.  We will not have control over who decides to take it.
  • WFP, even through voluntary reduction of staff, is messing with people’s sense of security. We understand the stress this process creates and we are working as quickly as possible within the process we’ve defined.
  • 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?  We are asking (and supporting) mangers is their evaluations to ensure that we have manageable workloads moving forward. That will mean we need to make commitments about work going away.
  • 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?  We understand that we need to meet the expectations of parents, students, and alumni. We are striving to do that. What may change is the manner in which that service is delivered. For example, deploying self-service options in lieu of face-to-face interactions may change the “feel” of the service, but we will always strive to meet the need. There may be areas where we do need to reset the expectations, not to encourage efficiency for its own sake, but to reach levels of efficiency that enable us to invest in more high impact work. Our cost structure is higher than all of our peers who charge the same amount to attend their elite private institutions. It is our responsibility to develop a long-term staffing structure that meets the needs of our students that while allowing us to operate with a modest surplus.
  • 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.  We hear you and understand that perspective. We are working hard to ensure that is not our reality.
  • Staff feel that faculty do not understand the volume of work that staff are tasked with. We agree that the amount of work we ask of staff is not widely understood throughout the campus community.

Communications:

  • The consensus around the room was that staff understand WFP, the definition, steps and desired outcome. That is encouraging and we are always looking for ways to improve our communication and processes.
  • 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? Karen Miller has been posting frequent updates in MiddPoints. And we recently launched a new website that brings information together from various sources. That said, the internal communications plan is somewhat fluid to accommodate new issues and concerns as they become apparent.
  • We feel that future communications do need to include students, alumni, parents, etc. Noted. Our priority, however, will continue to be on communications and transparency with faculty and staff, who are most directly impacted by these changes.
  • Middlebury needs to communicate that it’s no longer the “culture of no complaint” – if that’s the case. [It would help to have clarification of this comment. If it is to address the concern that a single complaining individual can “Create work, topple policies, etc. I would agree]
  • In IT, we’re down by 4 staff members 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? The desired future state is being determined through workforce planning. Until we reach that point, it is true that while we are moving ahead with some important hires, we are holding off on others, including some replacement hires, until we have greater clarity around our objectives.
  • What is the status of the meetings by groups listed on Karen Miller’s chart? We are tracking the progress of the project teams and supporting them to complete the process. Laurie has made her expectation clear that all VP units engage and complete this process.
  • Staff would like to continue to have both staff forums without SLG presence and with SLG to answer direct questions. We will do our best to continue this process.
  • For David, can you define “student- centered service” – what did it look like at Champlain? What is your vision? I will share with the community at our next large group meeting.
  • 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.  As stated before, we have moved ahead with certain strategic hires that we are confident will be consistent with our future strategy.

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? We don’t want to be in the position of hiring someone only to give them an incentive a year later. We have been careful to approve only those hires we are confident will be part of the future state plan. We also need to ensure that departments can maintain their service levels during the process. Managers are being asked to consider alternatives before making any hires.
  • If staff have already indicated that they are retiring, they’re not eligible for the VSP. This isn’t the case for faculty. Also if faculty take Incentive Retirement Plan, they’re able to work one more year. Why is this not the same for staff? First, let us correct the following: staff who are holding positions which are identified for reduction are entitled to the  VSP, regardless of  whether they intended to retire. In regards to faculty, there are two primary reasons for the differences between the faculty incentive retirement plan and the staff incentive separation plan. The first is tenure. The second has to do with how faculty are hired in higher education. Faculty typically are hired once per year, and the cycle for that hiring begins in the fall for the next academic cycle. So any faculty member who accepts the recently announced incentive retirement plan in the late fall of 2018 won’t realistically be able to apply for full-time positions until the fall of 2019. And in most cases, those positions won’t be available until the fall of 2020.
  • What is the “voluntary” aspect of this? Individuals who are offered the incentive and do not take it will remain employed at Middlebury.
  • Will they over-extend their offers in March? Will they send offers to 12% with the expectation that 10% will be accepted? We will extend offers to the number of people holding positions identified for reduction. We expect that some of these will be multi-incumbent positions. In those instances, more people will receive the offer than will be allowed to take it. If we receive too many requests to accept the offer, seniority will determine who gets preference.
  • 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? Individuals who move into new positions will maintain their length of service and will accrue CTO based upon the new position.
  • Can the funds from the base pay payout be put into a 403b voluntary retirement plan? The funds from the base payout cannot be placed in the 403b. Human resources will be available to work with individuals who wish mitigate their tax exposure for the year by making 403b contributions from their regular pay.
  • What happens to the employees’ accrued CTO time – will it be paid out separately? Employees who accept the incentive separation plan offer will be paid for unused CTO time.
  • 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? If the individual qualifies as a retiree, the per our policy the SLR is converted to a HRA contribution. In all other instances, the SLR is not lost.
  • Will there be a time limit to be able to reapply back to the college if someone takes the separation package? Generally, this is no time limit to reapply. The exception will be for those individuals who are retiring who must have a “bona fide” break in service if they intend to access their core retirement benefits.
  • 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. Payments, including earned but unused CTO time, will be made in a lump sum at the time of separation.
  • Will Middlebury employees who move to the consortium maintain their Middlebury benefits? The consortium will have its own benefits package.
  • Will people who take the VSP be eligible for Unemployment? Eligibility for unemployment are determined by your state. Individuals should contact their respective department of labor.

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? We plan to pilot some changes to our performance management process in the coming year.
  • Has SLG discussed that retirement and/or vacation benefits will change anytime soon? We currently to not plan to make major changes in retirement or vacation benefits, though we may revisit this and other expenses, if we do not meeting financial targets.

October meeting with the Trustees

It’s not even August, but we’re already formulating our agenda for our meeting in October with a committee of the Board of Trustees. Here’s what we’ve come up with so far. Please let us know if you have additional concerns!
1. “The New Normal”: the number of staff has been reduced, “things not to do” are (sometimes) identified, but then some months later they get put back on the “to do” list. Many staff members feel that expectations have not been lowered even though the administration has said they should be. (We have specific examples from across campus.)
2. Committees (the Benefits Advisory Committee and the SRC’s Wage and Salary Committee) that were established in the last couple of years to participate in policy discussions related to compensation and benefits are either no longer convened or have been reduced to a role of “approving” policies established without their participation. MCSC feels it is appropriate that we have a more active role in these important policy discussions.
3. Is the previously stated target of 850 staff still a valid number given a) no apparent decrease in expectations of services (see item number 1) and b) improved budget forecasts?
4. Staff morale is very low for a number of reasons:

    Staff numbers have decreased but expectations and requirements for their work have not (see item number 1).

    Units that have lost the most staff are also the units who have had to relocate to smaller, less functional office space, or they are the ones performing the moves (Facilities Services). Further, the compressed timeframes required for these moves (in order to bring dorm space online for Fall) made it logistically overwhelming for Facilities and also difficult or impossible to modify the new spaces to function appropriately. Yet the staff affected by these moves are still trying to meet the same level of service that was expected of them three years ago.

    The ERPs and VSP has not only resulted in the loss of valuable institutional memory that affects work units and the college as a whole, but also the loss of long-time colleagues who have become close friends over the years makes many of the work environments on campus less congenial than they were a year or so ago.

    Minimal, flat raise levels over the last two years, while economically understandable, have coincided with the most stressful times for employees. This has further lowered morale.