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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University July 24, 2006 | Vol. 35 No. 40
Compensation program rolls out this month

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

The university this month began the rollout of a new market-based compensation program that touts itself as more flexible and rewarding of work performance and growth.

Due to the immense scope of the change, the program, which officially became effective on July 1 and affects the eight academic divisions, will be rolled out over the next several months with full implementation expected by the end of the calendar year.

In the new program, which replaces the more than 20-year-old system of numbered job "grades," each staff job is being assigned a "role," a "level" and a market-based salary range. The number of job titles will also be streamlined. While many current job titles will remain the same, the Office of Human Resources seeks to bring more uniformity to the use of job titles across the university, according to Belinda Crough, the university's senior director for compensation.

The new staff compensation program applies only to university staff members, who hold more than 9,000 positions. Corporate and administrative officers, faculty and other academic appointees, fellows, student employees and bargaining unit members are not included. The program also does not apply to the Applied Physics Laboratory.

Under the new system, each job is being assigned one of five roles-administrative/technical operations, academic/clinical/research operations, administrative/technical professional, academic/clinical/research professional and leadership-and one of six levels, based on the job's contribution to the organization. Salary ranges will be assigned to each job based on what the market is paying for similar types of jobs.

Charlene Hayes, vice president for human resources, said that the hope is that managers and supervisors will find the new system much easier to work with and more in line with their day-to-day operational requirements, especially in relation to defining jobs and in recruiting, motivating and rewarding staff.

One major goal of the change, she said, is to reward employees who stay in a job but, over time, take on more responsibility and display growth in skills and competencies. The new system does not focus on the minutia of a staff member's job, she said, but rather on the role the staff member plays and the manner in which he or she contributes to the organization.

"The intent is to make it easier to recognize a staff member's development and growth in the current job," Hayes said. "One of the complaints that we hear all the time is, 'I have this person who is doing a fantastic job, but there is nothing short of reclassification that I can do to get her more money.' With this system," she said, "the person doesn't have to be reclassified or be moved to a new job to be recognized and rewarded for doing higher-level work."

When deciding whether to make any upward adjustments in individual salaries, Hayes said that managers will need to consider such factors as employee performance, equity within the office and the availability of budget dollars.

The new system will have jobs assigned to salary ranges based on pay in the market. However, Crough said, no salaries will be adjusted downward as a direct result of the new job classification, and most staff members will not receive an increase as an immediate result of it. However, where a staff member's current salary falls below the minimum for the assigned salary range, that person's office or department will be responsible for raising the salary to the minimum.

"One concept that we want to bring home to staff is that if the market says the job is worth $50,000 and the staff member is making $47,000, that does not mean the staff member should automatically get a $3,000 increase. In this case, $50,000 is the average salary in the market; there are individuals in the marketplace who are paid below and above $50,000," Crough said.

A staff member's job title could also change in the new system. Crough said that the university has tended to use a unique job title for the majority of its 9,000-plus staff positions. "Also, depending on where a staff member works in the university, one could be called an assistant director and another could be called a manager, but they are doing identical or very similar jobs. If that is the case, we will assign them the same job title.

The extensive staff compensation study was begun in August 2004 with the assistance of Watson Wyatt consultants. The university's old system, which assigned a pay grade for each and every job, was viewed as cumbersome to maintain, hard to understand and unresponsive to the changing and dynamic work environment at Johns Hopkins, according to Hayes.

The opportunity to replace the current system presented itself with the onset of the HopkinsOne project, a massive effort to re-engineer all the university's and health system's financial and administrative processes, one of which is human resources. The core components of HopkinsOne are scheduled to go live in January 2007.

For the past year, Human Resources staff have consulted with managers and used the results of those conversations to classify jobs under the new system.

Department managers and supervisors are currently participating in training workshops to familiarize themselves with the program. If they have not already, managers and supervisors will receive the new job classifications for their staff over the next few months. All are targeting discussions with each staff member before the end of the calendar year.

Hayes said that the initial response to the new system has been very favorable, but she admits it will take some time for everyone to fully understand how it works.

"It's a huge change and culture shift," she said. "It will take employees some time to get used to the new system. One of our goals is to demystify the staff compensation program so employees can understand how job classification and pay decisions are made. I think they will see the benefits of the new system over time."

For more on the new staff compensation program and its implementation, go to


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