Author Archives: Tim Parsons

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

Keeping up with Staff Council

In order to keep our ever growing community connected and informed, Staff Council will be reaching out in several new ways, both on this blog and elsewhere.

We now have an Instagram account, @middstaffcouncil, . We’ll use this for announcements of events, fun pictures and profiles of staff, and little news flashes to keep you informed on Middlebury.

Also new is a twitter account, @middstaff,, where we’ll be posting news and information pertaining to staff life here at Middlebury.

Finally, we are also going to be using this blog quite a bit more as well. It’s hard to stay in touch on campus, and harder still to share feedback and suggestions to staff council. There is a handy link on the left bar of this site that allows a user to subscribe to this blog, so you won’t miss any new posts. Comment threads, such as this one, can be subscribed to as well, just look for the check boxes at the bottom of the screen.

Accessing this blog is a little confusing, but worth understanding to be able to leave anonymous comments. The blog is only visible either physically on campus, or connecting remotely via VPN. If you are off campus and want to read the blog, you can log into the blog (upper right corner), but the blog will now post your comments with your name. Posting anonymous comments is possible ONLY when on campus or through Midd VPN connection.

As always, we are open to suggestions, comments, criticism, and ideas. We’d love for everybody to be in touch and a little more connected together.

Staff Council Meeting Tomorrow

Please join us at our next open meeting on Wednesday, April 11th. Our guest this month is Barbara McCall , Director of Health and Wellness Education – agenda below. Please note the room change-Davis Library 105A.


Open Meeting Agenda

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

9:00 – 10:00 AM

NEW LOCATION: Davis Library – 105A

Attendees: Staff Council Representatives, HR, Staff

9:00 AM               Open meeting and introductions

9:05 AM               Committee reports

      • HR-6
      • Events
      • Compensation
      • Safety & Environmental
      • SC Website
      • Treasurers Report

9:15 AM               Old/New Business

  • Approval of March 14, 2018 minutes

9:30 AM               Guest: Barbara McCall, Director of Health & Wellness Education

                                Subject: Are we moving to tobacco-free campus? Short presentation and video followed by staff questions and input.

10:00 AM             Adjournment

Staff Council regular meetings are open to all Middlebury College staff members. Staff members should let their supervisors know if there is a particular meeting they wish to attend. Supervisors will seek to find a positive balance between addressing operational needs and support staff request to attend these meetings.

Arbor Day Tree Planting

Middlebury College once again has been certified as a Tree Campus by the Arbor Day Foundation, and the landscape department is celebrating by planting more trees (naturally). Come join us Friday afternoon from about 1-4 just north of Battell as we plant five large shade trees. The holes will be pre-dug, so it won’t be too much work. (Sorry, can’t let you run the backhoe; I would if I could). Students, faculty, staff, children, all are welcome. Come make a permanent mark on our campus, and get some dirt on your knees.